Tuesday, August 7, 2007

a working definition (snicker)

i was responding to brian's comment when i realized i hadn't posted in a while. then my response got longer than a 'comment' should be, so i've posted it in full here. You know, to fill my blogging quota for the week. I'm such a slacker.

read brian's comment on third spaces: libraries.

the way i read "work" here was the place you go to earn money or do a job, not college homework. i consider my public library my third space -- when i get tired of being at home, and i'm not at work, i prefer to leave those two spaces and go somewhere else to surf the web, have a coffee, work on a website.. there's that word again: work. Not $$$ work, but doing stuff work.

In that scenario, I think you might be thinking of the library in the same way I am. "libraries are where the work gets done" -- unless you're suggesting that all students are employed by the library, then I think we're in agreement here.

being social doesn't mean no work can happen either. in fact, in my opinion, social interactions ARE how people learn. in addition, by providing spaces that don't require heavy thinking all the time, we define ourselves as a multipurpose place. Students don't have to be explicitly thinking about doing an assignment or research to come to the library. They could be interested in finding a travel guide for their spring break destination. They could go just to use the computers for Facebooking, hoping to run into real-life friends. They could be fiending for caffeine and choose the library over a coffee shop because there are computer terminals, and they've got to start on their assignment anyway.

I guess another big argument comes from this: how much space do we need anymore? I look at Texas - they've gutted all books from their Undergraduate Library. More stacks are being cleared for study spaces. Would it be inconceivable to put some of that space to use doing these kinds of things?

It all depends on your campus, I guess, and the types of students you have. If they never socialize while they do classwork, or prefer to work in quiet, scholarly spaces when they work, then sure, I agree, keep the cafe away. But that's not how I work. I like buzz around me. I like to sit in coffee shops to do my blogging (what I consider non-$$$ work, I guess. as close as I get to a class assignment). At the same time, I would love to be interrupted by friends just to chat. Maybe chatter will turn into a conversation about what I'm blogging about, then my work is better because of this chance encounter. The coffee shop as third space is the reason this interaction happened.

i don't think libraries should just be big video game arcades. nor do i think that we should ditch the quiet study spaces or all of our collections. but there's value in casual interaction, in thinking of the library as a destination to "just do it" - to just hang out - but I don't think that this kind of space precludes doing assignments. i think it encourages it by bringing people together who are all doing assignments.

Meet for coffee? Ok! Oh, did you finish that paper? Where'd you find your resources?

Do the library's video game tournament? Right on, I'm there. --- then later, "How do I find a scholarly article? I'll ask that librarian who did DDR the other night." (link: so embarrassing. i obviously have never done DDR before. can you tell? thanks josh morse for recording.)


Amanda Peters said...

Eric, this is great--very much how we are thinking about things over at the UGLi these days. In fact, the social aspect of our space has always been something we value--in orientation we emphasize that the first floor of the UGLi isn't so much quiet study as it is group study, and later in the evenings, let's face it, possibly a place to find a date for Saturday night!
A few of us just got back from the TechSource Gaming Symposium, and we're so excited about trying out some gaming events--we think it's a great way to get students into the building, and maybe if they see us at the DDR tournament, they'll feel more comfortable approaching us at the reference desk.

Fantasy Football Librarian said...

Hi Eric,
In response to your comment on my site about finding a librarian fantasy football league out there, I recommend you check out this blog: http://researchquest.blogspot.com/2007/07/national-librarian-sport-declared.html. I referenced it in one of my posts in July and the librarian of that blog, Paul, then left me a comment asking if I was interested in playing in his librarian FF league. Unfortunately I think my head might explode if I participate in another league, so I can't give you the details about it but it might be worth contacting him. Hope that helps!
Sara/Fantasy Football Librarian

Shib said...

Can't say what mortified me more: your attempt at dancing or the YMCA song you were attempting to dance to :-P

Anonymous said...

Though I agree with most of your post, I've got to correct one statement: The University of Texas has not taken the books out of their libraries. What was called the "Undergraduate Library" was ONE building of a multi-facility library system on UT's main campus, and it already held very few books. It was used more as a computer lab anyway. So the removal of all the books from the "Undergraduate Library" really just meant that a few rows of shelves were moved from one UT library building to another.

The death of UT's book-based library system has been exaggerated.

Brian said...

I think you love to hate on everything I say man. How about this, the Wolverines are going to win the BCS this year!

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