Posts Tagged Community

American Spaces Day One

The first day of the conference was a little stressful since Greg and I were presenting on Sensory Storytime that morning! It was a bit nerve-racking but I felt a little better about it because several of the embassy personnel had asked about the topic the night before at dinner.
We went to breakfast at a nice cafe, Dive Cattore near the hotel. Gimena came to walk with us to Biblioteca San Giorgio in the morning where we received a short tour before the conference began.
The library is public and includes a variety of materials for all ages. It is beautiful and very modern with lots of light, a cafe and patio where patrons can bring materials, and trees as art both live and made of cast iron, twigs, and other materials. Maria Stella Eastern the library director told us that the materials used are an homage to a train factory that was on the site previously and had been demolished. The library is also the setting of the YouLab Pistoia the American Space within the library. It is a makerspace with a 3D printer and other technologies to encourage creativity and innovation.
The library is next to il Polo Universitad and because the students there don’t have their own library they utilize the Biblio to study and for its resources. The library is steadily busy between the cafe and the library itself from the time it opens til it closes, serving approximately 1000 people each day.
The main focus of the conference is “21st Century American Spaces: Innovation, Learning, and Entrepreneurship” which was reflected in the topics discussed including makerspaces, STEAM programming, and new programs the American Corners are offering. The Syracuse University Panel made up of myself and Greg (sensory storytime), Julia (self publishing), and Alex (gaming) had our presentations before lunch which I felt went well. I’m a nervous public speaker and though I knew my topic it’s still a bit stressful for me. For our speech, Greg reviewed the general facts and terminology around sensory storytime then I followed with information on how to setup a storytime that incorporates sensory enhancements based on my experience volunteering with two Syracuse area librarians, Dawn and Tatiana, to develop and launch a program.
The audience was interested in all the presentations and asked some great questions after on how to incorporate the ideas into their spaces. One member told us about an experience she had where you walked through a corridor decorated with fabric covering the walls and ceiling. When you exited the tunnel you entered a dark room where a storyteller whispered a story in her ear. While the idea may not be appropriate for every audience it was definitely a sensory experience which would capture and hold participants interest. After our presentation it was time for lunch, which was fabulous, and an opportunity to network and meet more of the AC representatives.
After lunch they held pecha kucha five minute presentations on a variety of topics and programs they had held and wanted to share with their peers to learn from and hopefully apply. Finally there was a Skype session with three of the librarians from Fayetteville Free Library on their makerspace and it’s role in the community in supplementing and fostering self directed learning.
Following the days sessions we walked back to the hotel and visited a supermarket on the way. It was interesting to see what products they sold compared to what we have in the states and the cost. Mainly we stocked up on bottled water and lamented the fact that we didn’t have a drive in the room. There was also a lot of mental math happening. When we returned back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit we went out to dinner and walked around the town a little.
We chose a restaurant in one of the Piazza de Duomo called Voronoi that had a lot of people sitting outside. It was hard to choose but luckily they had translations of each menu item. I ordered a caprese pizza and a chocolate lava cake with almond gelatin for dessert. It was all fabulous, the pizza had a thin crust and the cake was rich and decadent. It was a bit of a splurge for our first night but definitely worth it!


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Arriving in Italy

The flight in to Rome and train rides immediately after were hectic and I was incredibly relieved to make it to the Florence train station, Santa Maria Novella, where Gimena met us and we boarded the train to Pistoia. Not to say there weren’t some cool moments of the trip, but we were all so exhausted after being on the move for 12 hours! The ride through the country to reach Pistoia was beautiful.
When we reached Pistoia, Gimena had asked her husband to meet us and he picked up our suitcases and we walked the rest of the way to our hotel for the week, Residenza D’Epoca Puccini. We met the manager and he told us a little bit about the house which was home to the Puccini family who were active in the local community.
After we settled in, we walked to the hotel the embassy group was staying at, Villa de Cappugi for dinner and to mingle with the group. It was a long walk, about 30-40 minutes to the outside of town. It gave us all a chance to see a little bit of Pistoia our first day. Dinner was amazing and it was fun to meet some of the American Corners managers and directors. On the way back, we took a wrong turn and ended up in the Piazza de Duomo which was fully alive after being quiet when we came in. It was beautiful and all lit up for a festival of stars on Sunday.


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What can the library do for you?

There are so many critical reasons that libraries are key to supporting and enhancing our communities. One example is that libraries act as cultural centers for the community they are in. This goes beyond the basic principal that libraries are open to the public and that means that different cultural groups will come and utilize the resources. Librarians can take on the role of preservationists for the unique cultures of their members in the community.

Philadelphia citizens and members of the historical society teamed up with other groups to create PhilaPlace, an online database where community stories are shared. ( We as librarian’s in our communities could make this project possible in many more communities. By teaming up with local historical societies and working with the community we can collect and share many local stories that would be lost over time without our involvement. It also is an opportunity to share beyond the community, such as with genealogists and others looking for family and local stories.

Human Library’s have a unique take on what can be included in the libraries collections. They gather people from the community and have them act as the artifacts. Members can participate as a “reader” and speak to the “human books”  and learn about them and their culture. ( One example of this is the idea of a Prejudice Library.  Because these conversations are occurring in a safe environment, it is a way to explore prejudices without judgment.

“The Human Library must ALWAYS aim to reflect the challenges of people and groups in the community, that are or have been, exposed to stigma, discrimination, stereotyping or prejudice, based on their lifestyle, sexuality, religious beliefs, social background or status, occupation, ethnicity and so forth. It is not intended as a story telling event for interesting people who already have a voice in the community and media. But rather to give a voice, space and visibility to those of often have none or are overlooked as part of their marginalization.” (

Librarians act as a reference to guide the reader through their encounter with the book if they become confused or have trouble identifying or working through their stereotype in response to the human book they checked out.

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What inspires you?

The last question Lankes makes in the 5th Thread of the Atlas of New Librarianship is “What inspires you?” The thread is about the importance of leaders from the library community  to step up and be an example, motivate the members of the community, and work toward improving society as a whole. He refers to Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day Speech from the Shakespeare play titled (not a shocker) Henry V. In his concluding remarks, he rewrites the speech with a library audience in mind and provides us with a call to arms.

Here is what inspires me:

The Declaration of Independence ( which was drafted by Thomas Jefferson. A group of individuals joined together to right a perceived wrongs by the government (Great Britain) without providing representation to grieve them or a willingness to correct them. After exhausting their options for redress they announced to the people their intention to separate from their rulers and create their own government to establish and safeguard the people.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) ( ) who fought for the rights of his people and worked to educate the public and open the eyes of society to the wrongs that they faced and help them to overcome and change the way things were to make them better. He advocated the truth and non-violence in this methods for creating social change.

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.”

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

( )

Rosa Parks ( ) who refused to give in and give up her bus seat to a white passenger and spurred the Montgomery Bus Boycott in protest of the “separate but equal” laws that dictated life at that time.

“I would like to be known as a person who is concerned about freedom and equality and justice and prosperity for all people.” 

“I have learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.”  
As you can see, I’m motivated and inspired by the people, or groups of people, who stood up for a cause and defended the rights of the people in their community. Their actions altered the way the world works; beginning with a small action or series of actions that added up into something enormous. They made a lasting impact.
I hope in the future to inspire my community to make changes and improve their lives even if the change is something simple. As those simple changes move forward they can develop into something more drastic.



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Topical Centers

The fourth Thread in The Atlas of New Librarianship deals with communities and the importance of gaining community involvement in the library and being involved in the community. The Philadelphia Free Library seems to embody the idea of creating topical centers within libraries through some of the programs they offer the community or communities they serve. Three examples of their efforts are provided in the text and they target the business community, the writing community, and the music community. They facilitated the conversations to develop these facilities by inviting professionals from each group for collaborative conversations.

Each community was interested in promoting different library offerings for their members. The business leaders developed the idea of the Entrepreneurium in their discussion and emphasized the importance of the library for start-ups and small businesses. They saw the role of the library as connecting members to mentors, offering technical services and seminars, and providing conference rooms to connect them with a wider community. The writers wanted to develop a more creative space with an open collection of their works. They didn’t want anyone critiquing them and excluding their writings. They saw the role of the library as providing them the space where they could work and come together socially to foster conversation. The musicians, on the other hand, wanted a stage where they could perform together or for an audience. They also wanted a collection, a space where their performed works would be filed and share with other community members. The librarians part was to improve music literacy by offering classes in music appreciation.

The NOPL Cicero library hosts Library Farm, a community space where members can plant and grown vegetables. The librarians there worked with the community in a need that they could fill to increase literacy in this topic.

“This library service [the farm] would aim to educate, collecting a usable set of materials where roots and vegetables are considered kinds of public documents. It considers the processes involved in growing food along with the food itself to be information.  It assumes Michael Buckland’s conception of the thingness of information, and catalogs the actual stuff that aims to convey knowledge or understanding. The documents in this library farm would partially sustain members of the community, physically, socially, and economically.” (

Based on this quote, the idea of an artifact or a collection is only limited by what the community determines it needs. The library is the great public forum in any community. It is up to us as librarians to bring diverse groups together to facilitate conversations aimed at improving the community and putting those plans into actions.



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The Organic Library

I interviewed the children’s librarian at Mundy Library yesterday for a class project. When we were talking about the resources her library offers to the community, she mentioned that they have a social worker on staff a few days each week. We began talking about the need for other people as resources in the library and I mentioned one of the ideas from the reading was “checking-out” experts, for example a lawyer, a nurse, or an accountant. These professionals would donate their time to come in and consult with patrons on a one-on-one basis (p.67).

I think this is an amazing idea for many of the library’s in the area. What if each library were to host a different professional one or two days each week. First off, the expert would be able to connect and market their skills to a unique group of people. Secondly, this would not be limited to one population of members; it would be a draw for the surrounding areas as well. I know around tax season I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to consult with an accountant, for free, to answer a few questions I have about filling out those forms.

Despite the great advances we have had as a society, the common perception is still that a library is that place with all the books. Why can’t it be that place where I was able to answer some question or the place where I created something? One of the big movements in library’s right now is the idea of the Makerspace. Fayetteville Free Library has created an amazing space for members with their Fab Lab. What I like about this is the space is not limited to the 3-D printer (although that could warrant its own area), but also brings in sewing machines and other resources to allow the entire community to utilize the Lab and see its value.

Another reimagining of the role of the librarian and the library is the idea of “production librarians” (p.67) who would, beyond their roles producing for the library itself, work for members who need a “production assistant” to implement their project. These individuals and others would help us redefine what a library is for the general public by making us (as librarians) the expert and our skills more accessible (or easily identified) to our members.

The idea of a library is organic and grows from the community it represents; by limiting the offerings of a library, we are in affect stifling the community and their opportunity to develop.

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Crafting a Mission

According to R.D. Lankes text, “The Atlas of New Librarianship,” “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” This statement is broad and encompasses the entire field of librarianship, from public to academic, from schools to special collections. Additionally, the definition of a library is currently evolving to incorporate more diverse collections of materials. Perhaps the solution for a librarian, whether new or invested in a position, is to have a personal mission statement.

I first encountered the concept of having a personal mission while I was pursuing my teaching degree. At Le Moyne, one of the tasks for preservice or student teachers was to develop a brief statement that encompassed our goals and who we were as teachers. I created the following statement at that time to summarize my views:

“My mission as a teacher is to help all my students succeed by providing them with every possible learning opportunity. I will strive to achieve this goal by teaching in ways that meet all of my students’ needs. As an adult and authority figure, I will apply the rules consistently and universally to my students. I will endeavor to treat all of my students with respect individually and culturally.” (Brown 2008)

Now, while my ideas have changed, I still view this exercise as critical to my development as a professional. Within my current viewpoint as a new library student, drawing on the new librarianship mission and my prior views, I would like to share the following as my new and evolving mission as a librarian:

 My mission as a librarian is to facilitate access to information for all the diverse members of my library community as they each pursue their search for knowledge. I will work within my community to improve the state of our society by providing services and programs that my members need to foster their journeys. I will strive to create a welcoming environment for all community members. I will continue to grow and expand my knowledge in the field of librarianship to better serve each of my members needs.

While this certainly doesn’t address all of a librarians responsibilities, I believe that it does sum up their intention or purpose. I imagine that if you wrote your own mission it would differ from mine and that’s to be expected as each person is unique. I would however assume that they would all have something in common, some theme that would tie them all together. I hope you will be inspired to create your own mission and apply to your current role or use it as a guide to your continued development in the field.

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