During the month of July 2013, my colleagues, community partners, fifty teens, and I were stationed on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library for DEV DEV: Summer of Code. It was, to be completely honest with you, the greatest single experience I have ever had in a public library. Let me tell you why.
Since the program happened on The 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library it would be easy for everyone to think that this all happened at the library and it was all the library and that was that. But that’s not the case and I’d like to take this moment to tell you about our partners. Without the support of Engage 3D, AIGA Chattanooga, and the Benwood Foundation, DEV DEV would not have happened. Their support (educational, funding, brainpower, design, etc) and dedication to the program and the community of Chattanooga is one of the key ingredients as to why this beta test run of this program was as successful as it was.
It really takes everyone in the community getting together to make amazing things happen.
Without the support of EVERYONE at the Chattanooga Public Library, DEV DEV would not have worked. Every day, the circulation staff would wait on the teens that came into the library at 9am, making them their white hot chocolates and letting them in the doors before the rest of the public could get in. The rest of the staff smiled and welcomed the teens every day. They knew how big this was for the teens attending DEV DEV and they made sure they had the times of their lives.
The parents brought it all together. Not only did they drive the teens back and forth from the library, but on the last day of the program they came out to show their love and support. It is in moments like this where you can just see teens gaining so much love and respect for their families. Awesome.
DEV DEV would not have happened were it not for the amazing talent and dedication of the teens involved in the program. For four weeks, you gave your attention and hard work to learning how to build websites, make robots dance, and program video games. You blew all of our minds. For me personally, as I get older, I am happy to know that the world is in such good hands. To borrow from southern lingo….Ya’ll are gonna do some amazing things.
SO WHAT’S NEXT?
DEV DEV was not meant to be a one shot program but instead an ongoing series, a library/community brand if you would like to call it that. As with any program of this size and scope, some time is needed to rest, reflect, and accurately plan the next steps. We’ll be doing that over the next few weeks at the Chattanooga Public Library. I already had a great discussion today with Engage 3D Education Director James McNutt about online learning communities. He is a brilliant dude and I can’t wait to see his ideas in motion.
For more on DEV DEV, please visit our site: http://devdev.chattlibrary.org
For the full DEV DEV: summer of code story, please visit: https://storify.com/JustinLibrarian
-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor
A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future by Daniel Pink explores the capabilities of the brain and spirit in this conceptual age where high touch and high concept aptitudes are gaining serious ground. Emotional intelligence is becoming just as important as IQ due to abundance, outsourcing, and automation. People are now required to use both sides of their brain. L-Directed Thinking pertains to sequential, literal, functional, textual, and analytic thinking. R-Directed Thinking is simultaneous, metaphorical, aesthetic, contextual, and synthetic. No longer can we just be knowledge workers. We must be attuned to the big picture, how things work together, patterns, and above all, the synthesis and meaning of life.
Daniel Pink details six concepts, which he calls The Six Senses, that will help people survive and thrive in this adapting and often uncertain world.
The Six Senses
Whether a building, a toilet bowl cleaner, or a website, design affects our day-to-day lives. Pink describes the ideal design as beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging. Function is no longer enough. Librarians have a plethera of design issues to consider every day – interior design of the library, website design, marketing materials design, message design, and instructional design- to name a few. Library websites play a huge role in getting users to use the library resources and take advantage of librarians’ expertise. In many ways, we’re competing with Google. That’s tough competition! The more intuitive and attractive the site is, the better the experience for the library community. Pink’s Portfolio section provides useful activities you can do to increase your design palette, from keeping a design portfolio to help you stay attuned to design that works to the C-R-A-P-ify method which can come in handy when creating promotional materials for libraries.
Pink expresses the concept of story perfectly with this quote, “When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact” (p. 193). Stories live at the library through books, video, and people. The reference desk is often the place where students and community members tell their stories. Listening to peoples’ stories is one of my favorite things about my job and often necessary in order to glean what they need help doing/finding/getting. “I need information on ethics,” for example, usually comes with a story. It’s a librarian’s responsibility to figure out the story.
The ability to relate concepts, make patterns, and synthesize embody the symphony aptitude. Relationships are at the core of symphony. Boundary crossers, inventors, and metaphor makers are able to pull ideas together from seemingly unrelated concepts. Librarians must be boundary crossers in their profession. They are often called up to bridge the gap between faculty departments, communities, and concepts. Seeing the big picture comes into play when we think about information literacy. Yes, we want students to know how to search in databases or how to do an advanced Google search, but really, our goal is to make them independent, self-directed lifelong learners. More importantly, our goal is to inspire them to be curious about the world around them. Pink’s Celebrate Your Amateur section revels in the idea that we are all learners, forever. Marcel Wanders writes, “I am best at what I can’t do. It has become my ability to feel strong and confident in these situations. I feel free to move, to listen to my heart, to learn, to act even if that means I will make mistakes” (p. 157). It reminds me of Char Booth’s comment recently in a lecture for our TransTech course, “Stay brave and vulnerable.”
The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is paramount in libraries and in life. It ties with the story aptitude in so many ways. Just listening to someone’s story can put you in the position of understanding their perspective. Subtle clues like facial expressions can tell you how someone is feeling- if they’re overwhelmed or confused. In teaching, it’s necessary to read people’s faces to gauge their level of engagement, their comprehension, and their annoyances. A librarian can learn to adapt their sessions based on these reactions. Empathy also comes into play when it comes to workplace relations. Learning to work collaboratively with colleagues takes openness and delicacy. Being open to your colleagues’ perspective can sometimes make all the difference in how you interact.
Play is monumental and necessary. It adds a joyfulness and positive spirit to any learning process. Just the fact that it’s called play provides a light-hearted mindset. Introducing play into a library instruction can be freeing for students. There is no right or wrong way when it comes to research. Every topic will lead you in a different direction and having the openness of mind to follow a topic through all the tangents, nooks and crannys, and caveats should be fun – not a chore. Pink mentions laughter as one of the key elements in having a spirit of play and I am a firm believer that trying something new and knowing that you will most likely make a fool of yourself – but everyone else will too – inspires laughter and openness. On the right is an image of me trying flying trapeze last fall, and yes, it was slightly terrifying the first time. But the second and third time, pure excitement and freedom! My friends and I laughed and played during the entire experience. When teaching or learning new things, play can make all the difference in the experience of learning.
The This Emotional Life series on PBS recently took on the topic of Happiness. It relates so well to Pink’s section on Meaning. We are all looking for the key to happiness and it comes from our social relationships – whether that’s parent/child for an infant, friends, colleagues, or partners. We want to feel fulfilled and supported in our lives. So, it seems, relationships are also the key to meaning, in addition to symphony. When a relationship is off at work, at home, in your life, it affects you. Meaning and mindfulness also go hand in hand. Simply being more mindful through labyrinths, through empathy, through perspective from gratitude, by giving yourself the permission to play and rest, dedicating your work, and re-claiming your priorities as Pink suggests, can create a framework for what you want your life to look like. At some point, it will become second nature and you’ll be living the life you seek.
As the words flow through my mind after writing this, I stop on these. Openness. Mindfulness. Vulnerability. Heart. Relationships. Empathy. Perspective. Life. Going through your life, your career, it is necessary to reflect on yourself, your relationships, your career, and your contribution to society. Even if you lead a small life, like me, you can glean little things every day that serve to enrich your life and fire up both sides of your brain.
Booth, C. (2011) Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. Chicago: American Library Association.
Pink, D. (2006). A whole new mind: Why right-brainers will rule the future. New York: Riverhead Books.
Terri Rieck Artemchik is an Adjunct Librarian at the College of Lake County in Grayslake, Illinois. She is currently enrolled in the Post-Master’s Degree Certificate Program at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science and received her MLIS from Dominican University in 2011. Terri’s interests include emerging technologies, digital services, information literacy, and Learning 2.0.
Note from Michael: This is an example of the “Context Book” assignment from #hyperlib.
Yesterday, a patron came to me for help with finding a book. She said she thought it was checked in, but she wasn’t sure. I looked it up, found it was checked in, so we went to the shelf and got the book. On our walk through the stacks, she said to me that libraries are intimidating. I simply reassured her, and said that they’re really not.
WHAT?!?! That was the wrong response. I should have asked her “How can we make the library less intimidating?” I could have gained a lot of insight had I just thought to ask that question.
The moral of the story: Never stop questioning. When you hear something you don’t like, ask why. Or ask how we can do things differently. Much understanding can be gained by just asking a few questions.
–Post by Carrie Straka, Tame the Web contributor
Libraries continue to evolve. As the world has changed with emerging mechanisms for global communication and collaboration, so have some innovative, cutting edge libraries. My model for the Hyperlinked Library is born out of the ongoing evolution of libraries and library services. Weinberger’s (1999) chapter “The Hyperlinked Organization” in The Cluetrain Manifesto was a foundational resource for defining this model as are the writings of Michael Buckland, Seth Godin, and others. I’ve been writing and presenting about it for a few years – expanding and augmenting as new ideas and new technologies take libraries in new directions.
In Serials Review (2007), I defined the Hyperlinked Library model as
an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation. (p. 255-256)
The model incorporates recent dialogues about Web 2.0 by such authors as O’Reilly, and concepts tied to Library 2.0 and participatory service, including ideas presented by Casey and Savastinuk in their book Library 2.0.
The model is broader than just online communication and collaboration. It encompasses both physical and virtual space, as well as many types of libraries. Presenting the model to assembled teacher librarians at the Australian School Library Association conference in Perth in 2009, I argued that school librarians could use the model as well to extend support for learning beyond the walls of the school library and engage with students, teachers and administrators in an open, transparent manner wherever the learning takes place.
Adapting to change in a positive, forward thinking manner will be important for libraries. The response to ongoing change should be constant and purposeful – based on thoughtful planning and grounded in the mission of libraries. Hyperlinked library services are born from careful trend-spotting, an application of the foundational tenets of librarianship and an informed understanding of emerging technologies’ societal and cultural impact.
Along with adapting to constant change should be a positive approach to challenges currently confronting libraries and information centers all over the world.
An ongoing challenge to libraries is public perception. In 2005, OCLC found that people perceive a narrow view of the library brand. Books was the foremost answer in a survey question devoted to what people think about when they think about libraries. More worrisome for those working in technology-related areas in libraries was the finding that 1% of those surveyed start their information needs at library Web sites. OCLC’s follow up report in 2007 noted that use of library Web sites had dropped again – to 22% of the public surveyed. Consider the resources we use developing our Web sites – the return on investment for staff time, money and technology is must be high. The use of open source software platforms / content management systems is one way hyperlinked libraries can boost their online presence ROI.
Another notable challenge currently is flagging budgetary issues. The recent global economic downturn has affected many libraries in the US and globally – some to the point of cutting staff, hours, services and in some extreme and disheartening cases to the point of closing. Making do with limited budgets and resources means we need to be ever diligent with handling our other challenges centered around technology including:
Techno-lust: This challenge is an overarching need for new technology combined with unrealistic expectations for the problems it may solve and too much techno-lust can damage a library’s public perception and internal morale. Purchasing technology without a strong connection to the library’s mission or technology plan can possibly yield less than stellar results.
Other challenges related to technology include techno-stress, when new tools seemingly arrive daily creating an uneasy feeling of anxiety related to understanding it all while techno-divorce addresses the culture of perfect in many libraries that prevents us from ending projects that just aren’t working. Techno-shame occurs when embarrassed library staff confess they are embarrassed to not be knowledgeable about emerging technologies, while techno-phobia creates an atmosphere where no new technologies are explored because of an unrealistic fear. Often, this institution is mired in a culture of perfect – where nothing is done without endless meetings, word-smithing and discussion. In 2010, there aren’t resources and time to exist in that paradigm. The Hyperlinked Library is nimble and quick.
Some newer challenges I recently added to the model include:
Techno-hesitation: This library is caught in the mindset of “Let’s wait until the next new thing comes out” to try something new. Experimentation with emerging technology should be ongoing. Trial and error and “divorcing” those initiatives that did not work so well leads to more learning and innovation.
Techno-banality: No dumb computers! This library is mired in a culture of overprotectiveness. Technology offerings for library users are so locked down and secure that access is fraught with barriers and blocks. In a time of such emphasis on user experience and library as community space, these barriers have the potential to send users to other locations for access.
Institutional challenges include embedded staff who roadblock new initiatives, silos of knowledge in which institutional memory and procedure is stored in one place/person, and institutional culture based on perfection. An underlying cause of many of this inner challenges to libraries could easily be boiled down to fear: fear of change, fear of technology (as above) and a fear of losing control of our collections in a world where Google is the go to information resource and books download seamlessly to e-readers.
What can meet these changes and challenges head on in the 21st century world of constant change and numerous challenges to the role and place of libraries in our world? The Hyperlinked Library model is meant to define a set of characteristics that when adopted by individual libraries could lead to improved perception, improved use and improved service models for our ever-changing world. Some of the characteristics of the model include:
The Library is Transparent
Transparency in organizations yields an open flow of communication, an involvement of all stakeholders and an honest approach to governance. For libraries this involves offering two communication mechanisms for user interaction and feedback. Tell your users how you are spending their money (via collected taxes, student fees or monetary support depending on the type of library).
Another aspect of transparency is welcoming anonymous feedback, in the form of suggestion box entries or via online commenting. Librarians should not be afraid of anonymous comments. There may be some negativity, easily ignored, as well as some useful insights, ideas and informative questions. One example of this type of interaction with library staff is the VBPL Talks blog, maintained by the executive leadership team of the Virginia Beach Public Library. Out on the open Web at http://vbpltalks.blogspot.com/, the site is a forum for anonymous questions from the library staff to administrators.
Library user involvement is also key to transparency and welcoming users into our spaces and virtual places is paramount. In “The Transparent Library,” Michael Casey and I urged administrators to focus “on user-driven policy not driving users away.” (2008) Understanding how policy impacts user is key as well. Does that sternly worded sign on the library door have to be there denouncing the use of cell phone technology within the library? Wouldn’t it be better to encourage considerate behavior and let go of banning devices that connect our users to the world. You might find that a mobile phone interface for the library catalog or “text a citation” features might be more in line with user needs or wants. Michael Casey and I noted: “Focus on understanding those folks who might be breaking your rules by listening to their needs. Then act. You and your users will benefit.” (2007)
The Library Learns and Plays
Henry Jenkins defined play in Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture as “the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving.” The concept has seen a resurgence in organizations as a means to encourage learning and engagement. As part of the Hyperlinked Library model, an organization focused on experimentation and play encourages all staff to learn. That learning will lead to a more informed, engaged staff. A culture of play replaces a culture of perfect.
Play was foundational to the creation of the original Learning 2.0 program – a self-directed emerging technologies course conceived in 2006 by Helene Blowers at the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenberg County in 2006 for a system wide, all staff included endeavor. Also known as the “23 Things” method, the program has been adopted by libraries, consortia, state systems and national libraries in the United States, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and beyond.
The global success of Learning 2.0/23 Things programs in libraries is a notable example of an emerging “learning culture” in our institutions. “I believe that this has been one of the most transformational and viral activities to happen globally to libraries in decades,” argued Abram (2008) in a blog post at Stephen’s Lighthouse.
Self-directed, empowered learning based on the concepts of discovery and play within the context of how libraries might use emerging technologies may lead to more innovative uses of those technologies for library services. Currently, I’m conducting an ongoing research project in Australia, measuring the value and impact of the program in libraries. Early conclusions point to the fact that the lasting impact of participation in a Learning 2.0 program can lead to more informed staff discussions and problem-solving with tools highlighted in the learning modules. A stronger awareness of the tools and their use on a personal level – RSS feeds for keeping current as a prominent example – is another lasting result of the program. See the research site at Tame the Web online for more, including a recent conference paper.
The Library Connects with Users
Creating connections and community for library users is paramount in the Hyperlinked Library model. Peter Block defines community as “human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness,” while Rheingold defined virtual community as “social aggregators that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.” Both of these definitions – years apart – have one thing in common. The connections are formed via conversation
Seth Godin’s Tribes explores the idea of interconnected community as well. Godin argues that businesses fail because “they forgot to embrace their tribe” and offers a roadmap for creating a tribe, which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Social Media sites break down geographic barriers and allow groups to form via various communication mechanisms. A tribe can be global or simply based in the library’s community.
Notable examples of creating a library tribe include the social networks created by Hennepin County Library, Roselle Public Library (a Ning site for library card holders) and the community of users who actively comment at Ann Arbor District library’s Web site. Dublin City Libraries One Book program recently created a community for readers of Dracula. One commonality of these sites is that conversation is encouraged between all users, including responses from library staff.
From the Netherlands comes another fascinating example of connecting with users. Patrons of the DOK library in Delft will soon be able to record their memories of the town and family for sharing via a wall of monitors called the Agora. Digital images, audio, and video will make up the tapestry of local history available in this high tech setting. Here they transcend the role of library user and become active creator in the collections of the library. Watch for this model to make inroads in other libraries around the world.
The potential to interact online with a community of library users is promising as we find our way through Facebook fan pages, library twitter accounts, and communities built in sites like Ning or with Drupal. Godin warns, however, that some organizations are stuck: bound by archaic rules or not only avoiding change but fighting against it. This echoes the aforementioned dangers of technophobia as well.
The Library is Everywhere
Beyond creating community, the Hyperlinked Library seeks to put its collections everywhere – available to all outside the walls of the library. As institutions such as Duke University libraries develop mobile applications for accessing their digital collections on the move, we are fast approaching a landscape of ubiquitous library access.
I was recently in Columbia, South Carolina, where I found myself in the hotel bar after a presentation about the Hyperlinked Library model. The bartender was fired up about his brand new iPod Touch. He was playing the bar’s music from it via a cable attached to the sound system, and surfing the Web via the hotel’s free Wi-Fi. He praised the access to the Web and his apps and held up the shiny new device and said:
“I have the whole world of information in my hand.”
What does it mean in 2010 for a young man – a typical consumer of information – to believe he has the world in the palm of his hand? What does it mean for the role of librarians? For libraries? This will be an important consideration for libraries – how can we compete with ubiquitous Wikipedia/Google access? One solution: making the collection, services and personnel of the library available wherever library users happen to be – in the palm of their hand. The Hyperlinked Library, we might say, has streams of information and knowledge that flow like water to where inquisitive users are thirsty.
The Library Encourages the Heart
The defining element of the Hyperlinked Library model is that the library should seek to encourage the heart of users via every mechanism and every channel possible. Rules and outdated policies fall away in favor of breaking down barriers to service and collections.
Encouraging the heart is satisfying the needs and wants of our users – something libraries have always done. The need for self-actualization, inspiration, basic human curiosity, and support for learning are all part of this concept. Encouraging the heart might mean beautiful artwork in the library space, a welcoming, engaged staff ready to explore with users and a physical/virtual space that is easy and FUN to use.
When asked what I see for the future of libraries – all kinds of libraries – I imagine a space where users will connect, collaborate, create and care.
Connect: Users will connect with each other and with library staff to follow their dreams and get what they want/need. Access to information sources will be unfettered. Support for technology and managing the ever-growing flow of information will be readily available no matter where users are.
Collaborate: Users will meet in groups. Tribes will form based on projects, interests, community need. Spaces will offer the best in collaborative technologies. Learning will occur here as well.
Create: Users will find the tools they need to share their own stories with their family, friends and the world if they so choose. The best technologies and support for these endeavors will be a part of library services. Library staff will become guides and co-creators. Local content will reign as one of the most unique offerings of the library.
Care: Users who interact with a transparent, playful institution grounded in learning, experimentation and play will surely care about the library. Those who actively participate will remember the library when funding issues occur or needs for more space or more technology must be met. The library is part of the community and the community holds the library in its heart.
These characteristics are just some of the facets of what I believe will make libraries truly innovative, useful and needed in the 21st century.
This article was adapted from a presentation given by the author at the 4th Leipziger Kongress für Information und Bibliothek, Leipzig, Germany in March 2010.
Block, P. 2008. Community: The structure of belonging. San Francisco: Berrett- Koehler.
Casey, M., and M. Stephens. 2007. Ask for What You Want. Library Journal 132(13): 29.
Casey, M., & M. Stephens 2008, November 15. Six Signposts on the Way. Library Journal 132(13): 21.
Jenkins, H. 2006. Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture. Chicago:MacArthur Foundation.
Rheingold, H. 1993. The virtual community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier. New York: HarperPerennial.
Stephens, M., M. Collins, 2007. Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the Hyperlinked Library. Serials Review 33(4): 253-256.
Ann Arbor District Library: http://aadl.org
Dublin City Libraries: http://www.dublinonecityonebook.ie/
Hennepin County Library’s Bookspace: http://www.hclib.org/pub/bookspace
The Hyperlinked Library: http://tametheweb.com/the-hyperlinked-library/
Research at Tame the Web: http://research.tametheweb.com/
Stephen’s Lighthouse: http://stephenslighthouse.com/
Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0 : a Guide to Participatory Library Service. Medford, N.J.: Information Today, Inc., 2007.
Since 2002 the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiatives have released the yearly Horizon Report, which “introduces six emerging technologies or practices that are likely to enter mainstream use within three adoption horizons over the next five years” in the realm of learning and inquiry.
The last few editions of the report have highlighted these trending technologies: social computing and personal broadcasting (2006); social networking and user generated content (2007); “grassroots video” and collaboration webs (think free and easy online tools) (2008); mobile devices and cloud computing (2009). The 2010 edition featured mobile computing and open content. All of these concepts are probably familiar to you and we can safely say the authors and advisors who create the report each year are spot on with many if not all of their choices.
This year the report identifies these six technologies on the adoption horizon: electronic books and mobiles in one year or less, augmented reality and game-based learning in two to three years, and gesture-based computing and learning analytics in four to five years.
Beyond technologies to watch are some key trends the group monitors year to year, including:
People expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want.
The world of work is increasingly collaborative, giving rise to reflection about the way student projects are structured. (page 3)
And these are some key challenges:
Appropriate metrics of evaluation lag behind the emergence of new scholarly forms of authoring, publishing, and researching.
Economic pressures and new models of education are presenting unprecedented competition to traditional models of the university.
Keeping pace with the rapid proliferation of information, software tools, and devices is challenging for students and teachers alike. (page 4)
Finally, the concept of learning analytics offers a future where a student’s education is custom tailored for their lives, learning styles and pursuits via “data mining, modeling and interpretation (p. 28).” It only follows that the K-12 and academic libraries might also better serve their users with an understanding of an individual’s learning profile.
Transliteracy: 21st century literacy
It is clear that technology is creating a large change in the ways we communicate and get information within our culture. This great change affects not only individuals, but also the institutions that make information available, such as libraries and universities. For a very long time, the essential modes of human communication remained unchanged. Having the ability to read, write, and speak more or less ensured that one possessed the necessary tools to communicate effectively within our culture. With the explosion of new technologies that affect the way in which we accomplish so many of our daily tasks, a communication divide is occurring between those who communicate across many platforms seamlessly and those who do not. While the behavior of transliteracy has been around for a long time, the study of it as a concept is new. Many reports and articles have been written about the need for transliterate behaviors to become the norm in order to keep lines of communication open and keep the exchange of information flowing. Researchers are also trying to understand how learning and comprehension are affected by this shift to a highly digital lifestyle. Librarians need to be invested in the spreading of transliteracy because it affects their ability to assist patrons and provide information. A new divide is emerging in the 21st century. It is no longer the divide between those who can read and those who cannot; it is now a divide between those who can access and understand digital information and those who cannot. The library has a role in bridging this new literacy divide.
What is transliteracy?
Transliteracy is defined by Sue Thomas, a professor of new media at De Monfort University, as “the capacity to read, write, and interact across a range of platforms, tools, and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio, and film, to digital social networks.” As a behavior, transliteracy is not a new phenomenon. However, the identification of transliteracy as a concept to be studied is a recent development, largely due to the new ways in which the Internet and other technologies allow for communication in ways that were not previously imagined. It is a broad term that encompasses and transcends many existing concepts. Some of these existing concepts include media literacy and digital literacy, which are contained within the definition of transliteracy.
The term transliteracy comes from the verb “transliterate,” which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “replacing (letters or characters of one language) by those of another used to represent the same sounds; to write (a word, etc.) in the characters of another alphabet.” This is an apt definition for the ways in which new technologies are replacing the traditional ways and means of communicating and learning.
It is no longer enough to only be able to read and write in order to communicate effectively. Individuals need to be able to access and understand digital information across many different and continually-evolving platforms in addition to the traditional formats we are all accustomed to. Transliteracy is concerned with the social meaning of literacy and the participatory nature of new means of communicating. Additionally, transliteracy is unique in combining and democratizing communication formats, expressing no partiality for one over another, while stressing the social construction of meaning via diverse media. However, it should be noted that no group has yet to publish a definition of what specific skills are necessary to be transliterate.
Transliteracy and the library
Transliteracy is a relatively new term, and while many library professionals may not be aware of the term per se, it does not mean that librarians are not participating in transliterate practices during daily interaction with patrons. While the concept of transliteracy is evolving and the definition may therefore shift over time, transliteracy is about understanding the ways and means of communication interaction and the skills needed to navigate from one medium to another. It is about the convergence of media types and the experience of engaging with the world in a multi-modal manner.
The lack of a list of skills needed to be transliterate leaves librarians without an understanding of the relationship that libraries will have with transliteracy. Libraries have information literacy standards, but it is uncertain whether these will be enough to support the growth of research regarding the means in which people communicate and produce content across various media.
The library can add value to existing resources by allowing patrons to contribute to knowledge bases. Social construction of knowledge can take place in many different ways, from allowing tagging of additional terms in the library catalog to consultation of under-identified objects in special collections. The transliterate world changes the assumption that authority is unidirectional and comes only from established channels.
Librarians should keep abreast of future developments concerning transliteracy because it concerns many of the concepts at the heart of librarianship. Librarians can incorporate new ideas about transliteracy into the ways that they help patrons access, understand, and create information. Additionally, these social networks and other forms of multi-media can create a means of knowledge sharing to enhance the user experience.
For libraries to be able to assist users with transliterate needs, the library and librarians need to be active in a transliterate manner. A new digital divide is emerging in the 21st century between those who can access and understand digital information and those who cannot. The library has a role to play in bridging this divide. Computers need to be accessible, and access, especially to social media sites, cannot be blocked. Libraries cannot look upon social media sites as bad; they are a means of communication and information exchange. Libraries should offer the ability to access and create across a broad range of platforms and networks.
This means that librarians must keep abreast of ever changing technologies and the newest and latest ways to interact digitally. Librarians will need to create personal learning environments that allow for the exploration of new and unknown platforms and tools. Librarians will have to be flexible enough to learn new tools, experiment with social media sites, and try out new technologies. This is a tall order. But it is not insurmountable.
For example, librarians could meet formally or informally to share information about personal gadgets, such as e-readers, so that they will understand when users approach with issues in downloading e-books from the library collection. The learning group could create accounts on social media sites to test out the many tools within the site. Testing out social media sites in this way could assist librarians in explaining privacy settings, or additional features for the site. Understanding the applications available on the computers in the library could help librarians assist users with creating content. This is a natural extension of learning the library’s print collection or offering of online databases.
As the concept and understanding of transliteracy and its impact on humans is being researched and developed, it is important for librarians to remain aware of new research and reports. This will ensure that libraries are equipped to assist patrons with this new form of literacy for the 21st century, transliteracy.
Ipri, Tom. 2010. Introducing transliteracy. College & Research Libraries News 71(10), 532-567.
Newman, Bobbi L. 2010. Libraries and Transliteracy Slideshow. [Slideshare slides]. Retrieved from Libraries and Transliteracy Web Site: http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/libraries-and-transliteracy-slideshow/
Thomas, Sue, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Mills, Simon Perril, and Kate Pullinger. 2007. Transliteracy: Crossing divides. First Monday. 12(12).
Jessica Thomson is a graduate student at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science, graduating in May 2011. She is also the Metadata Assistant with the Digital Collections Department at Northwestern University Library.
I’ve been meaning to post a link to this incredible post by the Librarian in Black. I’ll be using it in my classes from now on as a perfect overview of what’s happening with downloadable music in libraries. If you haven’t read it, be sure to do so and don’t miss the comments. For example:
Overdrive & Alexander Street Music are very similar. Overdrive users download a music file in a DRM-protected format that will self-encrypt and be unreadable after the designated circulation period (e.g. 3 weeks). Update: Alexander Street Music offers -streaming- access to classical, jazz, and folk. And sadly, the selection is not what most of our users want. Most people aren’t looking for classical and folk music. Libraries with these services get very poor use of them (according to my anecdotal discussions with other eResources managers), and frankly, I personally don’t think they’re worth the money we pay for them. Check your usage stats and do a cost per use calculation. You’re likely to find you might be paying $5/song. Ri-freaking-diculous.
Freegal is very different. The songs are popular ones with a lot of well-known artists in different genres like rock, R&B, and country. And in a lovely change of pace, the songs are provided as DRM-free MP3s! But — and I stress the but — the library can only offer these in a very limited fashion because of cost. The library pays for the number of downloads per year they want to fund. Then divide that by 52, and there’s your weekly cap. If you hit the cap, then no users can download anything else for the rest of the week. As a result, Freegal suggests that you limit the number of songs any one user can download in one week. For our library in San Jose, that number is 3. Yep, you get only 3 songs per week, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to log on before we hit our weekly cap. Update/Clarification: SJPL no longer has a weekly cap. So if you want to download an actual album, you have to calendar yourself to come back for at least 4 weeks to get one single album. How many users are going to do that? For us to pay for enough songs for our users to access a full album per week, we’d need to spend approximately $500,000 per year. And that’s not happening, nor should it in my opinion. That’s a ridiculous proposition for a collection budget. Is this token offering of popular online music to our users enough to interest them and an attempt at a successful model, or does it merely show that libraries are clueless once again about what our users really want with digital formats? Again, please check out the cost per use of the service and I can just about guarantee you it’s costing you more to offer songs via Freegal to your users than it would to simply buy them the songs they want directly from iTunes, Amazon, or whatever other service they use. But what other choices do we have? To do nothing. And that stinks too.
I have never had much interest or faith in what the library vendors are trying to sell libraries to compete with iTunes, Amazon or the like. Most of the time, I consider my music/content consumption as if I were a consumer, not a librarian. I want things to work and work well. Yes, I admit to my Apple fanboy status but it works for me. I’ve been well-served by my iTunes and Amazon account for many years. These days Hulu+, Netflix streaming and my satellite dish are serving my consumption needs nicely as I mend my fractured bones. I’m so happy SJCPL went the iPod route a few years ago. I also tried to use an iPhone app for downloadable content and never had success accessing the collections at my library. If it’s hard to use, limited in weird ways or doesn’t have “interesting to me” content, I’m gone. iTunes and Amazon fit the bill very nicely – as do the actual physical CDs I purchase from a very small number of artists.
Because I’m no longer working in libraries everyday, I’m glad folks like Sarah are actively sharing their insights with our community. It benefits me as an educator and it will surely benefit librarians who may be considering one of the services or options out there. I hope we can continue thinking, talking and sharing about this issue.
Please consider participating!
A study by Javier Velasco-Martin
I’m interested in how we are incorporating Social Media into our communication toolset; this research study will compare different computer-based interpersonal communication media. I’m particularly interested in whom we relate with through different tools, what types of information we share on these, and how we feel about different types of information. Your participation involves responding to an online survey. This process should take you about 15 to 20 minutes, and should involve no risk or harm to yourself. With your help, we’ll be extending our knowledge in this field, where most research to date has focused on single tools. You may gain from the learning about how you use these tools, and adjust your use as appropriate. You can also be eligible for a drawing of one of two $100 gift cards (details below).
This study compares the some Internet communication tools; the type of use we’ll be discussing here is described below:
- Email: The basic use of email, messages between two people.
- IM: The basic use of IM, conversations between two people.
- Blog: Posting as a blog author, and commenting on other’s blogs. In case you manage multiple blogs, we’ll be discussing your personal blog only.
- Facebook: Posting status and comments on friends’ status and photos. Not including private messages, groups, or events.
- Twitter: General tweets, replies and re-tweets, not direct messages. In case you manage multiple twitter accounts, we’ll be discussing your personal one.
This study has been funded by the 2009 Progress Grant from the Information Architecture Institute.
I’m looking for people who’ve been using these tools long enough to have found a stable place for them in their daily communication toolset; establishing a (rather) definitive strategy for their use. I’m trying to focus on people for whom these tools are no longer “the new toy”. In practical terms, you should have at least six months of experience in either running a blog, or using a Facebook or Twitter account.
I’m a PhD student of Information Science at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I’m interested in how technology is allowing us to communicate with our people in new ways, and how that is changing the way we relate with others. I believe Social Media marks a point where the Web has come of age, developing its own tools that are no longer remixed versions of what we’ve had before. I think that now is a great time to be studying these kinds of problems. I’m excited to be doing this kind of research, and I’m very thankful for your help. I also hope the results of this study will be useful to yourself and many others.
Participants who complete the survey will get a chance at winning one of two Amazon.com gift cards for $100 each. In order to participate in this drawing, I will have to collect your name and email address, but this data will be kept separate from the survey data and it will not be possible to associate your name with your responses. You need to answer 80% of the questions to be eligible for this drawing.