My new library is fabulous. Not only is it a gorgeous, people-centered space (as opposed to the book/stuff-centered look of most libraries), but the people who work there and on the board are fabulous. We’re starting work on our medialab, much like the fabulous Skokie Library’s.

So far we have a bamboo tablet, a dozen flip video cameras, a blue yeti microphone and some super cool software, like Autosketch Pro, on our medialab laptop. A couple of tripods. A camera. My goal is to eventually have a medialab space set up–possibly the larger of our two study rooms, and bring on the 3d printers etc. that would take it from a medialab to a makerspace.

Problem is, I can’t seem to sell this to some of my stakeholders. The Friends don’t get the point of this at all. Some patrons think it’s cool, but still don’t see why a library should offer this stuff. The local businesspeople I am trying to sell this stuff to–as a way to create a logo, record a video or podcast, design a webpage, and so on–seem perfectly fine with their non-digital status quo. Luckily the teens are all over this stuff.

Still, I am struggling. I can’t get all the stuff I need to make a full-fledged medialab without some money, and I can’t get the money without the buy-in of the Friends at least, and I can’t get the buy-in without having all the stuff to get people excited and making stuff. Holy Vicious Cycle, Batman. Once one adult business owner makes something cool with our equipment I’m sure the word will get out about its utility. But it’s hard to wait.

As soon as I get one or two more things I’ll host an open house and see if that gets people motivated. For now–anyone want to come play on some cool medialab equipment?


Content creation in libraries

OK, so I talk about this ALL the time (did you hear me say that just like Dr. Cox in Scrubs? maybe not) but it cannot be hammered home often enough: Libraries need to be creation spaces, not just warehouses. I had a conversation last night with someone absolutely thrilled with this idea and another who just wanted books. We can have both. In fact, ideally, we can write the books in the library and then make them available through the library.

Right now, I’m teaching a writer’s workshop at my library. My hope was to get it going in the summer, so by Nov. all the writers would be pumped for Nanowrimo, when they would pump out incredible fiction,let us release that fiction freely as e-content, and make it available through our catalog. Well, that didn’t happen. Writer’s workshop began in Sept. No one is ready for Nanowrimo this year. But next year: watch out.

In Madison, WI there is a small business on Lakeside, a community sewing space. There are machines to sew on, classes and one-on-one tutoring available. We need that type of tech in the library. Think how easy it would be to include a sewing machine and serger, ironing board and cutting table in a library lab. And how easy it would be to find a decent seamstress to offer classes. At the Horicon Public Library, the Friends meet once a year to make a quilt, which we raffle off to raise program funds. From there it’s a short step to incorporating sewing into the programming lineup.

What I want for Christmas

Ever since I heard about the MakerBot, I wanted desperately to be the first public library to have one, but snooze and lose. Fayetteville PL will beat us to the punch. Their FabLab is going to be fab indeed.

Any library that teaches knitting, art, writing, cooking, entrepreneurship, finance, or holds town meetings is a content creation space. We are already creating everything from jam to democracy in our libraries. Why not take this to the next level with a concerted focus on creation? I’d be willing to sacrifice 50% of my books to have room for creation spaces.

What do you create at/because of your library? Can you put a “library-made” sticker on it? We’ve got some of these stickers at HPL, if you want some. I’ve put them on gifts that I made with skills learned from library resources, staff, patrons and workshops.

library graffiti

We have held 3 graffiti programs at the library now. I have to say, these are some of the coolest programs we’ve ever done. The teens are so excited to get to do this “dangerous” street art, and they’re really good at it.

The first program we held was part of my Frances Henne/YALSA/VOYA research grant-funded series of six programs. For this we hired the fantastic artist Patrick Stoltman (note to librarians near Madison, WI: Hire him now!) My favorite part of this program, besides the nearly delirious joy of the 17 kids who attended (maybe the delirium was just the fumes) was when a local banker came out of the bank and saw what the kids were doing. He seemed so surprised and happy to see what we were doing. We invited him to join us, and he did. He nearly sprayed his snazzy suit when he held the spraypaint can backwards, but an eagle-eyed teen spotted the problem just as he started to press the nozzle, and disaster was averted. But he happily painted for a moment before he drove away.

Now this guy is actually the son of the owner of the bank–one of the most influential people in our tiny town. I’d never seen him in the library before, but lately he’s been coming in. Coincidence? Maybe, but I choose to believe that he was delighted by the program and decided to check us out. And now we have a huge gorgeous work of graffiti art on the wall of the library.

Our next program involved graffiti inspired by kanji, sprayed on clothes. Teens painted jeans and t-shirts. They unvented some pretty nifty techniques by purposefully letting some paint seep through to the other side of the clothes.

The last graffiti program we had involved spraypainting some letters to make a 3D sign for our teenspace in the library. I’ve been driving around for three weeks with these finished letters in my backseat. I keep forgetting to buy the epoxy I need to glue them together. But when I’m done, the teen area of the library will look utterly fantastic–and the teens keep clamoring for more graffiti programs.

So, as a note to all the librarians out there who I know are dying to host their own graffiti extravaganzas, here’s my 10 tips for a great graffiti experience:

1. Hire a pro. I paid $150, and may have been able to get away with less, but I value artists and would have loved to pay more had my budget allowed it. I actually used Craigslist and got about a dozen applicants, all of whom were incredibly talented. I just liked Patrick’s app best. I would have hired him for the other programs, if I’d had any money left in my budget.

2. Buy at least one can of paint per teen attendee, with a few extra for unexpected drop-ins. We didn’t preregister, and I was worried that we’d have a lot of people. For a town of less than 4000, 17 kids is a lot, but we were fine. We had some paint left over, but I’ve had to buy more for our third program. It costs about $3 a can. Buy an enormo roll of plastic dropcloth. The gazillion feet roll I have will last for several more programs. Don’t be stingy with the plastic. I knew that if I had a drop of paint on the parking lot, I would hear about it forever (and never mind the fact that doggie doo regularly adorns this lot).

3. Don’t leave the teens unattended. Duh. Even though I have the coolest, most chill teens in the universe, who all uniformly respect the rules and listen to me (no joke–I’ve told them if they are freaks, I won’t be able to convince my boss to have more sleepovers or other cool stuff, and they totally love those programs) I still wouldn’t leave them alone with fully loaded cans of spraypaint. I went over the rules very clearly, before they were allowed to touch the paint (RULES: no painting each other; no painting anything except the panels; be careful of overspray, both yours and others; no running around like an idiot or you’ll get hurt or sprayed).

4. We did these programs in the library parking lot. There was a breeze each time. The cars were far away. But the first time I was so terrified of overspray that I kept bleating like a sheep in a flooded ravine. So make sure the teens understand overspray and just how far it can travel (many feet with a gust of wind) and make sure no one stands in the overspray of another artist. And as for the bleating–I learned to relax. The kids want to do this again, and if you’re clear that will only happen if there’s no visible evidence of paint, then they’re more careful than you would believe–except for very brief moments when really excited, so make sure you’re paying attention and remind them to calm the heck down.

5. Be aware of fumes. No matter how much plastic you put up, there is NO WAY you could have this program indoors. Every person there would lose 30 IQ points from breathing that crap. Even outdoors it’s a little much. You may want to take a snack break inside halfway through to let the noxious chemicals die down.

6. The graffiti’d pieces can’t be moved for a while. Allow time for the paint to dry. Again, this may seem like a “duh” statement, but when 17 teens spraypaint over and over on the same board, there’s an enormous puddle of paint that needs to dry, and that takes forever. Encourage teens to spray lightly. No one can take the graffiti home that day, it actually took some of our stuff a couple of days to cure. Make sure you have a secure spot to store it all. We carefully took our wet stuff into my teensy storage cubby and it still stinks in there.

7. Have many pieces of plywood, cardboard or whatever, for them to paint on. This helps with the puddling of paint, because they won’t all spray in the same spots. We were going to do a fundraiser and sell our pieces, but in the end, I just gave them to the teens. We’ll fundraise later. But I think you could raise some money with these cool panels–maybe a silent auction?

8. If you spraypaint jeans, be aware that any stretching of the fabric will be negated by the paint. In other words, superskinnies will no longer fit over the scrawniest of 13 year old legs after they’re painted. Paint baggy stuff instead.

9. Give the kids a chance to practice and look at graffiti. For our first program, Patrick showed a brief powerpoint showing styles and techniques, and we had paper and books for them. Outside we had pieces of poster board for them to practice the techniques and give them the feel of things. He also briefly touched on the subversive social commentary of graffiti, and totally delineated the difference between legal and illegal graffiti. “Respect the art, and don’t deface things and give it a bad rap!” he emphasized.

10. Prepare for a lot of startled comments when people walk by and see what you’re doing. I advocated for both the teens and the library by saying things like, “aren’t they incredible artists” (which they totally were) and “our library is the coolest” (which it totally is).

If you do a graffiti program at your library, I’d love to hear about your experiences. We could post pictures here too.

Using internet resources to rock your YA & kids programming

I just presented at Wisconsin Library Association’s annual conference with two other awesome librarians on using tech to make better, more engaging, and often cheaper programs. Peg Checkai of Watertown  presented Karen Wendt’s work on online book reports. Kristin Lade of West Bend showed us all how to do skyped author visits free or inexpensively.

I, as usual, had a gazillion ideas to share, so created this powerpoint to showcase some of the internet sources I use to create what I (modestly) consider some of the most booty-kicking teen programming in the universe.

While the powerpoint is currently devoid of the commentary that tells you how I use these resources and why, it still may inspire you. I’ll try to create a slidecast shortly with commentary. For example, I look at Etsy with teens to decide which crafts we’d like to make, and I actually get emails from teens who have looked at it at home.  They clue me in on a great idea, then I keep all these ideas on Pinterest. While this isn’t exactly innovative, I like to put teens in the driver’s seat and they like to look at all the cool stuff available on sites like these.

I’d love to hear what tech (not just internet) you use to make fabulous programs at your library.

Synchronicity: Libraries & art

It’s interesting (and perhaps ironic) that after frantically searching for any research on art in public libraries for my thesis, I run into this a couple of days after I turn in my final draft.

The “Library as Incubator Project” looks at the other end of the research question that I looked at. Instead of asking how art in libraries affects the patrons, it looks at how art in libraries affects artists. I love this. I’m also working on my “reasons statement” for a doctoral program, and I’ve decided that my focus should really be on content creation in public libraries. Most forward-thinking libraries know that content creation is where libraries are going–or need to go–to stay relevant.

I was thinking of doing a dissertation looking at the empathetic/ethical effect of videogames vs. other types of informational media like books & films. And I still love that idea. It’s so important to know what outcomes librarians are facilitating when they buy particular media or hosting particular programs. But I’m even more intrigued by the creative possibilities of libraries as labs or, as these UW Madison SLIS researchers put it, incubation space.

This also makes me really want to go to SLIS and work with these researchers. I am torn between SOIS, SLIS and looking further afield at Ann Arbor and Champaign-Urbana. I don’t know how much upheaval I want to rain down on my family, and SLIS is closest to home. With the discovery of this awesome art/library connection in Madison, it’s suddenly looking even more appealing. Now if I could just get in…and funded…