I’ve been mulling over work stuff a lot since I started this full time job, and I’m trying to think of ways to encapsulate what kinds of foci I think would be helpful in thinking about the work we do. Here are two things I’m thinking about:
- Focus more intently on various kinds of literacy instruction rather than just immediate assistance help (with computers, etc.).
- Shift focus towards encouraging patron-to-patron interactions and assistance.
These are some thoughts I have about the new library I started working in a few weeks ago…
Think about space as a deliberately designed thing. How we configure a physical space will shape the types of activities possible as well as encourage particular kinds of behaviors among the people using it. Most importantly, how we actively engage patrons in the space will help to define that space as well, especially how we all use it together.
I would like to try out a few things to rearrange our use of space in the library. These suggestions stem from what I have seen as recurring issues in the library so far. By issues, I do not just mean problems but also just how patrons use the space and how we interact with them.
1) Increase passive programming sites for adults.
One example might be to set up a station where patrons can pass by and do a little something that encourage them to think a certain way, interact with material and ideas a particular way, and so on. We might have a jigsaw puzzle out on a table, for instance. Or we might have some kind of brain exercise station that would encourage people to solve riddles that rotate out on a regular basis.
2) Designate a computer area for shared learning.
Given that many of the things we help patrons with on computers are pretty basic (how to print, how to format certain things in MS Word, how to get to a certain website, etc.), it would be interesting to see how patrons can help each other if we were to give them the chance. Currently, the computers are set up for individualized work, and we even discourage people from congregating too much around a particular computer station. I think we should keep this kind of set up for most of the library’s computers, but what if we designated an area, perhaps the back computer lab (the public training area) as one in which we encourage people to ask each other for help? We should probably set up some ground rules for how people should use the space. We need to explain that this space is different from other parts of the library in that people are encouraged to ask their neighbors for help. We should also firmly explain that people should feel comfortable declining to help or asking someone to stop trying to help. We should consider how to encourage people to use the space if they think they will need some help on their work, and we should also consider how to encourage other people who may not need help themselves but are willing to help others. This type of space could encourage more interactions between patrons, who could then get to know others in their community.
3) Have roving librarians walk through the library on a regular basis to check in with people.
Although staffing of the public desks is a bit sparse at the moment, ideally we could always have two people at the information desk and one person at the children’s desk. One of the librarians at the information desk could then take regular walks through the library—maybe every 15 or 20 minutes—just to keep an eye on how people are using the space and to ask them if they need help. This proactive managing of the space would encourage patrons to see librarians as helpful people.
I’m co-teaching the dogs class again this summer. The first homework assignment is to take pictures of four dog signs around town. The purpose is to have students consider how people and organizations attempt to control or mark dog behavior (and the behavior of people with dogs) in public spaces and businesses. For each photo, students should note the location and think about what the sign suggests about dogs and the built environment. On my walk this evening with the Giles, I took a handful of photos to post as an example for students.
The first photo is of a sign scattered throughout Powderhorn Park in South Minneapolis along the light poles that line the paved walkways. This particular one is graffitied, as are many of the other signs. It is still possible to make out in the lower left corner the words, “IT’S THE LAW,” with respect to the injunction to LEASH AND PICK UP. The sign of course reminds folks that dogs must be on leashes in the park and that people must pick up their dogs’ waste. (I like to joke that the sign says you must pick up your dog. >_<) This sign specifies how people can bring their dogs into the public park--only on leashes--as well as how they must clean up after their dogs. In other words, dogs cannot run around off leash, and they cannot leave waste on the ground.
The second sign appears on the top and front side of the trash bins around the park. Included among the items pictured as trash is a silhouette of a dog in pooping position. (Again, I like to joke that this means you are supposed to put your dog in the bin.) This sign pairs with the first one, indicating that people must pick up their dogs’ waste and deposit in these bins. The combination of leash and poop laws is evident in these signs, but it’s worth noting that these laws took some time to develop in various municipalities (see New York’s Poop Scoop Law: Dogs, the Dirt, and Due Process by Michael Brandow and Unleashed Fury: The Political Struggle for Dog-Friendly Parks by Julie Walsh for some excellent discussions of these laws).
The third sign is posted on the gate to the little wading pool by the Powderhorn Park building. The sign consists of a long list of many things that people should and should not do in the pool area. And of course one of the things prohibited is dogs (or glass! on the same line). It is likely that many people would love to let their dogs splash and play in the water on hot summer days, but probably for public health and sanitation concerns, it makes sense not to allow dogs in public pools. This sign also suggests how differently we see the cleanliness of people (especially children) and dogs.
The fourth and fifth signs are a twofer. The fourth sign is posted by the east gate of the tennis courts at Powderhorn Park. The fifth sign is posted by the west gate of the tennis courts. They are the same sign, but as you can see from a thoughtful spray painter, one of the signs no longer prohibits dogs. (I like to pretend that the sign only prohibits German shepherds.) The enclosed tennis courts makes for a great place to allow dogs off leash, as long as both gates are closed. Dogs can run around at full speed without having an opportunity to run off into the streets and getting lost in the neighborhood. However, the park officials probably want to keep the tennis courts just for tennis players and worry about dogs leaving behind messes and generally tearing up the court surface or nets. (Notably, I see kids rollerblading and skateboarding in the courts on occasion, but there are no signs prohibiting that kind of use of the space.)
The sixth sign is on the window by the front door of our apartment building. Someone had posted the sign awhile ago. It is faded, but it includes text that reads: IN CASE OF FIRE PLEASE RESCUE ___ DOGS. I had also taken a picture of a sign on a private fence around a house that read BEWARE OF SECURITY DOG, but I had to take the picture from across the street since I had Giles with me, and the security dog was out in the yard, staring at us through the fence. The sign on our apartment building is a nice example of signs that don’t prohibit certain dog behaviors or dogs’ presence but rather remind us of the importance of dogs in our lives. This sign helps firefighters know that the apartments may house dogs who might not be able to signal distress during times of fire in the same way humans might (although I’d imagine they’d probably bark).
If I ever start a band, I might name it Change of Plans. I get easily frustrated when things don’t go as I planned. I get grumpy. As a result, I also hate making plans in the first place, preferring to wing it or waiting until the last minute to decide on a plan.
Oddly, I am usually quite amenable if other people plan stuff and then have to make changes because things aren’t working. As long as they are the ones dealing with the problem, I’m more than happy to go along for the detour.