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I call this “Part 2” because I’m sure I coined this phrase somewhere in the past year, but can’t remember where.  I tried Googling it, and came up with nothing, so am claiming this as mine – again.

I have been reading more about libraries – both public and academic – getting involved in facebook, twitter, etc. but I’ve yet to see conclusive proof that such initiatives are a worthwhile expenditure of time.  A part of me often thinks in certain situations that the effort of connecting with one or a few people who wouldn’t otherwise receive information is worth whatever it took … but when your world is the very definition of multi-tasking and other efforts yield greater results, then I wonder why bother with the little, minimal significance efforts?

I still remain skeptical about such facebook initiatives as having ‘Fan’ pages for the library or groups that regularly deliver messages to those who subscribe (same goes with Twitter, but I’m avoiding it so can’t speak to what it really offers / doesn’t).  I have a two-pronged pessimistic feeling about facebook – that many users will accept invitations to boost their visual profile, but won’t actually visit these ‘groups’ and ‘fan pages’; and wondering how long the fad will last.

I was only a member for two years before deleting my profile and asking friends to use the ‘time honoured’ email to contact me.  I realised that I never visited all those things I became a ‘member’ of, and would rather access them in a more professional manner (official website of CBC Radio 2, and the personal site of an author for example).  Many of my friends have expressed similar feelings, with profile deletions or massive scalebacks with pseudonyms created to hide from people they don’t want to ‘add’ or have browsing the information that friends of friends can still access despite top privacy settings.

But we might just be from that transitional age where we’re interested in social networking as an extension of having spent our teenage years in the boom period of the Internet, but who also want to maintain a sense of privacy and ‘real world’ experience that prevents many of our parents and grandparents from fully engaging in such tools.  (Yes, Nan might have a facebook profile, but does she participate in Mafia Wars or Farmville?)  Having had some facebook friends on my defunct – not an easy process, I must say! – profile who are young enough to be undergrads, it is clear to see that many don’t mind sharing information that we geezers would rather not make public.

Maybe this supports library forays into the social networking arena?  I’d also be interested to see more research on its effectiveness, however.

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Library Spaces

For one of my courses, our professor posted an article about the new design for a public library in Massachusetts.  This was the passage which stood out for me:

“When I visited the new building recently, I saw people; I saw open shelves and attractively displayed books. But few people were reading those books, and I saw way too much unused space, the kind of emptiness beloved by architects.”

It brings up two major questions I’ve had whilst completing this program.  Why aren’t people flocking to libraries?  And why are the ceilings in here (most new libraries) so high?

Maybe we have to take a major look at the traditional model and make a determined effort to reach out to the masses with something ‘different’?  But using the space more creatively to match both the expectations of traditionalists and the unsatisfied / un-reached new … almost said ‘clientele’ … but that seems to be the trend.

On the second point, why DO new libraries all have incredibly high ceilings?  New libraries remind me of malls in how ‘big’ they feel, and as the author of the highlighted article suggested, it might just be an architect’s orgasm in doing so, but how do library users – young and old – feel about the layout?  I can appreciate that many of these designs offers a lot more natural light than the Carnegie designs did, but where’s the cozy-ness?  I’ve seen a few universities which have already caught on to this, having the ‘quiet space’ and the ‘social space’, and both are being used in great numbers.  I know undergrads at Western who don’t even need to use Weldon for coursework but who are there several times a week to hang out with classmates as it’s more conducive to study than home, without the commercial pressures of a coffee shop, and feel the ground floor is both socially inviting and inspiring.  (Cue scoffing from critics who think it’s just a concrete bunker.)

I hope architects of libraries in the future stop with the high ceilings and consider putting at least a balcony in that can be used as social space.  I think addressing the way in which all people interact with each other and engage with information can be addressed in the design.  The best example I can think of is at the Hamilton Public Library Central branch in New Zealand.

It’s a crazy looking building from the outside, and the ground floor reflects the ‘fun’ suggested by the blue exterior.  There’s a children’s area so active that it looks more like a day care, with toys, lots of mini furniture, and lots of colour.  Adjacent to it is a lounge area in which brave souls can read – usually while watching their children – highlighting that not everyone needs a silent environment for reading.  There’s also a massive flat screen tv which always seemed to be on a news channel, but could easily be changed for special programming / special events.  While looking like ‘the mall’ or ‘Chapters’ in that section, the two upper floors have more of a traditional model.  The second is a mix between the two with a large reading area, the news papers, fiction, etc. and the upper floor feels more like the classic silent, information-focused space.

While this might not be manageable in a small branch, as the hub of the community I think this is a great way to be an attractive spot for all members of the community.  I’d love to see new libraries take this into consideration, using the space more efficiently so that more people can have more usable space, rather than adhering to architectural fashion.

… and maybe we could also explore notions of being ‘bare feet friendly’ like Kiwi public buildings are as well.  🙂

While I should be working on my own assignments, I came across a rather long-winded, three-page, conversational set of advice directed at university students, but which would be better off targeted to high school students as they are continually filling the ranks of undergraduates who give professors nightmares with poorly written ‘documents’ – calling them essays is often insulting to the word itself.

Libraries are always places where students come for research help, but we might also be able to help them craft the perfect essay with a little guidance.  If I can put it in just a few key points, I would advise:From a former procrastinating student, teacher of procrastinating students (in English), and now (embarrassingly) currently-procrastinating graduate student:

  • Read up on the subject.  Know a fair bit about it before even researching.  This will give you a clear idea of where to go and what to explore.  I think Wikipedia and other short reference sources are great for this.
  • Outline.  Assemble YOUR ideas in points and sub-points.
  • Find the evidence to prove those points – but don’t over do it, as it’s YOUR paper, containing YOUR ideas.  Time to ditch Wikipedia and look for sources with more substance and authority.
  • Start expanding on your bullet point ideas in sentence form, making connections between paragraphs and your thesis statement.  Ensure they flow logically, and try to avoid dumping in a quote or paraphrased reference without either building up to it, or explaining it after ward.  (Rule of thumb:  never start or end a paragraph with a quote.  You should use their evidence should prove YOUR ideas, not regurgitate their evidence with your statements.)
  • Write an introduction which will lead the reader into those points.
  • Come up with a clever conclusion which sums them up and say something profound.
  • READ it over again, and again, aloud if you have to.  Have someone else read it if you have time.  They are more likely to catch things you’ve missed.  Never trust your spell checker.  Spelling mistakes and poor grammar are not just un-professional, they cause distraction to the reader, making them forget what you’re trying to say.  (When I marked school papers, I’d have to read each twice – at least – once for punctuation and grammar, even if it didn’t count for much or at all, just to not be distracted by it on the re-read, when I could address the content with a sound mind.)
  • Whatever punctuation format (Does the period go inside or outside the quotation marks?) and citation method you choose, be consistent.

Too easy!

The End of Solitude?

Below is a transcript (and streaming / downloadable audio clip) of Nora Young’s interview with William Deresiewicz for the CBC tech culture program ‘Spark.’  They discuss the mental and habitual realities to which many of us – not just young people – who’ve embraced the Internet and especially Web 2.0 have adjusted.  The element which really stood out for me when I originally heard the interview while driving was that a certain amount of young people feel completely uncomfortable being alone.  As a country kid who’s largely introverted, is uncomfortable in crowded buses and malls, AND who doesn’t own a mobile phone, I could never stand stand being around people for too long.  But as I grew older, I shifted to becoming a visual and kinaesthetic learner (with literal being shoved to third in the order) fully addicted to the internet, old movies and good television once we got a digital satellite – a massive step from our four-channel receiving antenna.  I found that I could no longer sit still for long periods and read, and doing anything for longer than a half hour without a break has become tough.

My lectures at school are three hours with mandatory attendance.  My two best classes involve not a continuous lecture with a halftime break followed by more of the same, but are broken up into many chunks with a variety of ‘deliverables’ in terms of content, method, and format.  They also make regular efforts to engage us and seek our opinion rather than make it a uni-directional transference of information.  This form of active learning is not only a clever way to deal with a different generation of learners, but also should make information ‘stick’ more than the traditional lecture method.

But as Deresiewicz concludes with, I think there’s an essential value to ‘solitude’ in our lives and that we as people who have some degree of influence with younger generations should remind them of its benefits for mental health and development.  Maybe the stresses of the world that young people claim are so much worse than when we were their age could be a little less stressful, or more adequately managed, with a little guidance on how to deal with and take advantage of ‘solitude’ via relaxation techniques, or an introduction to inspiring / relaxing reading or listening material.

These are things teachers really need to think about – and any of you heading into school or academic (who’re already seeing undergrads with such habits, as Deresiewicz has) librarianship should as well when considering teenager social and attention tendencies.

Full Interview:  William Deresiewicz on “The End of Solitude.”

And his full article on the matter …

History’s Lost Books

This article was surely created with tongue placed firmly in cheek, I’m sure, but it’s pretty clever nonetheless.  (Warning: language and adult themes)

7 Books We Lost To History That Would Have Changed the World

This type of thing could make a fun creative writing project for school or a library writing programme – write the book, or the short story, or the screenplay, or the synopsis of the ‘history’ that was never written.  Use library resources to learn about the subject and find out where possible gaps exist – there are many, even in recent history – and use your creativity to explain the unexplained.  It might sound a bit un-ethical in a way, but Hollywood’s been doing it since even before the giant mis-spelled sign went up to advertise the “Holy Wood” religious cult that was going to cleanse what they saw as a debauched town (is that real or did I just make it up?  … fun, eh!).  This is Jerry Bruckheimer or Quentin Tarantino-type stuff rather than CBC period drama and can allow young writers a starting point to practice their craft and just run with it.  (I’d rather watch the CBC period drama or a heavily researched Cecil B. DeMille epic, but those things take heaps of time to get right and then you’re always going to have to suffer the wrath of contradicting history anoraks!)

One similar project I loved in school was being asked to create our own myths as to how things came to be.  This is similar, I guess, but on a much grander scale.  Who knows, unlike today’s movie screenwriters who just re-hash things done before, aspiring young authors could find themselves at the beginning of something much bigger.  Whether it’s a foray into historical fiction when one gets a better grasp of it, or into something that’s more fantastic, anything to get kids writing is a good thing.

… I know I’d definitely go see “Fellowship of the Inglorious Jedi!”

Film: Boy

It hasn’t been released yet, at least not in North America, but this looks like a lot of fun!

If you’re looking for more Kiwiana films that isn’t Lord of the Rings, then definitely check out any of the following (The first two are based on books, and the latter two have some mature content, but all present serious – and humourous in the case of Bro Town – looks at indigenous NZ and Pacifika culture):

I’m reading a book by George Macdonald Fraser which looks at history as portrayed by Hollywood, and he makes forgiveness for some inaccuracies in that life is often too fantastic for movie goers / readers to believe it to be true.  Though probably not news in the literal sense of being recent, I stumbled upon this article yesterday about a teen who could potentially be the latest manifestation of unbelievable reality – if producers get their hands on him before the police do.

It seems for almost the last two years, 18-year-old Colton Harris-Moore has been living in the woods around Seattle and Puget Sound and been responsible for at least 50 burglaries along with stealing, and being lucky to walk away from the subsequent crashing, of several aircraft – which he apparently learned to fly via video games.  (Kudos to Microsoft Flight Simulator, I take?)

Here’s the article before you start to think that I’m making this up… Colton Harris-Moore, the barefoot boy bandit.

I’m not exactly surprised that Hollywood’s trying to coax him out of the woods to tell his story, with inevitable book and movie deals.  The slowly developing old man within me thinks he’s a criminal – the product of poor upbringing – and needs to be punished as a lesson to the obvious following he’s amassed.  The dwindling teenager in me feels for him as a result of what might have been a rough childhood, and feels his story should be told as a lesson that kids deserve better.  Either way, I’ll read that book when it comes out!

These type of stories are the sort of thing which really captivated my interest as a boy – completely immersed within the real word, astonishing me more than fiction because it really happened to someone.  Most often, the non-fiction biographies / autobiographies I read were about men.  The few I can think of at this moment which are about real life boyhood experience are quite depressing – child soldiers in Africa, a First Nations man who wrote about being in foster care, and that of the last emperor of China.  While there’s probably life lessons to be learned in these books as well, I’d like to see more real life stories with a sunnier disposition.

Now I’m sure they’re out there, and I just haven’t found them yet, but with the growing focus on Young Adult as a market, maybe finding these true tall tales could be an avenue for historians looking for their next book idea?  Knowing a fair bit about history myself, it’s only in the last 50 years that teens have been closer to children in how they live their lives than adults.  Prior to that, teens got married, had children, worked, travelled the world, fought in countless wars, and even became kings or queens!  I think it’s great that most Western teens today have avoided all those pressures and been able to enjoy a few more years of relative (though they probably don’t feel as such) carefree existence than their predecessors.  A few more stories about youngsters who took on those challenges and won would hopefully show modern teens how well they have it by comparison, but there’s nothing wrong with a largely positive true account about those other kids who didn’t have it so rough.