Getting Students’ Bodies and Ideas into Libraries

David Silver, Associate Professor of Media Studies, University of San Francisco

Loving the season here in Minnesota.

Works closely with library at USF: Gleeson Library.

A great library is a library that has at least one spot that is your own.

Polling the librarians re: book displays.  Gleeson currently has a book display called Good Food: grow it, cook it, eat it.  Broadened the topic, from gardening to cookbooks.  Nutrition and food. Food and culture.  As a result, reaches more communities and their interests.  Also has a bibliography available.

Good displays should do 3 things:

  1. Highlights the collections of the libraries.
  2. Brings students into the library.
  3. Students get something – they can leave with a book or a bibliography.

Second exhibit: Get Graphic. Showed the diverse and extensive selection of graphic novels at the library. Didn’t shy away from controversial issues.  Had a suggestion box to expand the collection.

Assigned his students to view the display.  Photograph.  Take notes. Check out a graphic novel. Read the novel and incorporate into a blog post.  Some of the student interviewed the librarians.

One student’s blog post generated a number of comments, including the librarian, who noted the graphic novels the student had suggested and told him the library would order them. When the students found out that their blog posts were changing the library’s collection, they were jazzed.

Realized that it was just the 3 things, but that there was a 4th – students have to give something.  Bloggers love comments. What happens when students start giving their ideas to the library?

The 2008 election was huge in San Francisco. Students couldn’t stop talking about the election: Obama vs. McCain and Prop. 8.  Noted how the media was directing our attention.  All the theories they were studying in class were coming alive.  Students felt that the majority of Americans were being distracted; decided to start transforming USF.  Created materials to educate students, faculty, and staff.

Didn’t want just handouts. Wanted something 3-dimensional. Where? The library – it’s the center of campus. asked the librarian, and of course he agreed.

Started building an election exhibit. Students worked in groups. Built 3-dimensional displays and presented in the library to the other students. Very different to present in a public space.  Presented to fellow students and others that would wander into the space. “Students teaching students.”

Some students took quotes of Joe Biden and Sarah Palin and created a display.  (Showed Palin as a pit bull because of her quote.) Librarians asked to keep the exhibit for a while until the elections were over. Students agreed.

The one controversy was the picture of Palin as a pit bull.  The comment said “You should take down Sarah Palin: it’s prejudicial.” Students said that’s what the public sphere is for – creates dialog. What bothered him was that they misspelled “environment.”  “This is the library; your standards should be higher.” The students felt that if you were presenting in a library, it should be correct.

Learned 2 things from the project.

  1. Students did double the amount of work because their fellow students and friends would see it.  The stakes, quality, and labor all went up.  (Oops, has 3 things. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.)
  2. Students were bringing their friends to the library to see the exhibit.
  3. It became the most dynamic space for the election. A  number of events were held on campus.  College Democrats.  College Republicans. (“They still have a few republicans on campus in San Francisco – like four.”)

Started reducing the time the students had to share their work with the classroom, and instead has them share in the library.

Every semester has the Davis Forum – have a small class with a fairly large budget for speakers and trips.  Did Digital Literacy. What’s literacy in our times? Librarians know what a literacy is.  Our undergrads may not know, and their sense of literacy is profoundly interesting and confused.

What makes someone literate? Read everything to come up with different kinds of literacy. Had class during National Library Week.  Created a reading fort. Got old book covers and built a fort in the middle of the library.  Had books on digital literacy, handouts. Fort tragically fell.  (Awwwws from crowd.) Was rebuilt.

Students could not walk past it without looking at it. Even when it fell, it garnered comments. Got students to stop for a moment or two. Students would look through the books on digital literacy, choose a book, and go into the fort and read.  The students seemed to need a reading fort to take a moment to just sit and read.

New exhibit that doesn’t exist yet, but will on April 30th. Teaching a class on green media – making media about making food. Students learn how to bake bread, and then blog about teaching others how to bake bread.  Learning to cook different foods, how to plant food, how to weed, what grows regionally, etc.  Then the students make media about their experiences. An entire generation of student are alienated from food, and where it comes from.  The students are sucking in information like crazy.

Second day of class, went to the library. Wanted the students to know two librarians – physically meeting them and getting to know them.  [An aside that the professors need to attend the library sessions with the students.  Applause from the audience.]

The day they planted their plot, they visited the library and visited the area with cookbooks, gardening. (TX section.) Horrible space physically. Photo of all the students crammed into this small area.  One student commented, “Why am I buying all these cookbooks?? They’re all here!”

What they do in class is eat – every four weeks has a project: breakfast, lunch, dinner. With one, had to cook a seasonal meal. With lunch, demanded they use at least one ingredient from their plot.  Students are learning that recipes are a fine art.  Learning cooking terms: blanch, knead.

Final assignment was to create a library exhibit: meal that ties to your culture, and has got to be “the greatest exhibit ever seen in Gleeson Library.” Students went to the library to brainstorm. Took about 5 minutes to do nothing – student found it rather difficult. But the student got to really “know” the space. One student decided they needed a dinner table, set for a meal. Idea snowballed.  All the place settings different – since all the students are different people from different cultures, all the settings should be different.  Incorporating world map, with yarn connecting meal to the country of the food.

Students really wanted their fellow students to walk away with something.  Initially wanted to sell fresh food. Decided on recipes. “We don’t want students just to know about food, we want to teach them that they can make their own food.”

So many different ways to make library exhibits.  Key points:

  1. Highlight library collections
  2. Get students into the libraries
  3. Students need to get something, walk away with something
  4. Students need to give to the library, contribute their ideas.  When they contribute ideas, it goes from being The Library to My Library.

1 Comment

Filed under Libraries and Librarianship

One response to “Getting Students’ Bodies and Ideas into Libraries

  1. Pingback: Getting Students’ Bodies and Ideas into Libraries « Impromptu Librarian « Nogginquest’s Weblog

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