Creativity, Collaboration and Compassion at Library 2.016: Library as Classroom

Published: Wednesday, July 06, 2016 by Allison Randall Gatt

If you want to explore classroom learning beyond iSchool courses and find some of the best resources for your lifelong learning virtual library, look no further than Library 2.0 mini-conferences for 2016. Library 2.0 was co-founded by the SJSU School of Information and has been holding virtual conferences about libraries and technology since 2011. Whether you’re looking for presentations by iSchool faculty or exploring topics to help broaden your knowledge, you’ll probably find it in the Library 2.0 recording archives.

On June 15, Library 2.016 held the second of three mini-conferences for the year, entitled Library as Classroom. The keynote presentation was a panel moderated by SJSU School of Information Dr. Michael Stephens. The presentation featured four experts in the field who gave four unique perspectives about how public libraries serve as learning centers for a wide variety of communities. The keynote address attracted over 300 participants from all over the world—New Zealand represent! And Canada and Japan!

Library as Classroom
The idea of a library being a classroom is not really new, but the way that people are learning and obtaining information and the way librarians need to meet patrons’ information requests has evolved right along with technology. Stephens started out the panel presentation by urging listeners to use a creative, collaborative and compassionate approach to serving the library community. He encouraged library learning through creating, exploring, playing and peer-to-peer collaboration.

The heart of librarianship begins with you as iSchool students and future librarians. “It starts with well-trained, user-focused staff that caters to all ages,” said Stephens, “who believe in creativity, curiosity and openness to new ideas.” So good-bye to the shushing old spinster and the stately columned buildings of old, the library of now is full of life, exploration and innovation, and the librarians that work there are people who want to work with people on an equal, human level. “Compassion is key to being a leader in today’s library; show kindness,” Stephens reminded listeners.

Library’s Role in Civic Engagement and Participator Learning
Michael E. Casey, Information Technology Director at Gwinnett County Public Library in Atlanta, spoke about civic engagement and participatory learning. “Libraries need to fill their community’s educational gaps,” he began. Casey is a big proponent of partnerships that bring different groups of people together to better serve the community. He suggested, for instance, partnering with non-profit organizations and connecting job-seekers and potential employers. “People who wouldn’t normally cross paths are being brought together by the library by using library resources and spaces,” said Casey. He also noted that mobile spaces are another great way to connect with the community as well—pop-up spaces, community spaces and bookmobiles.

Libraries and Learners
The panel’s next speaker, Joyce Valenza spent 25 years as a teacher librarian and now teaches in the MLIS program at Rutgers University. Her brief presentation, entitled “Hacking Education through School Libraries,” was directed towards teacher librarianship, but was thought-provoking and inspirational for everyone. “The library is the largest classroom in the school,” said Valenza. Valenza also brought up the teacher librarian’s role of teaching digital citizenship—or how to present oneself and treat others online. This is a concept that so many seem to have missed. Even the next generation of online users who aren’t familiar with Emily Post or writing letters on paper can learn a lot about maturity, manners and the imprint of one’s digital footprint.

Jessamyn West of Orange County, Vermont and the creator of gave a great philosophical talk about libraries, learning and education. She focused on the process of educational theory, application, reflection and evaluation—and back around again…and again…and again. The importance of libraries she argued, was their ability to offer free services. “People need to learn without someone try to sell them something,” West said. I couldn’t agree more. Having been on both the giving and receiving end of retail, I always enjoy the relaxed library environment where librarians are there for my needs not their company’s bottom line. West reminded listeners to be inclusive and to help patrons learn with the learner’s needs in mind, and to keep the teacher and learner relationship on an equal playing field. She concluded with a basic essential philosophy for libraries. “The library is not just the place where we learn the stuff for the test,” she said, “but the library is the classroom where we learn to be humans—or citizens or parents or neighbors.”

Libraries for Learning and Creativity
The panel presentation concluded with Brian Kenney, Director of the White Plains, New York Public Library and contributing editor to Publishers Weekly. He built upon the ideas Stephens and Casey discussed and introduced the concept of dynamic learning spaces—the physical space should encourage learning and creativity. “Learning,” he said, “is not a controlled environment.” Thank goodness—my children are ill-contained learners and I have enough to do without being the creativity police. “Maker-spaces can really happen anywhere,” said Kenney, “integrating people and text to solve a problem.” Kenney talked about participant-guided activities in Maker programming, hosting events featuring both modern technology and skills like sewing, knitting and woodworking that have been used for centuries.

Together, these five experts presented a vision of a dynamic, collaborative and personable environment where people exchange information in a constant circle of community learning. The library is your classroom and learning can happen all your life.

For related content about Library 2.0 and the larger library community:
Thought-provoking Presentation on Privacy at Library 2.016

A Day in the Life of Dr. Sandra Hirsh-- Inspiration from iSchool Leadership

Internships Make an Impact on Your Coursework, Your Resume and Your Life

Venn diagram courtesy of Dr. Stephens and the Danish Royal School of Library and Information Science

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