We met over lunch at Kamasouptra and we came up with a simple idea: get beats, teach teens about music, hip hop, and writing, and let them make music.
THE PLAN IN ACTION Sonya put out the word to those in the hip hop community that we were looking for beats for the program. She got a number of beats back from some great producers. Our teens then listened to those beats and selected the two which they wanted to work on over the next few weeks.
THE NEXT THREE WEEKS Over the next 3 weeks, the teens hunkered down with Sontiago in the library and worked on adding to the music. The teens (with Sontiago’s guidance) mapped out where the verse, chorus, and bridges would be in the song. They took the instrumental tracks and transformed them into their own pieces of art. By the end of the third week, all of the teens parts had been written and recorded. The final step was mixing the tracks and blending the teens vocals together to create something truly moving. Between the work done by the producers, the teens, and Sontiago, this was a true collaborative project that took place in the public library.
FOR MORE INFORMATION I wrote about the Make Music at the Library over at my personal blog while the program was going on. You can read those posts here.
Here’s a video playlist taken from the four weeks the teens spent working on the tracks:
It has been a fun almost 2 years. We’ve danced, we’ve went out and got tattoos, and most of all we’ve talked about video games a lot. But sometimes things just need to come to an end, and my part in 8BitLibrary has come to an end.
Since I’m a librarian and all that, I’ve decided to organize my 8BitLibrary writings in a nice little PDF and post it here for anyone to read or download.
I hope you enjoy my writings. I’ll continue to write about gaming in libraries here on Tame The Web from time to time, so stay tuned!
“The time is now,” I keep telling myself. Let me tell you why.
It’s been almost five years since I fell into being a teen librarian. I was working toward my MLS at Clarion University when I was approached to do some summer teen programming at the Clarion Free Library in Clarion, PA. Their proposal was simple: do stuff for teens, buy some cool books, and get them into the library. I was a one-person team tasked with pretty much creating a library for these oft-forgotten patrons. I did it, and the teens were happy, but I realized at the same time that I had inadvertently reinforced the mainstream belief that all it takes is one teen librarian to make it happen.
Maybe that was true in 2007, but it’s 2011, and things have changed.
Being a teen librarian is a full-time job fit for a small army, and it is high time that we reward the position with proper staffing. No longer can the work rest on one person’s shoulders. Teen librarians deserve to be recognized as their own department within the larger structure of a public library, not a bridge between children’s and adult services.
I can only point to examples from my life to highlight how great the need for expansion of teen services is. At the end of 2010, I put together this https://sites.google.com/site/portlandplteens/2010yearinreview year in review to share with the community all of the things we’d been doing for teens. The numbers are pretty staggering, especially when you consider that we opened to the public on April 15, 2010. Yes, I did have some help with my programs, but it was small—one employee running our public desk for ten hours per week while I programmed/managed/collected/did everything I can’t when I work directly with the public.
In 2011, that system persists. I also dedicate four hours per week to help with shelving returned materials. However, when it comes to the bulk of the steering, I do it solo.
Luckily, I have Twitter to call upon other teen librarians. When I posed this question to them, I found that quite a few of my colleagues were in the same boat (here are their full responses). The ones that were not had some kind of small team around them, and the thoughts they shared were rather positive (for example, read what @johnny_pistols has to say). This leads me to think about the atmosphere we’re creating in our teen library spaces. Sure, we’re making awesome experiences for teens, but are they also picking up on just how stressed out we are?
Day in and day out, our teens are seeing us as the one person they can identify with in the library. If part of our jobs is to help them become strong adults, are we failing them? I’m 31 years old, and I’m finally realizing that very little can get done when you’re acting alone. The real magic happens with teams: family, community, and friends are what we need to make things happen. We’re giving our teen patrons a false sense of what it means to be an adult by operating our teen services this way.
That’s not to say that we should be hiding away in teen library land. In getting our own department, we’d have a great responsibility. It would be our time to rise up and communicate effectively; enrich and broaden library services. Our teen department should be well tuned into what’s going on with children’s and adult services and vice versa.
Yes, I realize that adding staff is hard to do in these times. Over the years, I’ve been hearing so much about budget cuts, scaling back, doing more with less, etc. In the midst of this doom and gloom came voices of support from patrons, the media, and most important, the community at large. This article comes to mind:
The message is clear: people love libraries, and if we add more value to their experiences, we could win more financial support that could be directed to teen services. Some concrete evidence as to why we should choose this branch of services over others: Over the course of nine months last year, my teen library alone saw 7,053 one-hour computer sessions completed. Most of the teens who logged in this screen time are new to the United States (Portland, ME, has a large Somali and Sudanese immigrant population) and spent it searching for jobs, learning how to get a driver’s license, watching soccer, talking to their family members overseas, and Facebooking.
We have also given teens the opportunity to be creators instead of consumers and explore interests that could become careers. Self-confidence, always a difficult thing to develop, is a goal. The “Make Music at the Library” program allows them to tinker and compose, The end result is a unique piece of art that will be stored forever in our library.
Finally, what I consider the most wonderful thing about working in a library is the connection that we most often overlook because it isn’t measurable: we offer teens friendship and a nonjudgmental ear. Over the past week, I’ve had a number of teens come to the library just to talk to me about life, love, the pursuit of college, and everything in between. They didn’t leave the library with a solid answer of how to move onto the next step of their lives, but that’s not what we’re here to do. By simply listening, we’re giving teens a chance to talk things out.
I sincerely believe that despite our current economic situation, the time to expand library services is now. One of the best ways to ensure that libraries thrive well into the future is to invest in its future adult citizens: teens. So let’s talk, and better yet, let’s act.
Here’s Andromeda Yelton‘s TEDx talk from this past June at Princeton Public Library in New Jersey. In 6 minutes and 31 seconds, Andromeda talks about how her and a gang of librarians (see below) earned enough money to build a library in India and then raise enough for 100 extra books, a newspaper subscription, and then, to top it all off, 4 bo0kmobiles in Africa. All of this, might I add, was done through Twitter/Blogging/Social Media.
I was lucky enough to be part of the gang of librarians I mentioned above. Much love to the work of Andromeda, Ned Potter, and Jan Holmquist on the awesome Buy India A Library Project.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten to watch a group of teens that come into the library grow into full fledged hip hop artists.
It all started with The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing center in Portland, ME, and their 2011 program Play. Their amazing Young Leaders and Writersworkshop was the start of a collaboration between three teens (Chrispo, Emmanuel, and Ali) with local hip hop artist Sontiago (aka Sonya Tomlinson).
The group of teens started coming into the library on a daily basis and used our study rooms as their rehearsal space. They would freestyle over beats and furiously scribble down lyrics on scraps of paper. It was through them that I met Sonya and ideas about future collaborations came to fruition. Since the teens were already using the library as a rehearsal space, we couldn’t see why the teen study rooms couldn’t be used as a recording space as well.
The recording happened over two weeks in May 2011. Sonya brought in her 8 track recorder and for a few hours the team camped out in our study rooms. Verses and beats leaked out of the study rooms, and during their time spent in the library creativity flowed through the air.
THE FINAL PRODUCT
Last week, Chrispo came into the library and came up to the teen service desk. He had the final mix of their song all ready to go and needed to get it online. I gave him some extra time on the computer so he could make a quick YouTube video to share it with his friends and family. I’ll end here and let their creation do the talking…
Wouldn’t it be great if libraries could do this kind of stuff all the time?
On Tuesday May 17, 2011, my library had the pleasure of hosting a show featuring the wizard rock band Harry and the Potters. The show itself was awesome: the music was great, the band was super nice, and everyone had a good time.
The highlight for me had nothing to do with the actual show. Instead, it came from the patrons. The first moment where I noticed that this wasn’t going to be just any old program was when I stepped out to announce to the fans that were waiting for the show to start that the band was just sound checking and would be ready shortly. I expected maybe 20 people tops, but the line stretched all the way from our auditorium up into the library proper. We’re talking at least 100 people here, all with smiles on their faces.
Once the show got underway, I stepped up to the mic to introduce the band to the 203 people that came to the library on a rainy, Tuesday night to see this free show. I was greeted with shouts of “I LOVE LIBRARIES” and “WE LOVE LIBRARIANS”. I felt like a Beatle.
But that’s not what I’m trying to get at. What I’m really trying to say is this: the death of the library has been greatly exaggerated. This event showed me that there are people out there that love their libraries. They know who we are and what we do…and they love us for it. Will 26 ebook circulations be the thing that takes away that love? What about when Seth Godin says that libraries are out of date? Are they gonna listen to him? I don’t think so. People will remember you when you give them positive experiences.
I have a feeling we’re gonna be ok.
Here’s some video I took at the event with my phone. Sure, the quality isn’t the best, but I think it captures the excitement of the evening.
I’ve actually done research on students who are learning game design and about games,” said Jose Zagal, a game development professor at DePaul. “And it is quite often the case that they’ll have a very narrow view of games.”
Jim Galbraith, associate director of collections at DePaul’s library, hopes the collection will draw the wider student body while supplementing what’s taught in game design and computer science classes.
I’ve been working in public libraries for five years now and recently decided to go back and look at the things I’ve done. Part of it was curiosity and the other part was to make sure that I’ve been doing my job and making interesting things happen for my community. Also, sometimes there’s a program or idea that you’ve had in the past that you’ve totally forgot about. Going back through my personal archives has helped me rediscover some ideas that I can now see through to completion.
The Library Idea Share is my attempt to get these ideas and tools off of my hard drive and into other librarian’s hands so that they can be used by anyone looking to put a program together. I hope that through this series of posts you can find something that you can take and remix for your own libraries needs.
Note from Michael – I’m deep in two projects today and tomorrow and haven’t had much time to catch up on the hubub with Harper Collins and ebooks. I can say that I agree with Justin’s take on the potential and promise of promoting content creation, access to technology and building the community memory (whatever community it might be – civic, academic, education) as a big part of our future in libraries. I appreciate Justin’s hard work and insights.
First, the lending-digital-goods jig is up. With DRM, publishers have found a way to cut out libraries and used booksellers. This kind of greed is absurd when you consider how much business libraries give the major book publishers. The average annual teen book budget I’ve worked with over the years at a few different libraries is $20,000—and that’s often one of the smaller pieces of the pie. Adult public library book budgets for systems serving upwards of a million people range from a cool $1 to $2 million. And let’s remember: libraries don’t ever return books. The obvious solution to the HarperCollins slight is to stop buying its wares. The lack of library cash flow will speak loudly. Also, no more booktalking HC’s backlist or generating word of mouth, the rumored force behind best sellers. You’re grooming your next Neil Gaiman, HC? Wonderful! Good luck making him or her a star without our readers advisors and community centers, where people can talk about what their discovering in the stacks.
Now, let’s all quit being shocked that the ebook loaning cap happened and take the long view of digital goods in libraries. Two of the so-called Big Six book publishers already refuse to lend ebooks to libraries, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster. Overdrive, the vendor involved in the HC incident, is a pile of garbage in terms of usability. Don’t believe me? Read this comic.
Tell me you haven’t run into this problem before. As a Teen Librarian, I’m working with the one-click-and-the-file-saves-to-your-computer generation. Do they use Overdrive now? No. Will they later? Doubtful, if the interface and DRM remain. Does this bode well for the future of library services and literacy? For an answer, look at what’s happened with digital music products for libraries. Like ebooks, they are locked up in crazy DRM or come with an insanely high price tag. Let’s not even get into databases.
The second thing I learned from this incident is that the library world is terrible at advocating for itself. DRM and greedy publishers are here to stay. No number of tweets, emails, or blog posts is going to change their minds. If HC and other publishers in their wake want to cut us out of the ebook market, let them—it gives us a chance to do what we need to do, that is, reinvent ourselves. REVOLUTION!
What do I mean by “revolution”? Let’s use this slap in the face as an opportunity to make libraries modern institutions. For a while now, we’ve loaned popular materials like DVDs in our communities. To many people, libraries are like free versions of Blockbuster. Meanwhile, our unique local collections are hidden away, either hard to browse or physically out of reach. Instead of giving patrons access to cutting-edge technology they can use to create original works and teaching them how to use it, we give them basic Internet connections so they can watch YouTube clips and Facebook themselves into oblivion. We’ve become lazy, boring; extensions of people’s living rooms, essentially.
And now that we’re being squeezed out of lending popular materials like ebooks, what do we lend out? The answer is simple: we turn to our community to create the content that we collect. We “check out” distinctive experiences and educational opportunities to our patrons instead of the Twilight saga ad nauseam. We become the go-to place for people to record music, film movies, write original stories, and do anything else creative, educational, and life-improving.
We then take these works and make like libraries and catalog, store, and share them. Sure, we may only have one or two ebook copies of James Patterson’s crapfest, but look at the awesome content we’re encouraging our community to create! The best part? It’s one-of-a-kind material that we can now share easily with the world. The other rad part? We’re empowering our patrons to become creators instead of consumers.
Finally, the first person to say, “But my library doesn’t have the money to do this kind of stuff!” in the comments section loses. It’s easy.
And that’s why libraries should just stop buying DRM media for their collections. Period. It’s unsafe at any speed. I mean it. When HarperCollins backs down and says, “Oh, no, sorry, we didn’t mean it, you can have unlimited ebook checkouts,” the libraries’ answers should be “Not good enough. We want DRM-free or nothing.” Stop buying DRM ebooks. Do you think that if you buy twice, or three times, or ten times as many crippled books that you’ll get more negotiating leverage with which to overcome abusive crap like this? Do you think that if more of your patrons come to rely on you for ebooks for their devices, that DRM vendors won’t notice that your relevance is tied to their product and tighten the screws?
Cory’s got it right: stop giving them our money. Instead of buying 80 copies of Dan Brown’s bound schlock, buy some cheap netbooks, toss on some open-source software that will turn patrons into creators, and lend them out. Invest in your community instead of bleeding time and money on ebook garbage.
MUCH LOVE GOES OUT TO:
In no way am I the first person to ever say something along these lines:
Thank you DOK Library Concept Center and Eli Neiburger (watch #1 and #2)
Gov. Tom Corbett’s no-new-tax pledge means he has to figure a way to slash billions of dollars across the board from Pennsylvania’s budget, and it’s unlikely libraries will emerge unscathed.
Into this breach steps janet jai of Highland Park. (She had her name legally changed to lower-case letters a long time ago, but that’s another story.) Ms. jai (pronounced like the letter J), 65, has rushed out 500 copies of a self-published, 165-page paperback book, “Saving Our Public Libraries: Why We Should. How We Can.”
We met Monday to discuss her fundraising suggestions. I had coffee and she had tea — or almost did. She’s so passionate about this cause she never pulled out the tea bag. She sipped hot water. “Silver tea,” she shrugged, and we kept talking.
Her book defies quick summary but she makes two key points. The first is that libraries can’t feel they’re being singled out if government is cutting more or less equally everywhere. The second is that librarians must now think like entrepreneurs even as they hold fast to Andrew Carnegie’s “free to the people” credo.
I was drawn immediately to a quirky suggestion on page 149. She knows people want to be remembered, and also knows most of us aren’t Carnegies. So she suggests small fundraisers that could end with innumerable little signs like the following:
“The lights are on today because of Amanda Smith’s contribution. … Kelly Hu paid for the electricity that makes it possible for you to use this computer. …”
What a great article. Coming from a librarian or someone directly linked to libraries, a passionate book like this may be overlooked. Coming from a patron, however, it becomes a whole different thing. Empowering patrons…it’s just one of the things we’re here to help with.