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More NJLA Redux: Fantastic LGBTI Roundtable program!

So, this is the first time you’re hearing from me — I feel like I’ve been lurking too much and posting too little (actually not at all!)… But even several days after attending the Documenting their lives: LGBTIQ Identities program at NJLA on Tuesday, I find myself still thinking about it. The roundtable has put together some pretty amazing programs in the past — including others at this year’s conference, but the Identities program hit close to home for me, or at least down the street in Newark. The bulk of the program included a preview/trailer of The Sakia Gunn Film Project, a documentary that is currently in process and a discussion with the film’s creator, Chas Brack. For those of you who don’t know the story of Sakia Gunn, she was a 15 year-old black lesbian living in Newark — after leaving a club early on Mother’s Day in 2003, Sakia was stabbed in the chest by a man who had made a pass at her. Sakia and her friends had made it clear to the man that they were lesbians, and it is very clear that this was a hate crime, but Sakia’s death got very little media attention — and what attention the incident did garner did not make explicit the circumstances of the murder. Mr. Brack’s film (due out by early 2007) seems to be a tribute to Sakia, but it’s also a wake-up call to the rest of us. Sakia was poor, she was black and she was gay — and I see teens like her everyday. I can’t WAIT for this film to be finished so that I can (hopefully) have a showing at my library here in Elizabeth.

The discussion following the trailer was extremely interesting as well — there was a teacher from Newark Public High School in attendance and she shed some light on some of the aftermath of what had happened to Sakia. Program moderator, Laura Baldwin, also offered some further information — comparing media coverage of the Matthew Shepard murder to that of Sakia’s. [One researcher reported that in the two months following the murder of Shepard — a white, middle-class teen living in a rural area — reports of the crime showed up in over 500 major news outlets. In the two months following Sakia’s murder, only a handful (11 if I remember correctly) major news media outlets covered the story. And our own ABC affiliaten reported the murder and showed Sakia’s photo, but did not mention that this was a hate crime — or “bias crime” as it was ruled when Sakia’s murderer stood trial.]

So, what does all of this have to do with libraries? Well, first off, the big question is: are we serving our LGBTI populations? And on top of that, are we reaching out to LGBTI teens? AND, if we’re in an urban setting, are we being sensitive to the LGBTI patrons of color? As a community center, and usually a safe haven, are we doing enough to educate our patrons? Help them get the information they need?

The remainder of the NJLA presentation was a sampling of another documentary — one that was touching and funny and heartbreaking all at the same time. It’s called No Dumb Questions and it follows a family (mom, dad and three young daughters) as they discuss how transgendered Uncle Bill is becoming Aunt Barbara. It’s a GREAT video and I think a great addition to library AV collections.

The LGBTI roundtable provided a bunch of great handouts at this program — and from what I understand, they will soon be posted to the NJLA website[www.njla.org], so I urge you to take a look. Many of the resources provided would aid in both collection development and just in a better understanding of the LGBTI community.

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April 29, 2006 at 10:09 am

Educational Role of Libraries

In a comment regarding PeterB’s post on library CE, JanieH said:

“I hope there is someone out there that can answer your not-so-rhetorical of ‘what’s next’ for both our sakes. . .For what it’s worth, I do see the same trend happening in training for the public at our library — what they want and what they need is becoming an issue when planning classes.”

I’ve been thinking about this and I’m starting to conclude that the educational role of libraries might be the ‘next big thing.’ Where else can you go to ask a question of a real person on almost any topic? I know some of you are thinking of the Genius Bar at the Apple Store, but technically is that free? And of course you could call an 800-number and talk to a rep over the phone for problems or tutorials for your software, hardware, or communications technology, but we all know how ineffective that procedure can be in fulfilling our needs. Other than taking a course or a workshop (which often cost lots of $), there are relatively few other opportunities for patrons to receive just-in-time, real-person help for computer issues.

At libraries of every kind, anyone can walk up to the reference desk and ask a computer question, get help on using an application or receive assistance in finding information on how to solve a technological problem. If libraries capitalize on this aspect of service, for which a gaping hole exists in our society, we could rule the world! Most computer problems that I encounter at my high school library or at the university reference desk are easily solved and within my ability range. Students ask for help in converting files between applications, using some of the easier features of common software, troubleshooting connectivity issues, or searching effectively for something online. By providing patrons with both Q-and-A services, and short (5 minute) tutorials helping them to solve the computer problem they have just encountered, our value and worth in patrons’ eyes would expand exponentially. If we could market the library’s natural in-person and online “computer troubleshooting and tutoring services,” we would both fill a niche and meet our patrons’ needs, thereby encouraging them to come to us for any kind of
question!

Additionally, these types of computer questions — which are increasingly common areas of patron concern — are well within most librarians’ expertise. If they are not, they provide an opportunity for librarians to learn new skills and information that is immediately applicable on the job. If a technical problem cannot be solved in-house, it could encourage networking and mutual reliance on other organizations and resources, something we all agree is important.

April 28, 2006 at 8:33 am 8 comments

What Libraries Can Learn from ‘Snakes on a Plane’

OK, so even CNN (search for ‘Snake Appeal;’ video clip aired Apr. 14) has picked up the story about how bloggers are affecting Hollywood. . . Excitement about the truly simple title and plot of the forthcoming movie Snakes on a Plane is amazing; use your favorite search engine to find “Snakes on a plane blog” (warning: foul language ensues). Libraries truly have much to learn from this phenomenon!

Imagine your library users getting this excited about your collection, facility, or services. . .

  • They understand what you’re offering right from its title, and
  • They help create it, modify it, and market it to others

What could be better?! Somehow the traditional model of libraries — in which we collect stuff and then loan it out to folks only via strict rule-governed interpersonal or technological exchanges — is not this exciting. The concept of Snakes on a Plane is simple and easy for everyone to understand. In fact, it simultaneously works on several levels (perhaps for different “users”) — the literal, the horrific, the ironic, and the twisted. It engenders creativity, personalization, and a multidirectional flow of discussion. Apparently, it spawns dynamic change and improvements, and gives “users” a feeling of ownership and co-creation whether they influenced the final product or not. Talk about customer service lessons!

April 15, 2006 at 10:02 pm 6 comments

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