MLA Conference Recap #1: Making Stuff with your Patrons

Yesterday, I attended the MLA Conference in Orono.  I picked up a lot of good information to share on the blog this week.  This recap will focus on the first workshop I went to, called “Making Stuff with your Patrons.”  I took plenty of pictures and I plan to spread them out throughout the week so you can get an idea of how beautiful the UMaine campus is in late May.  Here’s a picture of the Mall (it was strange to see it so vacant):

The Future of Libraries:  Making Stuff with your Patrons

Technology is quickly becoming more of a presence in everyday life and with these changing times, many people wonder what the future will be like. Institutions that we once depended on may become a thing of the past if they don’t adapt to fit today’s society. For example, the United States Post Office is noticing a significant decrease in business due to the fact that mailing a letter (which costs 45 cents and may take at least a couple of days to arrive) cannot compete with a free email which arrives almost instantly. Similarly, libraries are faced with the challenge to remain current in a rapidly evolving world.

Information, which used to be found primarily in books, is now available to the masses online. With the growing popularity of ebooks, it seems clear to most that print books will become an obsolete concept that we will reminisce about to future generations. If this is the case, the library starts to look less like a central hub of information and more like a warehouse for dusty, outdated volumes.

In his talk entitled, “The Future of Libraries: Making Stuff with your Patrons” Michael Whittaker emphasized that thankfully, this is not the case. We need to change the way we think about libraries. The materials we provide to patrons are not the most important part of what we do, the patrons themselves are. By promoting “participatory culture” we can remain an influential presence in the community. How will we accomplish this? By creating makerspaces where patrons can create a variety of media: from videos and music to more traditional forms of expression such as drawing and writing. This adds a new dimension to the library experience because patrons are learning to create content as well as consume it.

Michael’s talk focused on the projects he and Justin Hoenke have worked on with teens at the Portland Public Library (PPL). For example, the PPL teamed up with the local writing organization, The Telling Room to present “Envisioning Your Own Video Game,” a program in which students got together to brainstorm ideas for their own video games. Not only did this allow teens to delve deeper into a subject they already enjoy, but by developing characters and a storyline, it also stressed the link between video games and literacy.

Participatory culture was certainly a buzz word at this year’s conference and it seems like a natural direction for the future of libraries. As Buffy Hamilton mentioned during her speech, we need to find a way to spread the spirit of the librarian. Technology can provide us with the ability to print our own books, record our own music, and film our own movies, but it’s useless without someone with a vision and the drive to create it. What better way to inspire curiosity and inquisitiveness in our patrons than to give them a voice by providing them with equipment and asking them to let their imaginations run wild? Who knows, in the future, you may go the library to create a book instead of checking one out.

If you’d like to know more about “The Future of Libraries:  Making Stuff with your Patrons” please click here.

If you would like to see Buffy Hamilton’s full powerpoint presentation entitled “Libraries, Participitory Culture, and Enchantment” please click here.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “MLA Conference Recap #1: Making Stuff with your Patrons

  1. jimbaumer

    I like the idea of making stuff with your patrons and developing a “participatory culture.” I think this fits nicely with DIY culture, of which I’m a fan of and have been embracing for years.

    Libraries are central hubs in any community where one resides, providing valuable resources for those communities.

    I’m doing some work w/ a local library, so I appreciated your update from the MLA conference.

  2. Hi Jim,
    I am very interested in “participatory culture” but it is definitely a new concept for me. Do people who participate in DIY culture focus on one style or aspect of creation (i.e. making their own bookcases) or do they try to make everything they can themselves? (Obviously, I need to read up on DIY culture, as well!) Any sites or info you would like to share about DIY culture would be appreciated :)

    I think this move towards participatory culture could be a great way to involve “makers” in the community in library programs. I know my area has a lot of talented people who would be willing to share their expertise with patrons who would like to learn a new craft.

    Thanks for your comment and for checking out the blog!

  3. Pingback: MLA Conference Recap #2: “Hooking Reluctant Readers” | The Lupine Librarian

  4. Here at the State Library we have been encouraging people to make and donate copies of their family genealogies for decades. As we approach this new concept it seems to me that it could be an easier sell by relating it as an extension of our current services rather than a completely new thing for librarians to have to learn to do.
    Peggy O’Kane

  5. Pingback: We want to hear what you think! | The Lupine Librarian

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