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Creation: the Librarian as Muse

Many Internet users have shifted from being passive consumers of content to creating it, but even creators have information needs, and the librarian can have a role as a facilitator of the creative process. The users of social media want to learn how to use new tools, they want to find ideas to inspire creative work, they want to find the raw materials to make mashups and other creations, and they may want to find new ways to share their finished work and possibly even profit financially from it. Currently, they probably won’t think of the librarian as the first person to turn to for help; if libraries develop services and practices with these people in mind, however, that may change.

A librarian, for example, doesn’t need to become a graphic designer, but should be able to help a patron locate a source for a type font or search an archive of stock images. A librarian on duty in the information commons may even be asked for help installing a font on patron’s laptop. (Perhaps this will be one day be seen as routine a part of our job as refilling the inkwells in the reading room might have been in an earlier era).

Here are some of the ways librarians can facilitate creation:

  • Help patrons find the digital “raw materials” in the local collection (clip art, sound effects, photo stock) and on line
  • Offer how-to information through the library’s on-line presence (web site, You-tube channel)
  • Offer on-site workshops and informal opportunities for creators to meet F2F and share ideas
  • Incorporate digital creation opportunities into children’s and YA programming
  • Provide facilities for recording sound and images (a public library’s main branch or an academic library might go so far as having a digital production facility)
  • Insure that public multi-purpose computer workstations have image editing software and software to edit sound and audio files (just as they typically have word processing software today)
  • Explain how copyright and creative commons licensing work
  • Exhibit work created using the library’s facilities

9 Responses to Creation: the Librarian as Muse

  1. Dean

    Within a few short weeks, your blogging has improved considerably. Guess you’ve learned some things, huh?

    Seems to me this post is one of the truly ‘organic’ you’ve written — almost as if it was a light bulb turning on.


  2. martyrose

    Chris. This is a very comprehensive list and I really wouldn’t change a thing, but don’t you think it’s interesting that none of this includes the use of books? Is this an example of when the internet and social media become ‘the library’ as opposed to simply a tool available at the library.

  3. Lea Edgar

    I love your ideas! I can picture our future libraries as a mix of the “traditional” library and something like the Experience Music Project in Seattle. Very exciting! Thanks for sharing your vision!

  4. Alida V.

    I like the idea of providing help with media creation. Providing the software for media should be as common as word processing software.

    One thing this class has made me aware of is the huge amount of applications out there. I would love to find a library page that is devoted to free online applications and the affordances that they can provide. You just don’t know what is available to you unless you’re immersed in web 2.0.

  5. Rachel

    Chris, your list of how libraries/librarians can facilitate creation is really interesting and forward-thinking. Sometimes I wonder, though, if in the library world’s desire to be seen as relevant, we try too much to be all things to all people. Different types of libraries work under different types of mandates, so while I agree that “providing facilities for recording sound and images” is probably a good goal for a university library, particularly one with a film department, I think it’s probably out-of-scope for most public libraries, many of which are struggling just to keep books on the shelves and the doors open. In theory, I support the idea of expanding what libraries are there to do, but without the proper funding to even maintain traditional services and programs, I don’t know how feasible that goal is for the foreseeable future.

  6. Anita

    Hi Chris. Great point about librarians providing in-person social media support and not just through online channels. Throughout the course we’ve been talking at great lengths about reaching out to library users through the internet, through Web 2.0 tools, but librarians need to demonstrate that they are at least aware of the resources available if they get asked questions on-site. I’m trying to imagine what kind of re-training the ‘old guard’ staffing the reference desk would require, or whether a public library would be willing to dedicate resources and manpower in having two or three (or more, or less?) staff being the ‘social media gurus’ on-site.

    I especially like the idea of incorporating ‘digital creation opportunities into children’s and YA programming.‘ Especially for kids/teenagers who lack computer and/or internet access at home, what a great opportunity to invite them into a space that fosters these new hybrids of creativity. It would be a pretty fun, fresh activity to incorporate into programs like Summer Readalong, or even as a separate, ongoing entity.

  7. Chris Blanton

    @Dean, thanks for the encouraging words — but now I’m worried I might have peaked, and I still have two weeks to go 🙂

    @martyrose, now that I read the post over again, it sure is a glaring omission. It’s not so much that I was envisioning a bookless library, as I guess I must have been thinking of a traditional environment of books and other physical objects continuing to exist in parallel with an Internet-centric “digital library” — and not really interacting, kind of like a side by side Ford and Lincoln dealership. On rethinking things, I agree that’s not the only model, and likely not the best one either.

    @Rachel, entirely agree libraries have to focus on protecting their core services first (if you try to be all things to all people you run the risk of being nothing to anyone). For most public libraries I was actually thinking of a fairly modest investment, perhaps something as basic as putting a computer with a microphone and webcam in a small meeting room that patrons could reserve to record narrations for PowerPoint etc.

  8. librarianincognita

    That’s a lovely list Chris and you are right, a librarian shouldn’t have to be a graphic designer and should aid in the process of creation. That said, do you think that the modern day librarian is charged with being too many things? All along I believed that all the librarian needs to know is “where to find something” so that we can help patrons with whatever need, information wise – whether it’s a reference question or finding a stock photo. But on a slight tangent, well designed programs, posters etc etc are important. If the librarian doesn’t do it, it would have to be outsourced which may end up being costly – what do you think are the basic technical skills a librarian needs to have?

  9. librarianincognita

    As in need to have to be an effective librarian to reach out to the public… I have been wondering about this myself because back home we had to be sent for different courses, from photoshop to writing and editing. It makes me wonder if we are trying to be superhumans.

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