Thursday, May 12, 2016

Library Design Tips - SLJ

Space planning is an important component of running a successful institution


School Library Journal - Library Design Tips

Sunday, January 31, 2016

When History and Science Meet

This past week, I attended an event at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center here in New Hampshire that marked the 30th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster . On January 28th, 1986, the space shuttle exploded just 73 seconds into its mission. Concord, New Hampshire resident Christa McAuliffe was chosen for this mission to be the first teacher in space, but was killed during the tragedy.

McAuliffe inspired us all with a spirit of adventure, discovery and purpose."I touch the future, I teach" has become a mantra to all those who follow in her footsteps as educators. To me. the memory of McAuliffe, a social studies teacher, emphasizes the importance of tying our past to our future. Today, grounded in history and inspired by ideas related to STEM and new 21st century Science standards, we may support our children by guiding them to ignite their passions, satisfy their curiosities about from where they come, and use new tools for the betterment of their world. In fact, when we look at our stars, we should realize that science and history are very closely related, indeed.

 Challenger victims remembers at McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. NECN.
Challenger victims remembers at McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center. NECN.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

School Library and Museum Collaboration

Museums and schools should be natural partners. So, when I began working at a high school library three-and-a-half years ago, one of the first things I did was seek out an institution willing to try something a little different. My goals were mainly twofold:
  • Promote hands-on learning and STEAM / Makerspace education in my town, while showing students the value of collaboration 
  • Promote museum educational programs and outreach
Students check out the 3D printer that will
be used to build drone parts. It was acquired thanks
to a museum education grant that included our school.
I was willing to work with any type of museum, with the hope that this project will expand and perhaps involve multiple museums in the future. In July 2014, I met with a like-minded science museum director in my area to discuss ideas about a potential collaboration. This winter, our partnership and year-and-a-half of planning is resulting in a project launch with my high school teens. I have described our project on Donor's Choose as follows:

Our first collaborative project is to design and build a drone. The project will help students gather and evaluate information. It will support innovation, creativity and critical thinking. With the help of the librarian, administration, teachers, and museum staff, it will allow students to become comfortable with collaboration and communicating with experts. Students will work within a budget, create an engineering project plan, build a drone kit and modify the drone with CAD and a 3D printer, create a documentary about the experience, design a web site, write articles for the school paper and other media outlets outside of our walls and deliver presentations about our work.
This project is open to all students and will cater to varied interests and abilities.

Students will engage in authentic learning, picking up skills that will serve them in a 21st century world. Furthermore, the project will boost our sense of community due to its large-scale collaborative nature. We hope that this will serve as a model for other non-formal learning opportunities. [Donor's Choose, 2016]
In my original planning document I state the following: 
Students are invited to learn in an environment that distinguishes itself from the traditional classroom experience - to explore, to be creative and to discover new ways of thinking. We aim to make our school a model for community learning that brings informational and cultural tools from around the world into our educational space.

We see collaboration as an important part of our learning experience. Collaboration gives us more ways to access information. It enables us to rely on group diversity to accomplish tasks. It gives us multiple perspectives for more efficiently solving problems. Collaboration can help us grow ideas, stretch our minds, and garner new tools for information seeking behaviors.

  • We aim to make learning fun and to connect it to the real world.
  • We aim to help students adapt to different ways of communication, exploration, inquiry, and evaluation of information using diverse low and high tech tools.
  • We aim to help students understand that you learn for a lifetime.
  • We aim to show students that success relates to caring about something, getting involved, and following through with an idea from inception to completion. [GHS/McAuliffe Shepard Partnership, 2015]
 ...In fact, these points are what libraries are all about in the 21st century:

We most effectively reach our audience to convey these concepts and provide these opportunities through collaboration. I believe that such school and museum partnerships should be the model for the 21st century to the benefit of both institutions.

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Compassion Economy

The New Year is always a good time for reflection on yourself and the world around you. I have been thinking a lot over the past few years about my work, its meaning to me, to those around me, and to the world. Today I address the role of, and try to assign new meaning to, being a librarian, archivist, or museum professional in 2016.

Information and cultural heritage professionals have been grappling for about a decade now over what it means to be part of the following:
  • the knowledge economy
  • the information economy
  • the creative economy (See bottom of page for definitions of each)
I propose that there is another economic role for professionals in our line of work. We are part of the "compassion economy." My idea of this economy is one in which we aim to help others with the effect of helping ourselves. (I was struck by a recent TED radio hour talk that dovetails nicely with this idea.)

As a fourth year teacher-librarian in a public high school, who is also working to attain a post-grad degree in education, I have recently learned a lot about the process of learning. There are few jobs that I know of that require the kind of compassion that one must muster to be surrounded by 1200 teenage students day in and out. We deal with hormones, insecurities, family problems, socio-economic issues, and feelings of confinement with a burgeoning desire for adult freedom. ("I can do whatever I want! I'm 18 now you know!!) As a librarian, I do not usually assign grades. I (mostly) do not have a set curriculum to teach. My job centers around compassion and I would like to suggest that if you are a librarian of any sort, an archivist, or if you work in a museum, your job centers around this too.

Not the school where I teach, but a nice one nonetheless
We live in a time when information is exploding. As information professionals, we help others gather the data they need in this information economy. We have knowledge about how to get more knowledge, and we have collections at our disposal to help us impart that knowledge to others. These same collections help young entrepreneurs change our world in creative ways, taking old ideas and giving them new life. Furthermore, our newly developed understanding of the need to supply makerspaces for patrons and museum-goers, and our resolve to design exhibits and programs that encourage questioning, relate to the role we play in the creative economy. Whereas in the past we cared for collections, steered users to catalogs, and left them taking away what they would, today we encourage discussion right in our institutions. We look for feedback on social media. We want our patrons to be part of our institutional family and not merely visitors to our professional worlds.

Despite all this, I have begun thinking that we librarians, archivists, and curators can see ourselves as a hub for compassion above and beyond all else.
  • We give people the learning tools that they need to make the world a better place (economically and socially) - the knowledge and know-how.
  • We can also give people the emotional tools they need to make the world a better place - the can-do attitude and sense of place and belonging necessary for personal and professional betterment.
  • We are part of an individual's support team, helping them grow, assisting them in numerous ways to help them reach their full potential.
Students work in our library Makerspace
But we do this job not for  purely altruistic reasons as the moniker "compassion economy" might suggest. Our work is also self-seeking. Museums, libraries, and archives make this world a better place because of our collections, know-how, and ability to reflect the success and failures of our past. Society needs to have access to these things so that humanity may pick itself up by its boot straps, as it were, and propel itself to greater things. We understand that the intellectually designed artifacts created by human beings are improved from diversity and our sensitivity to it. Understanding of individual achievement leads members of civilization to build on the work of others. As professionals, by supporting creation and by showing "compassion" for all people who have potential to build upon old ideas, librarians, archivists, and museum professionals are helping to build the future.


For the knowledge economy See:  (
For the information economy see (
For the creative economy see the always very interesting Richard Florida

See also:

Debjani Kanjilal, Azam M. Bejou & David Bejou. (2012). “Compassion: The Missing Link in Economics and Management.” Journal of Relationship Marketing.

TED Radio Hour.  Just a Little Nicer. NPR.  (podcast) December 4, 2015.
Wuthnow, Robert. (1991) Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves. NJ: Princeton University Press.