By Meredith Farkas | August 18, 2006
I must apologize for not writing much lately. I really believed that when I finished my book I would have lots and lots of spare time, but then the speaking engagements came rolling in and the professors in the graduate programs at Norwich suddenly “got religion” regarding information literacy. All good things, but they take up a lot of my time and energy. I’ve also been busy working on an exciting project that you will definitely be hearing about this coming Monday. I’m itching to tell you… really I am… but I promised I’d wait until Monday and I’m going to be a good girl. I’m one of those people who always gives gifts early and can never keep a secret about a surprise. I just get so excited that I have to share it!
When I was editing my book in June, I kept finding incredibly cool things that libraries were doing that I hadn’t heard about before. Many of them I added, but eventually I had to stop myself because the book would never have gotten finished (and would have been a thousand pages long!). At some point you have to say “it’s done” because there’s always going to be something new to add or something you could improve upon. Since declaring the book “done”, many new things have come onto my radar screen that I’m kicking myself for not knowing about earlier. Here are just a few:
My Own Cafe – the coolest library-sponsored online community I have ever seen. I always wondered if a library (other than Ann Arbor which has a very unique population) would be able to successfully build and attract teens to an online community. The Southeastern Massachusetts Library System has shown that it is possible when the community is well-designed and the library doesn’t intrude too much into it. My Own Cafe has cool things like a gazillion message boards (on such topics as music, college prep, books, movies, gaming, life, etc.), local band info and downloadable music, and a great Info Center where the librarians can sneak in their readers’ advisory, homework help and other useful library stuff. I had been searching for something just like this when I was writing my chapter on online communities and didn’t find anything nearly as cool. In fact, I found very few successful library-created online communities. Are there other inspiring online communities created by libraries that I don’t know about? Do tell! [Thanks Sarah!]
Westerville Public Library – wherever did you come from Westerville Public Library? With your nice, crispy-clean Web design, your MP3 players loaded with audio books, and your terrific vodcasts of library events… how did I not know about you until recently? Library vodcasts were another thing I had a very difficult time finding good examples of, so I really wish I’d known about Westerville (and the Orange County Public Library in Florida, which is particularly cool because it’s in Florida where people just don’t seem to value libraries enough). I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Westerville and Orange County from now on… I expect great things from both of you! [thanks David]
Carvers Bay Branch Library’s gaming program – So often, when I see pictures from these ultra-successful gaming nights, I see a sea of white faces. And I think of the teenage clients (poor and much more ethnically diverse) that I worked with as a therapist and wonder why kids like that don’t seem to be represented. If the library was a cool welcoming place where they could socialize, play and learn, it could have been such a positive force in their lives. The Carvers Bay Branch Library in South Carolina serves a largely black, poor population with a high illiteracy rate and a very poor rate of library use. The Library Director smartly sought grant money to build a new library and to fund nnovative programs to improve the community, including a gaming program. However, instead of the gaming program being an end in and of itself, it is used as a means to improve literacy rates and create positive outcomes for these kids. Ability to take part in the gaming program is tied to writing book reports, taking part in positive afterschool activities, and doing community service. I definitely think gaming programs like at AADL, SJCPL and others are terrific, but I am so thrilled to see a library that is using gaming as a hook to produce positive outcomes in a very needy youth population. Understanding the sort of teenage population they are probably dealing with in that area, I am thrilled to see that the program has been successful and well-attended thus far. Hearing stories like this make me wish I was working in a public library in the area where I used to be a therapist — I think the library could have been making a real difference in people’s lives there (but it wasn’t).
I learned about so many amazing things that libraries are doing through the research for my book. I’m thrilled that the innovations and brilliant ideas just keep on coming! Yippee!