Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world by Jane McGonigal — A TTW Guest Post by Ryan Tucci

For reference purposes it is important to note that this book review and supplemental video were originally completed as a Book Context Assignment for Michael’s The Hyperlinked Library course, taught in the Fall of 2015 at San Jose State University.

Socially Isolated
Addicted young people
Few real-life social ties

These are just a few of the phrases used to describe the traditional “lonely gamer” in the article The “lonely gamer” revisited by Diane Schiano, Bonnie Nardi, Thomas Debeauvais, Nicolas Ducheneaut, and Nicholas Yee. This has been the stereotype of the traditional gamer for the past two decades.

However, Jane McGonigal, a New York Times bestselling author and world-renowned game designer would argue otherwise. In McGonigal’s 2011 book Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world, she explores the positive benefits that games can have on people’s everyday lives and how gamers are connecting socially and intelligently to create a better world.

As libraries seek to transition into the role of Library 2.0 we must be willing to listen to our users and understand their needs. According to the PEW Research Center’s report titled Adults and Video Games, written by Amanda Lenhart, Sydney Jones and Alexandra Macgill, 53% of Americans aged 18 or older play video games while one in every five adults play video games on a daily basis. If we turn our attention to teens, a staggering 97% of teens play video games. Games offer us an exciting and engaging opportunity for us to connect with our users in a more positive way and in a way that they feel more involved. If so many of our users are turning to games as a form of entertainment and social connectedness, we as librarians would be wise to look closely at how games are engaging users in a positive way.

McGonigal combines her extensive experience in the gaming industry with well researched psychological theories to explore why games make us happy and how we can apply 14 ‘fixes’ to reality. McGonigal argues that these ‘fixes’ would make for a much more engaging and rewarding reality. If you would like to explore McGonigal’s 14 fixes in greater depth, I would recommend you read the book in its entirety as it reads well for gamers and non-gamers alike. For the purposes of this post, I will be exploring only a handful of the 14 fixes that I feel could be applied effectively to library space to better engage users and promote a more participatory Library 2.0 experience.

According to McGonigal, there are countless forms of games for players to engage in, these range from single player to multiplayer to even massively multiplayer games, some of which take no more than five minutes to play and others that can involve a much more extensive time investment to play. Although games come in diverse forms, McGonigal outlines four key traits that all games have in common at their most basic level.

The Four Defining Traits of Games

First, all games have a goal. By providing players a goal the game gives them something to work towards. As McGonigal says, this goal is a sense of purpose.

Secondly, all games must have rules. These rules give the player the foundation for how they are expected to accomplish the goals set out for them by the game.

Thirdly, for games to be effective they must have a feedback system. A feedback system allows users to quickly evaluate how well they are doing in relation to meeting their goals.

Finally, games must have voluntary participation. Users must feel in control of their participation in games. This is one of the most important aspects of games; the ability for players to enter and leave a game at will ensures that they are in a safe environment.

These traits form the basis of all games, and it is upon these that McGonigal has derived her ‘fixes.’ I have chosen to explore three of these ‘fixes’ in more detail below.

Fix # 3: Do more satisfying work

“Compared with games, reality is unproductive. Games give us clearer missions and more satisfying, hands-on work” (McGonigal, 2011, p. 55).

According to McGonigal, creating more satisfying work begins with two important things: a clear goal and actionable next steps. By clearly presenting a goal we are able to know exactly what it is we are being asked to accomplish, while actionable next steps ensure that we know exactly what is expected of us to ensure that we succeed in that goal.

According to McGonigal, one game in particular does this extremely well. World of Warcraft is a popular massively multiplayer game created by Blizzard Entertainment. Players navigate a massively online world completing quests, leveling their characters and working in teams of 5, 10 and 25 players to overcome huge tasks impossible to complete on their own. When players accept a quest from one of the thousands of non-playable characters (NPCs) in the world, they are presented with a clear goal with actionable next steps.

Quest in World of Warcraft: Glory to the Horde


Above you can see an example of a World of Warcraft quest called Glory to the Horde. The goals for the quest are clearly outlined. Players are being asked to win two battles at two very specific locations. The actionable next steps are clear: take part in the battle and lead the team to victory. Another reason this work is so satisfying in this virtual world is that the rewards for completing quests are very clearly identified, making completing the quest more fulfilling.

According to McGonigal, there are almost endless series of quests in World of Warcraft. It is the clearly defined goals and actionable next steps that make World of Warcraft so engaging with players and make the work they are doing more satisfying.

Fix # 5 Strengthen your social connectivity

“Compared with games, reality is disconnected. Games build stronger bonds and lead to more active social networks. The more time we spend interacting within our social networks, the more likely we are to generate a subset of positive emotions known as “prosocial emotions” (McGonigal, 2011, p. 82).

Prosocial emotions, according to McGonigal, include love, compassion, admiration, and devotion. Essentially, any feel-good emotions that can be directed to others. Although games don’t evoke these emotions on their own, they are an added side effect of playing games in social networks, such as Facebook, and I would argue in many face to face games, like chess or Monopoly.

When playing games through social networks, many of them allow you to trash talk your opponent by posting to a chat window or to their virtual profile. Although trash talking normally carries a negative connotation, McGonigal argues that research shows that playful teasing is one of the fastest and most effective ways to create positive feelings toward another person (McGonigal, p. 84). Dacher Keltner, a researcher at the University of California argues that teasing feels good because it builds trust and makes us more likable.

While McGonigal primarily focuses on video games, I think almost anyone who has played any kind of game (video game or board game), has had a playful teasing experience. It is these social encounters that help games promote social connectivity to the people around us.

Fix# 8 Seek meaningful rewards for making a better effort

“Compared with games, reality is pointless and unrewarding. Games help us feel more rewarded for making our best effort” (McGonigal, 2011, p. 148).

According to McGonigal, real life just doesn’t give us the feedback we need to feel rewarded on a daily basis. Although this fix isn’t necessarily tied to a game in the traditional sense, it does apply game mechanics to everyday activities.

McGonigal once joked while doing a presentation at a technology conference that she wished she could receive instant feedback after doing a presentation like she got after playing a game. For example giving a good presentation would award her +1 Presentation Skill, after helping stick up for someone you would receive +1 Backbone, etc.

A few days after the conference she received an email from Clay Johnson, the director of Sunlight Labs, a community of open-source developers looking to make the government more transparent. He attended her presentation and quickly coded a website that allowed people to send +1’s to people for a wide variety of different tasks and attributes. If a user signs up for the service, all their +1’s stack to create a very game-like profile for yourself. It is this idea of meaningful visual rewards that can help encourage people to put forth a better effort.

Gaming may be fun but how can it be utilized in the library?

So how can librarians use this book to better serve our patrons? As I mentioned earlier, a large number of Americans are already playing games, and it isn’t just kids. Adults and seniors are also playing games and in many cases they are playing games more frequently on a weekly basis (Lenhart, Jones, & Macgill, 2008). According to Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service, written by Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk, libraries are “losing the interest of our users,  [w]e no longer consistently offer the services our users want, [w]e are resistant to changing services that we consider traditional or fundamental to library service” (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. xxiv). By utilizing the ideals presented by McGonigal, libraries can create more engaging ways to get users to participate in library services.

Children’s librarians could implement World of Warcraft style quests for book clubs, as outlined in McGonigal’s fix #3. They could ask teens to read a certain number of books per week and present them to the librarian for their rewards. Libraries could invite people into the library to take part in board game nights to strengthen social connectivity as outlined in fix #5. This would build trust within certain library communities.

It is for these reasons that libraries can look to video games and the gamification of services to create more engaging experiences for our users. By exploring Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, information professionals will gain a better understanding of the positive psychological impact games are having on players around the world and how they are positively influencing user experiences. McGonigal’s ‘fixes’ can be used to create stronger participatory services to library users by providing a unique engaging experience using game mechanics.

Supplemental Video


Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service.

Lenhart, A., Jones, S., & Macgill, A. (2008). Adults and Video Games. PEW Research Center.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: Penguin Press.

Schiano, D.J., Nardi, B., Debeauvais, T., Ducheneaut, N., & Yee, N. (2014). The “lonely gamer” revisited. Entertainment Computing, 5(1), 65-70

References for Video Supplement:

Lenhart, A., Jones, S., & Macgill, A. (2008). Adults and Video Games. PEW Research Center.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: Penguin Press.

Media Evolution. (2011). Gamification- how we can use game mechanics in areas that are not a game.

Rolighetsteorin. (Oct. 15, 2009). Bottle Bank Arcade. Retrieved from

Ryan lives in Ottawa, Canada and is currently obtaining his Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree at San Jose State University. He has a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Minor in Communication Studies. Prior to his MLIS, Ryan received his Library and Information Technician diploma and has been working in the library field for four years. He currently works at Carleton University MacOdrum Library. His interests include: emerging technology, big data, copyright, open access, and information literacy.

Ryan Tucci


See You in Ohio! OLC Conference

Hi all! I am heading to Ohio tomorrow of the Ohio Library Council conference. I am doing two talks on Thursday. Hope to see you there! Please say hi!


Learning Everywhere: The Transformative Power of Hyperlinked Libraries
Thurs., Oct. 8 | 10:15 a.m.

Emerging technologies are changing the way we live and learn. Libraries can play a key role in this future. Imagine the evolving hyperlinked library as a creation space – community space – anything space. Imagine this library available everywhere via mobile devices and tablets. Imagine opportunities for user learning supported and facilitated by librarians. How will library services change with MOOCs and mobile classrooms in the palm of one’s hand? What skills will staff require? What does the library as creative classroom look like? What does this future look like going forward as we encourage learning everywhere as a means for transformative change for ourselves and our users? This session will explore new ideas and thinking about learning at the library.
Speaker: Michael Stephens, San Jose State University School of Information
Sponsor: Convention and Expo Committee
Learning Track: What’s Trending
Ohio Public Library Core Competency: Patron Instruction

Emerging Trends and Emerging Tech: Exploring the Hyperlinked Library
Thurs., Oct. 8 | 11:30 a.m.

Explore the cutting edge trends impacting today’s evolving libraries. Learn how to use these new technologies to enhance your patrons’ experience.
Speaker: Michael Stephens, San Jose State University School of Information
Sponsor: Convention and Expo Program Committee
Learning Track: What’s Trending
Ohio Public Library Core Competency: Strategic Planning

Context Book Report on Henry Jenkins – A TTW Guest Post by Megan “Red” Bergeron

My Context Book report for INFO 287 is a Keynote presentation that I have uploaded to YouTube.

Want to learn more about the events going on at the Burton Barr Central Library in Arizona? Click here.


Megan Bergeron, or Red as she prefers to be called, currently works in retail and is working on her Master’s degree in Library Science at San José State University. She loves anything to do with technology, learning, and fandom and is currently trying to specialize in digital services and emerging technologies. She lives in Connecticut with her husband and two cats, Flynn and Archer.


Creativity, personalities, librarianship, and Susan Cain’s Quiet – A TTW Guest Post by Sarah Liberman

Back in 2012 I had watched Susan Cain‘s TED Talk on how introverts can share ideas, a talk otherwise known as “The power of introverts” (video below). I purchased her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking… And it sat on my (virtual ebook) shelf for long time — a very bookish, very librarian, guilty habit.

Until now. After several years in the MLIS program, listening to and conversing with classmates, this report became an opportune assignment! As I read Cain’s book, I found myself reflecting on creativity and motivation, the diversity of personalities we encounter in libraries (or, really, anywhere), and how being quiet (and learning to become quiet) holds importance to librarianship.

Creativity and motivation

Innovation has cropped up often in our forums and course materials. It’s a challenging concept to grasp — like sighting a muse! Consenting to be quiet — moments of solitary thought, the freedom to deeply research a topic or task, and permission to daydream or become temporarily bored — becomes a source of creativity and motivation.



As Dan Pink did in Drive (2011), Cain encourages us to allow ourselves, introverted or otherwise, to play with or focus on (depending on your inclination) the concepts of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Those pathways, I believe, will likely lead us and our colleagues towards innovation.

For mastery, Cain cites psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on the intellectual-emotional state of flow:

Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity—whether long-distance swimming or songwriting, sumo wrestling or sex. In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing. (Chapter 7,

In the software world, we said we were in the “zone” when highly creative or productive — this is flow! As a counter example, I had found flow impeded when working in an open office layout. One day, a manager demanded I answer the door; one of my peeves is answering doors and phones when am not expecting someone — surprise avoidance is strong in many introverts. I was in the middle of troubleshooting, and there were others closer to the door. Why me? Because I’m female, because I was younger at the time? (I’m a GenX-er, and the manager was a Baby Boomer. Perhaps there was some internalized/subconscious sexism on the part of the manager.) The big aggravation was the expectation to be easily interrupted and hurry-up-act-now. Suffice it to say, once I raised my head, paused, and explained that I was in the middle of work (in spite of continued protests to “Just get up and open the door!”), another colleague (closer to the door and more interrupt-driven) had already let the visitors in.



That incident from many years ago occurred within the space of less than a minute or two. It also demonstrated how introversion (and motivation) could encourage autonomy — unless stifled. Had the office space been less open (e.g., cubes or simply divider screens), I think I and other introverted engineers would’ve felt (and became) less…of a target, as it were. Moreover, persons of all temperaments (and ages and backgrounds) could benefit from stepping back to offer more flexibility and tranquility.

If solitude is an important key to creativity—then we might all want to develop a taste for it. We’d want to teach our kids to work independently. We’d want to give employees plenty of privacy and autonomy. Yet increasingly we do just the opposite. (Chapter 3,

Introversion, extroversion, and the diversity of personalities

Or, how the old Shhh! from librarians can be transformed into something more welcoming and liberating. Along the scale, I fit somewhere as an ambivert with strong introvert tendencies. I love meeting up with friends and going to conventions, and having enriching one-on-one conversations. But if I’m busy or ill, I can become overwhelmed, wanting to isolate and insulate myself from the world. My compromise is to slow down — or, rather, remind myself that I can slow down, do less, select what to do, and when necessary, say How about later? or even No.

After reading Quiet, I hadn’t realized that the fear of public speaking is more widespread than the fear of death. So I have a lot of company there. Despite this, I learned a heartening approach: a presentation, a lecture, a speech can be treated like a passion project. Moreover, this touches on Pink’s final motivational idea of purpose. For my reference information and services course (Libr 210 with Dr. Johanna Tunon), I was anxious about presentations, but three things settled my mind: First, I’ve always been fascinated by controlled vocabularies, an LIS topic that many find opaque — why not create a tutorial? Second, it wasn’t live (whew!), so recording allowed me to do the project in small bites. Third, the instructor pointed us to many possible tools to play with, to let us select something that best suited us and the project.

prezi screenshot.fw


It’s a bit rough around the edges and has a few omissions, such as forgetting that taxonomy is a commonly used term (oops). But my Prezi tutorial on controlled vocabularies using food resources wasn’t too shabby (requires Flash for interaction, but there are free Prezi mobile apps) — and was fun to develop. It also helps that food is a topic that fills me with zeal. I’m still nervous about giving live talks, but I think Cain’s advice definitely orients me and others in a helpful direction.

If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. (Chapter 7,

Furthermore, this quote brings up some relevant issues with the introversion-extroversion spectrum — that we are more than a collection of “simple” dichotomies. I appreciate how throughout her book, Cain emphasizes how diverse we are; for instance, how there are anxious introverts, stable introverts, anxious extroverts, and stable extroverts (Introduction, Yet part of me wants to super-simplify this by using the following quick and dirty definition, because it removes the “baggage” of unhelpful terms such as shy, loud, productive, leadership, thoughtful, perceptive, sensitive, compassionate, sociable, warm, wise, communicative — because any of these terms could and do apply to people anywhere on the spectrum.

Introverts get exhausted by social interaction and need solitude to recharge. Extroverts get anxious when left alone and get energy from social interaction. (Kiosowski, 2015)

Stromberg also points out the risks of getting caught up in labels and dichotomies, by describing how the Meyers-Brigg test might seems fun at first blush, but could be narrow-minded in the long run. Such quizzes might wind up becoming pigeon holes where people are separated not only by subject areas, knowledge, and skills — but also where opportunities for collaboration, personal development, and organizational evolution and success might evaporate.

Librarianship and being (becoming) Quiet

Quiet illustrates multiple ways where we could act to avoid the stagnation of librarianship, and to work towards breaking down silos within LIS institutions. Mathews’s “Think Like a Startup” (2012) demonstrates how cross-disciplinary collaboration can inspire creativity and innovation in a library. Consider how effective use of Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads can spark ongoing, many-to-many discussions and readers’ advisory exchanges among librarians and patrons.

In addition, the future of libraries means more than preservation and access to resources and service — though believe me, those are mighty important! To remain relevant, the LIS field should recall these two huge points:

  • You want to share all this knowledge, right? Regardless of formats, tools, or abilities.
  • You want to aid everyone on how to best access and assess information integrity, yes? Finding the best ways for users, viewers, students, patrons, and researchers to find, to create, to investigate, and to evaluate are fundamental tenets of information literacy.

If we fall into complacence, misconstrue disruption, or disregard the user-centric experience, then as Denning described, libraries could become irrelevant and more likely to fail.

dinosaur comic-631.fw


Sure, the Library of Alexandria burnt down — but libraries exist, great and small. They can and do offer programs and items that connect organizations with individuals (DOKLab in the Netherlands, Oak Park’s Idea Box, the Darien Library Catalog, just to name a few). True, libraries these days need to struggle for funding and increase advocacy, such as a convenient book burning.  Also true how we can clash among ourselves due to differing interests, priorities, or personalities. But if we learn to become and recognize quiet, however briefly in however a manner, we can improve library innovation and continue to inspire others as well as ourselves.


Anders, C.J. (2012, August 9). The right way and wrong way to let your mind wander. io9. Retrieved from

Bored and Brilliant. (2015, January 12). The case for boredom, part 1. Retrieved from

Burnett, L. (2011). Save the Troy Library, “Adventures in reverse psychology.” Retrieved from

Cain, S. (2012, February). The power of introverts [19:04 video]. TED Talks. Retrieved from

Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking[ebook]. Retrieved from the Apple iBookstore.

Denning, S. (2015, April 28). Do we need libraries? Forbes. Retrieved from

Kiosowski, T. (2015, June 25). Let’s quit it with the introvert/extrovert nonsense.Lifehacker. Retrieved from

Liberman, S. (2014, December 8). A tutorial on using controlled vocabulary [interactive Flash presentation].
Retrieved from

Mathews, B. (2012, April). Think like a startup.

Munroe, R. (n.d.). Loud party. xkcd. Retrieved September 19, 2015, from

North, R. (2005, August 2). The great library of Alexandria. Dinosaur Comics. Retrieved from

Pink, D. (2011). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us [ebook]. Retrieved from from the Apple iBookstore.

Quiet Revolution. (n.d.). Unlocking the power of introverts. Retrieved September 19, 2015, from

Stromberg, J. (2015, April 14). Why the Myers-Briggs test is totally meaningless.Vox. Retrieved from


To embark on her third career, Sarah Liberman is an MLIS student at San José State University. She has a passion for information accessibility, user-centric design in software and LIS services, intellectual freedom, and metadata wrangling. She enjoys technologies new and old, natural history, food, webcomics, podcasts, and speculative fiction. Occasionally she investigates things that glow in the dark. She can be reached at sarah dot liberman at sjsu dot edu.

Author in the basement at Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire, © 2015 S. Fraser

Growing Nerd Communities by TTW Contributor Troy Swanson

This week my library held our annual Graphic Novel Symposium, which was a great program emphasizing diversity, creativity, and community . This event is essentially a mini con but is aimed at the curriculum. The conversations were thoughtful and engaging, and I thought that TTW readers may enjoy them. Here are the links:

Graphic Novels and Their Use as Tools of Tolerance and Diversity Eric Kallenborn, Ronell Whitaker, and Claire Overton
YouTube Link:

Generation Next: How to Keep Nerd Communities Growing
Carlye Frank, Dawn Xiana Moon, Michi Trota, and Ytasha Woman
YouTube Link:

From Pencils to Print: Small Press Comics and Publishing
David Gruba, Rene Castellano, Jacob Way, and Samantha Amborn
YouTube Link:

Building Comics: Constructing Visual Narratives
Adam Fotos
YouTube Link:


Troy Swanson

Troy A. Swanson is Department Chair and Teaching & Learning Librarian at Moraine Valley Community College. He is the co-editor of the recent book from ACRL, Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information. You can follow him on Twitter at @t_swanson.

Thanks Prince William County

2015-09-15_1442325765I spoke at the staff institute of Prince William County Public Library System in Virginia last Friday. Here’s a big shout out to the great group of folks. They are set to open TWO new libraries in the next few weeks – TWO!

The slides are here:

Thanks to all the staff that made the morning so great!

(We also got to visit Monticello – see image above!)

Job Postings: St. Joseph County Public Library

Some great opportunities have popped up at the St. Joseph County Public Library in South Bend, Indiana. If it wasn’t enough that Michael used to work there, these listings show great potential for some digitally minded, sense-of-humor carrying and industrious librarians. :-)

Check them out below…

Branch Manager, Western Branch (Full-time)

  • Education/Experience: ALA/MLIS degree
  • Pay Range: $1,595.20-$2,392.80, biweekly
  • Description: Under the direct supervision of the Coordinator of Branch Services, the Branch Manager will, amongst other things, manage employees and volunteers for Branch Services, hire, train, and enforce library policies, resolve difficulties, recommend changes to employment status, establish performance standards and evaluate employee performance. Branch Manager will also support the St. Joseph County Public Library mission by modeling internal and external customer service.

Assistant Branch Manager, Centre Township Branch (Full-time)

  • Education/Experience: ALA/MLIS degree
  • Pay range: $1,461.60 – $1,974.40, biweekly
  • Description: Working under the direct supervision of the Branch Manager, the Assistant to the Branch Manager will, among other duties, offer information and reference, circulation services and patron computer services. They will also recommend, maintain and weed an assigned portion of the collection, as well as plan and participate in programming, blogging, displays and tours. Assistant Branch Manager will also supervise Francis Branch employees and volunteers in the absence of the branch manager, train, schedule, and supervise shelvers and volunteers, schedule staffing, assign duties, review and check work and eliminate ordinary difficulties.

Digital Lab Assistant, Sights & Sounds/Digital Lab (Full-time)

  • Education/Experience: Bachelor’s Degree or specialized technology certification
  • Pay range: $1,216.00 – $1,643.20, biweekly
  • Description: Performs duties to provide computer and equipment assistance to Lab patrons per service guidelines. Lab Assistant will work under the direct supervision of the Manager of Sights & Sounds. Essential job duties include assisting patrons  and co-workers with use of the Lab’s equipment and software, as well as create and lead public Lab classes and tours. Other duties will include check-in, check-out, assessment, and inventory of circulating equipment, track and record usage statistics and provide service at Sights & Sounds service desk on an as needed basis.

For instructions on how to apply or to view a full list of job openings follow the link here.

Libraries and film: “Punk ass book jockeys,” information literacy, and beyond – A TTW Guest Post by Eamon Tewell

Librarianship has long been informed by ideas outside of the profession that are then brought into it. One of the intersections that has always interested me is libraries and film. Some areas of this overlap have been well documented, while others represent very new terrain. The portrayals of libraries and librarians in movies, and more broadly librarian stereotypes, as the recent title The Librarian Stereotype addresses, has been of continued interest to the profession–entire books and films have examined the topic. These representations have interesting things to tell us about how others conceive of librarians and what that means for our work (see, for example, Nicole Pagowsky and Erica Defrain’s excellent article on how librarian stereotypes and faculty perceptions impact our instructional roles). But apart from the questions of our professional identities as represented in popular culture, I have found a lot of ideas worth exploring on other aspects of film, TV, and media as applied to libraries.


Like a number of other librarians who provide information literacy instruction, I often incorporate media into the classes I teach. This can mean anything from to asking students to look at different news sources covering the same topic and critique the source’s biases, to using search examples that draw attention to problematic representations of women and people of color in pop culture. One of my best-received approaches to using media in the classroom was showing students three short clips from TV shows that related to libraries or information sources such as Wikipedia, and using these excerpts to start a discussion about how students use the library and other information sources. Some really interesting and enjoyable discussions were spurred by these 1-5 minute clips. I found that examples from movies or TV shows illustrating information literacy concepts can resonate much more with students than talking about these topics generally, and allow for a way for learners to express their own knowledge and understandings in relation to the library’s own sometimes confusing rules and expectations. This article has more details on my use of TV clips in library instruction.


The ways that libraries and librarians are represented on-screen provide alternately frustrating and funny insight into the ideas that others have about our profession. But when we think more deeply about these representations they express complicated positions that can bring up important questions about our collective identity. I have looked at the ways libraries are portrayed in two acclaimed comedy series, Parks and Recreation and Community, and how library anxiety is represented in them. The catch phrase from Parks and Recreation describing the fictional town’s librarians, “Punk ass book jockeys,” is part of the show’s tongue in cheek characterization of librarians, yet an undercurrent of distrust and unease with libraries is present within this satirical take. Film and libraries have a long history together, but relatively little research has been done in this area. Contemporary movies appear in the library literature more often, including an analysis of Party Girl, the classic 90s take on one young woman’s turn from the club scene to pursuing a library degree, and the information seeking habits manifested in The Big Lebowski. What many of these library/film studies combinations have in common is an interest in critically evaluating the media’s conceptions of libraries and using film analysis as a lens to examine larger issues of professional identity.


While these are just two areas of the intersection between libraries and film that I have considered, there is lots of great work being done in the realm of applying visual and popular media to aspects of librarianship. Joel Burkholder’s This Is Info Lit tumblr focuses on real world examples of information literacy, while Stephanie Alexander’s recent LOEX presentationdescribed how she used satirical news sources in her classes to teach aspects of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy. These creative projects make apparent that there is no shortage of ideas to be explored within librarianship to meaningfully improve the work that we do, whether through theoretical approaches or everyday practices.


Eamon Tewell is a Reference and Instruction Librarian at Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY. Eamon has published and presented on the topics of popular media and active learning in library instruction, televisual representations of libraries, and critical information literacy. He tweets at @eamontewell.






NMC Horizon Report > 2015 Library Edition

Note from Michael: I was honored to work on this project for a second year. The 2015 report offers a cohesive and thoughtful approach to the future. I hope you’ll check it out.

The New Media Consortium, in collaboration with University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Chur, Technische Informationsbibliothek (TIB) Hannover, and ETH-Bibliothek Zurich have recently released their New Horizons Report > 2015 Library Edition. A five-year horizon examination of key trends, significant challenges and important developments in technologies, their work examines the potential impact on academic and research libraries.

The report was written by the 2015 NMC Horizon Project Library Expert Panel. If you’d like to take a peak at the wiki that chronicled their work and produced the report follow the link here.


> Download the NMC Horizon Report > 2015 Library Edition (pdf).


Upcoming Presentations Fall 2015

September 18, 2015, Staff Development Day, Prince William Public Library System, Virginia.

October 7 & 8, 2015: ” Learning Everywhere: The Transformative Power of Hyperlinked Libraries” & “Emerging Trends and Emerging Tech: Exploring the Hyperlinked Library,” Ohio Library Conference, Cincinnati, Ohio.

October 20, 2015: “Full Stacks, Introverts, & Zero-Sum Librarians: Notes from Office Hours,” Library 2.015 Conference, Online.

October 24, 2015: Keynote, Colorado Association of Libraries, Loveland, Colorado.

November 20, 2015: Keynote, Arizona Library Association Conference, Flagstaff, Arizona.

December 11, 2015: Staff Development Day Keynote,  Sarasota County Library System.

People, Libraries & Technology – A Weblog by Michael Stephens