Why do they come? The Library as place and brand

You probably all know the scene: A library reading hall with endless rows of students working, studying, learning. Alone together. A nice view. Makes me happy every time I cross it. But we should never stop question our services and our users behavior (also when it’s a very positive behavior) and I often ask myself: “Why do they come? Why don’t they sit at home and study?”. Some of them for sure because they are gonna pick up a book or need library help or instruction and don’t get me wrong: I love a library filled with working students and I think we do an awesome job giving them good conditions but still, why do they come just to sit and work? I find the question important because it might be a window to both insights on the library and the people using them.

humWhy do they come? Students working at Faculty Library of Humanities, Copenhagen University Library

I think the questions holds several answers. Sometimes, when I ask the question out loud, I get the answer from library professionals that it’s because we, as libraries, are excellent at creating learning and study environments. I will not argue that is not a part of the answer but if we break that part down, what we do, are providing our libraries with tables and chairs so our users have places to work. Other institutions, for instance the universities themselves, can do that pretty well too I guess and I don’t believe it’s the only or most significant answer to the question

I think the answers should be found elsewhere but before I dig into that I like to tell you a story from one of my libraries.

Case: Thrashed campus, neat library

At the Faculty of Social Sciences at The University of Copenhagen we have two physical library sites: The Faculty Library and a smaller Study Library at the center of campus. The Study Library has a small reference desk that are staffed from 10 am to 3 pm on weekdays and 3 large reading halls which are open from 8 am to 10 pm which means, they are un-staffed every day for 9 hours. I meet with the provost at the faculty ones every month to deal with cases evolving the library. He often complains about the way the students treat campus; Trash everywhere, a trail of parties, broken stuff etc. For some reason we never experience this at the Study Library even though it’s un-staffed many hours everyday. Why is that? Why do they trash campus but cherish the library? I think the answer to the question “Why do they come?” could be found in this pattern of behavior and I think it has to come with both the library as brand, development of the library as place and the life of the student in 2017.

The Library: A trustworthy brand since 2600 BC

I would argue that a  part of the answer to why students flock to academic libraries to work has to be found in the library as a brand. In my whole professional carrier I have been hearing voices inside the profession who calls libraries and librarians ‘traditional’ and ‘dusty’ and is arguing that we need to re-shape the brand of libraries. I don’t mind taking a discussion about re-shaping the brand but what if the library in the head of the users are just what they need? Thinking about it, libraries has been around for almost 5000 years and has since the introduction of public libraries during the Enlightenment era been associated with spaces for learning, education, research and cultural activity. Our values are openness, diversity, inclusion and accessibility (or at least that the values I like to be floating through my libraries). We are democratic institutions (but not neutral!). The book itself, which many link with libraries (for good reasons), are one of the strongest brands in the world. Looking at the example with The Study Library at Social Sciences I would not conclude that students love libraries but they for sure respect them.

Libraries don’t want people’s money – libraries want them to succeed, want them to learn, to explore, want to give them access to a bigger world.

In a highly commercial, capitalistic and digitized world, I think many students in higher education connects with that. So what if our brand is a bit traditional? It’s strong and it’s trustworthy and we should acknowledge that and use it in the future development of libraries.

19a8ff0760f0904dd9cb1a4e4e03226f--peterborough-the-libraryPeterborough, New Hampshire Town Library. First free public library supported by taxation founded April 9. 1833

Discipline, identity and belonging

The conditions for Danish students in higher education has changed pretty radical over the last couple of years: There are clear limits for your time of being a student, you got 5 years to finish your study or you are out. You can take on education and then decide to switch to another. The weekly hours students has access to there teachers and supervisors has been limited. It’s harder to get into most studies, the demands for good grades are bigger than before. I will not go into a discussion on how this development is good or bad in the bigger picture for higher education but I think it has forced our students to take on a more professional and disciplinary approach than before. They discipline themselves with going to the library to work. They make a work day of it: Waiting in front of the library in the morning till it opens, find a good spot to study and finish around 3 or 4. Couldn’t they just do that at home? Sure but we all know that you often rather do the dishes than reading Foucault. To many distractions at home. The library gives them an opportunity to separate their private life from there study so they can be more relaxed while at home.

It can be hard being a student. And lonesome. The social aspects of students life is crucial for there ability to be the best students and human beings they can be. Look at remote students: The drop-out rates are way higher than regular students studying at a physical university with other students. With the decreasing hours in class and supervision students are looking for other places to boost there academic identity as students, as learners. They probably find that in different places but one of the places are The Library. Alone together sure but every time they look up they see that they are not alone. That is important and closely connected with the last aspect of why students come to work at the library: Belonging.

We all need to belong to something; a family, a job, a football team, a nation. If you tell me you don’t need to belong I say you either a psychopath or a liar. Students and researchers at institutions of higher education are no different from that. For many students the study is a huge part of there life and I think it’s crucial for there well being and ability to perform that they feel that they belong. Same go with researchers and teachers. As an open space, not focused on administration or grades, I think the library can help students with the feeling of belonging with stimulating their academic identity and create and facilitate spaces where they can connect with other students (and teachers and researchers).

Looking at disciplines, identity and belonging one could argue that the university or Starbucks could also created those aspects in student life. Maybe, but not so successful as the library I would say. Why is that then? Because the library, as I pointed out in the beginning, is a 100% awesome brand and place. It’s solid, it’s open, it’s there to help you not because it want you money but simply because that’s the job of the library, it’s a place for learning and enlightenment, it’s a space that want you to succeed and don’t give you grades or mark you as a good or bad student, it’s simply a wonderfully place and a very powerful brand. Let’s acknowledge that as library professionals and not try to make the library something it’s not.

Perspectives: Is a library without books still a library and the perfect jungle for social animals 

So we have students flocking into our libraries and I’ve tried to answer why they come with different perspectives as outlined above. That’s nice but so what? Should we just sit back and be happy about our foot traffic stats?

No. First of all I strongly believe that the library as place is a potential cornerstone in students well being and success if we acknowledge that physical spaces is not getting less significant in a world that is getting more digitized – I believe we will experience the opposite. We are human beings and social animals. We need to be around other people to function, explore, develop, be challenged, have fun, be alive, learn, do good. ‘Online’ will not replace that. Ever.  That goes in general and for higher education and research.

I want us to embrace this and actively use the critical mass of working learning minds in our spaces to create value, network, diversity and inclusion in higher education and research. I want us not just to focus on chairs and tables but to take on an active approach to the library as place and facilitate cross-disciplinary activities. When we bring people together from different backgrounds great things happens. People who thinks alike accomplish nothing. Let the library be the social and academic jungle for people of different race, gender, age, political views, cultural and economic capital and subjects of interest, study and research.

At a talk a while ago I asked the question “Is a library without books still a library” and my own answer was yes: If we . Link to blog post: “Is a library without books still a library? Some thoughts on The Library as place”.

I think personally that a library is not only defined by its collection – whether it be physical or electronic. It is a very important part, but our main assignment in my opinion is to support research, education and learning, and it relies on other activities than just the collection.

Let’s use that space that’s left when the books leave the library to make a jungle to make the wildlife and diversity of higher education flourish.

2

Final note: Track the behavior

In the above I’m kind of guessing on why students come to the library in 2017 if it’s not to get a book or get professional help. I don’t take a big swing in the dark, I take in what I see, observe and believe and make conclusions from that, but it’s not a study. I don’t have a quantitative or qualitative data set at hand.

It’s important that we don’t just take light swings in the dark when we talk about the use and non-use of libraries and the life of our users and non-users. So my Final note on asking ourselves questions on why and how users use (or not use) libraries is: Don’t just guess and don’t just ask them. If you ask them you only get an answer to what you ask and that might no be the whole picture. If I ask 10 students if they would like 24 hours access to the library they are likely to all answers “yes, sure” but it’s not the same as they would actually use it. User Experience (UX) methods and research holds an important key to understanding our users behavior and needs in the present and developing libraries for the future.

Huge shutout to UX heroes like Andy Priestner and Anneli Friberg and other #UXLibs folks who in theory and practice advocate, support and empower the library community with UX tools, methods and awareness. Keep it up.

An remember: “The need for connection and community is primal, as fundamental as the need for air, water, and food” – Dean Ornish

Comments on this matter is highly appreciated

Cheers

Christian

“Facts are real. Sincerely, Your Librarians” and other badass signs from #WomensMarch

On January 21 2017, millions of people around the world took the streets to rally for women’s rights at the Women’s March. The first protest was planned for Washington, D.C., and was organized as a grassroots movement that took place on the day after Donald Trump’s January 20 inauguration. It aimed to “send a bold message to our new administration on their first day in office”. Quickly the rally spread to other cities around the world.

I find the Women’s March a mind blowing and strong statement and I find great comfort in the fact that a huge population of fellow citizens around the world will unite to protect women’s rights and other causes under fire like protection of the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial justice, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights.

Lots of library workers participated in the Women’s March and some of them where out there flashing some some really badass protest signs. I’ve collected some of them here for collective memory and inspiration (I’ve tried to located the primary sources for the photos with out much luck. If you know any persons who took the photos please ask them to reach out to me, so I can either make a reference to them or, if they don’t want the photo in this blog post, I can remove it).


“Thank a school librarian if you can tell fact from fiction”

“Librarians against Trump – ‘Book Him'”

“Read and Resist” – Librarians are pissed

“You know it’s bad when Librarians are marching”

“Librarians against post-truth”

“Real news? Fake news? Ask a Librarian”

I’m telling you, kids are the future. This one proves it big time.

Yep, science really is real

Love this one
My fave: “Facts are real. Sincerely, Your Librarians”

Cheers

Christian

Share, inspire, connect: Library related Twitter hashtags

Twitter is an outstanding tool for gaining inspiration  with whatever turns you on and engaging with people of similar interests. For me Twitter has been a major boost for my professional life in terms of insights, inspiration, debates and network with the global library community.

I slowly started using Twitter in 2012 when I was on the TICER Summer School in Tillburg and it took me a while to crack the code and come to a place where I got the full potential of this great tool. A part of it was related to the size of the network; where do you even start to build your professional learning network on Twitter? Well, a good place to start is via hashtags that binds various topics and discussions together. So if you are library newbie to Twitter or just want to go exploring on library and library related hashtags here is a list (got additions to the list please write them in the commentary section):

Mobile Hashtag Horizontal Concept

Everyday library life

There is a number of hashtags that a great for sharing and get inspiration on what’s going on in everyday library land.

#librarylife

A quiet broad hashtag which is often used in tweets related to the daily experiences librarians do in there job around the world.

#libraryproblems or #librarianproblems

You often find broken staplers or jammed printers under this hashtag

#saturdaylibrarian

A hashtag to unite all the happiness and sorrow of librarians working the weekends

#librarianwardrobe

On of my fave hashtags that contains all the awesome socks, cardigans, glasses and cat sweaters out there – librarians got style yo!

#letmelibrarianthatforyou

Diving into the world of reference librarians

Chats

Twitter chats are excellent for discussions on various subjects with a quit broad and diverse group of people, get inspiration and connect with others. Some chats is organized with questions on topic published in advance, moderators and suggested readings. Others are more casual organized.

#edtechchat

 

Chats on technology within education and instruction. The hashtag is both used in actual chats but also appears in Tweets disconnected to a chat.

#radlibchat

Monthly chat hosted by Radical Librarian Collective about an article or research paper relevant to the principles upon which Radical Librarians Collective operates: challenging, provoking, improving and developing the communications between like-minded radicals, to galvanise our collective solidarity against the marketisation of libraries.

#libchat

To my knowledge a hashtag started by Hack Library School but I’m not sure it’s currently function as an actually hashtag for live chats (but I might be mistaken) but it got some fair use on relevant content.

#UKlibchat

A monthly discussion group on library related issues and topics. The organization and participation of #UKlibchat is always great – read more here: https://uklibchat.wordpress.com/ 

#critlib

Critlib is short for “critical librarianship,” a movement of library workers dedicated to bringing social justice principles into our work in libraries. The Critlib chats are always really well prepared with suggested readings on the current chat topic, well moderated and with a lot of great thoughts and discussions on librarianship. Read more: http://critlib.org/ 

#auslibchat

Chat hosted by Australian Library and Information Association’s New Graduates Advisory Council (ALIA NGAC) on different topics related to libraries and librarianship. Even though it’s hosted from Australia I find the topics of chats relevant for the global library community. Read more: https://alianewgrads.wordpress.com/new-generation-advisory-committee/auslibchat/

#lisprochat

Chat on broad trends and topics in the library and information industries including education and job search. Read more: http://lisprochat.blogspot.dk/

#mashcat

Mashcat is a mashed library event / community focussing on cataloguing data and is for cataloguers, developers and anyone else with an interest in how library catalogue data can be created, manipulated, used and re-used by computers and software. They got a very cool archive with all previous chats + link to Storify: http://www.mashcat.info/twitter-chat/

This hashtag also function as a subject specific hashtag for tweets on cataloguing data. Read more: http://www.mashcat.info/

#tlchat

Chat for librarians working with teaching and instructions. Hashtag is also used regular on tweets relevant to teacher librarians. Check http://tlchat.wikispaces.com/  for info an chat dates.

#nnlmpnrchat

Quarterly chats on healthcare topics like health literacy, health information and data mangement within the healthcare industry. Started by The National Network for Libraries in Medicine, NNLM: https://nnlm.gov/

#newlibsuk

Discussing all things new professional, library school etc.

Subject specific hashtags 

#datalibs

Things involving data services and working with data in libraries

#UXlibs and #libux

All things User Experience and Libraries – very active hashtag with lots of great content.

#libweb

All things library web services

#interlibnet

The hashtag for tweets involving activities connected to International Librarians Network (ILN). ILN is a peer-mentoring facilitated program aimed at helping librarians develop international networks. Read more about ILN: http://interlibnet.org/  

#openaccess

An extremely broad hashtag with everything related to Open Access. Much is the stuff is not from a library point of view but I only find that valuable and of inspiration.

#scholcomm

Great hashtag on all things scholarly communication

#ebliprg

A evidence-based library and information practice reading group / chat

#libtech

Stuff on technology in libraries but also holds some noise because it’s used by a snowboard company…

#infolit

Great and very active hashtag about all things related til information literacy and libraries.

#medlibs

Very active hashtags for health librarianship and  medical librarians. There are also regional hashtags in extension to the main one: #canmedlibs and #ukmedlibs are pretty active.

#lawlib

Tweets on law librarianship. The hashtag #lawlibs is sometimes also used for tweets on this subject.

#libleadgender

Great and active hashtag on gender issues in library leadership. Important input and discussions taking place here.

#librariansforrefugees

A great hashtag for libraries and librarians supporting and working towards justice for asylum seekers and refugees.

#cataloging and #cataloguing

All the good stuff about one of the core skills of librarianship

Keep ’em coming

I’m positive that the above list of library related hashtags is far from comprehensive but hopefully it can get some library folks new to Twitter going and be of inspiration for some Twitter old timers. If there is any Hashtags that should be added to the list please write them in the commentary field

Happy sharing, inspiring and connecting

Christian

The Library Mixtape: “Sexiest librarian, take off those glasses…”

Processed with Rookie Cam

Growing up in the 90’s, making mixtape’s is one of the activities that has brought most pleasure and joy into my life. I remember sitting with my tape recorder listening to radio and getting ready to press ‘Rec’ and ‘Play’ when tunes of the 90’s grunge, brit pop and alternative rock was played. Pure good time (and frustrations when a speaker interrupted the song because of a goal scoring in a football match).

Making a mixtape in todays digital age is far from the analog feeling in my childhood but it still brings tons of joy – and specially the making of this little library mixtape. The lyrics is really something to dig into: apparently it’s a common belief that the library is a good place for romance.

1.  Librarian by My Morning Jacket

Simple little bookworm, buried underneath
Is the sexiest librarian
Take off those glasses and let down your hair for me

2. Young Adult Friction by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Between the stacks in the library
Not like anyone stopped to see
We came, they went, our bodies spent
Among the dust and the microfiche

3. Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1965 by John Mayer

And his wife told his kids he was crazy
And his friends said he’d fail if he tried
But with the will to work hard and a library card
He took a homemade, fan blade, one-man submarine ride

4. Marian the Librarian from The Music Man

Marian…Madam Librarian
What can I say, my dear, to catch your ear
I love you madly, madly
Madam Librarian…

5. At The Library by Green Day

Staring across the room
Are you leaving soon?
I just need a little time

6. Wrapped Up In Books by Belle & Sebastian

We’ve got a fantasy affair
We didn’t get wet, we didn’t dare
Our aspirations, are wrapped up in books
Our inclinations are hidden in looks

 

7. Ravens in the Library by S. J. Tucker

One for fiction, two for truth
three for bikes and bathing suits, four for scifi/fantasy
five loves art and ancient skulls
six eats periodicals, seven lives in poetry

8. Lost in your time (at The Library) by Los Bossa Nuevo Biblioteca

We help you find
All the text on your mind
Lost in your time at the library

9. Love in the Library by Jimmy Buffett

Love in the library, quiet and cool
Love in the library, there are no rules
Surrounded by stories surreal and sublime
I fell in love in the library once upon a time

10. Swining London by Of Magnetic Fields

I read your manifestoes and your strange religious tracts
You took me to your library and kissed me in the stacks

11. Sweet Librarian by Railroad Jerk 

Swee-eeeet librarian
What good books can you recommend?
Swee-eeeet librarian
Do you think that we could still be friends?

12. The Librarians Are Hiding Something by Swinin’ Utter

Oh the librarians contrarians can’t fly on a wing
Oh the librarians barbarians are liking nothing
Which leads me to believe one thing
The librarians are hiding something

13. Books about UFOs by Hüsker Dü

Walking down a sunny street to the library
Checking out the latest books about outer space

14. Karen by The Go-Betweens

I know this girl
This very special girl
And she works in a library, yeah
Standing there behind the counter
Willing to help
With all the problems that I encounter

15. French Navy by Camera Obscura

Spent a week in a dusty library
Waiting for some words to jump at me
We met by a trick of fate
French navy my sailor mate

16. Librarian by Haunted Love

I want to be a librarian
I want to check out your books
Please give them to me
With the bar code facing up

17. A Girl Like You by Holiday With Maggie

I saw you in the library
Reading modern art
I glanced at you the whole day through 

18. Fun Fun Fun by The Beach Boys

Well she got her daddy’s car
And she cruised to the hamburger stand now
Seems she forgot all about the library
Like she told her old man now

19. Faster Pussycat to The Library by Sam Phillips

We’ll go where the action is
Go where the action is
If you don’t know what to do
I’ll look it up for you

20. The Book Lovers by Broadcast

Lines and lines of the spines, colored everyone
Down the aisles, along the titles
Where you run your eyes
Read a few lines, ah

Read more: Broadcast – The Book Lovers Lyrics | MetroLyrics

21. Libraries by Seabear

And I don’t believe you live in a library
That sails the sea
Sleeping with a book-blanket out at sea
Like you told me

22. Librarian by Jonathan Rundman


23. Addy Will Know by SNMNMNM

Not on YouTube but can be downloaded on abbywillknow.pbworks.com 

I couldn’t think of that book that I read
The one where the characters all wind up dead
Or maybe it was only just one guy
Who bit the dust in the ending
but when I looked in reference

I couldn’t find the section
I thought that I could find it on my own
Addy will know 

24. The Librarian by Hefner

He started to woo her in a most peculiar way
The librarian’s dress was a fawnish shade of gray
The books he was to borrow he would surely never read
They were of an intellectual caliber he hoped that she would see…

25. Ain’t Got Rhythm by Phineas and Ferb

Look, I got a sweet deal going on here
I got all the books that I can read
All these sweet old ladies and this carpet from the 80’s
What more could a librarian need?
Ssssssh
Besides, I ain’t got rhythm
No, I ain’t got rhythm
Said I ain’t got rhythm
I ain’t got rhythm

26. Library Magic by The Head and The Heart

27. Books of Califonia by Comet Gain

28. Library by Julia Brown

29. A Trip to The Library from the Broadway musical She Loves Me

30. The Library Song by Tonks and The Aurors

31. Library Pictures by Arctic Monkeys

32. Books from boxes by Maximo Park

33. Mass Nerder by Descendents
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T9F4k8dZf00
We must read
We must read
We must read
We must read
RRRREEEEAAAADDDD!

Somebody get me a book!

34. Judy Blume by Amanda Palmer

35. I am the Sub-Librarian by Piano Magic
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY7YU5a3cFc
I am the sub-librarian, come in on the council bus
Chalk Farm to Highgate Woods, sportsbag of borrowed books
A steady diet of Brautigan, ‘Tapestry’ on the walkman
Paranormal ill-health from dusting off the top shelf
I am the sub-librarian, counter girl, tea-maker
I am the sub-librarian, swan feeder, spectacle breaker
I am the sub-librarian

36. Miss Clara/Azusa Sue by Bobbie Gentry (live performance by Chloe Darling)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmkXezHraeQ
Since I saw you at your desk
At the public library
You stamped my book and I took a look
And now your face is all I see

37. Heaven Sent by INXS

Tuesday she works in the library uptown
Some useful knowledge can always be found
Don’t burn the library till you’ve read all the books
Sometimes in life you get a second look

38. Library Girl by Squeeze
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rCfJduLBhY
She was a girl at the library, keeping her book behind the desk
She was a girl who ruled at me, for reading it’s scared to rest
She’s got a new beret, she was a library girl

39. A Design For Life by Manic Street Preachers

Libraries gave us power
Then work came and made us free
What price now for a shallow piece of dignity

40. The Arthur Library Card Song
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbXz3MXx2DU
Having fun isn’t hard, 
When you’ve got a library card.
Having fun isn’t hard, 
When you’ve got a library card.
Come on inside, 
We’ve got everything you need.
There’s plenty to do, 
Or you can just sit and read

41. On The Other Side of the Stacks by Jeremy Morse

Have I missed any awesome library songs on the mixtape?

Cheers

Christian

 

Read my knuckles! Librarians making statements the badass way

Tattoos is pretty common now a days. Knuckle tattoos is not and they have allways struck me as pretty badass. Librarians with knuckle tattoos take badass to the next level.

I was working late one evening and I meet one of our new library student employees, Morten, who studies Library and Information Science in Copenhagen. We chatted a bit and then I noticed his knuckles: “READ MORE” they spelled out when he put them together. Pretty badass way to make a solid statement so I’ve wanted to check out if there were more library-related knuckle tattoos around library town. It’s not like the internet is over-floating with it but I manage to find a few so without further ado: here is the Top-5 Badass Knuckle Tattooed Librarians (got some inked knuckles? send it to The Library Lab):

Number 5: GOOGLE ITBrooklyn-tattoo-artist-Je-011
The lazy librarians message to library user

Number 4: BOOK WORM
mckibbens bookworm
A library is not all about the books but still a lot of us is really down with them

Number 3: CAT LADY
x354-q80
Well, goes for at least half the profession…

Number 2: LIBRARIAN
tattooed-librarian
Live it and be proud of it!

Number 1: READ MORE22652818772_2cf5c18049_oSay hi to Morten, my new student employee who got a well-meant message to everybody who enters the library desk

The Library Lab is hooked on knuckle tattoos and says see you at the ink shop

Christian

21265910793_6ba424b6ce_o