Libraries Transform was officially launched on Thursday, October 29, by ALA President Sari Feldman who was here in Washington, D.C. to kick-off this national campaign to increase public awareness of the value, impact and services provided by libraries and library professionals.
Her visit was amplified by street teams on Capitol Hill, the National Mall, Union Station, Penn Quarter, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle and Georgetown, among other popular D.C. neighborhoods, where the team handed out Starbucks gift cards after passers-by answered a quiz about their library experiences. Taking part in the tour with Sari were: Keith Michael Fiels, ALA Executive Director, Cathleen Bourdon, ALA Associate Executive Director, Macey Morales, Deputy Director, ALA Public Awareness Office, Hallie Rich, Communications and External Relations Director, Cuyahoga County (OH) Public Library, Lisa Lindle, Grassroots Communications Specialist for ALA’s Washington Office, and me.
First up was a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology, where we experienced the marvel of the museum’s Fantastic Worlds exhibit, featuring the worlds of fiction inspired by extraordinary 19th Century discoveries and inventions.
Smithsonian Libraries Deputy Director Mary Augusta Thomas and her team hosted an equally fantastic behind-the-scenes visit revealing an uncommon glimpse of some of the items that make up the Smithsonian libraries’ over two million volumes, of which more than 50,000 are rare books and manuscripts, including a jaw-dropping view of a first edition of the 1543 De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelstium by Copernicus (The Revolution of the Heavenly Orbs) and the first English translation of Euclid’s Elements from 1570 featuring 3-dimensional solids in pop-up form, among other Smithsonian library treasures.
Next stop was Thomson Elementary School, set in an historic red brick building nestled among row houses and business establishments on the busy L street corridor. There, Sari Feldman was able to join Librarian Jaminnia States and 4th and 5th graders enthusiastically engaged on their library laptops and desktop computers. During a panel discussion, the students revealed how important the library and their ability to navigate online resources has been to their love of learning while also noting that for all but one, English is not the language spoken at home. It illustrated the transformative role that libraries are playing for under-served groups, overcoming language and cultural differences to foster individual opportunity.
At George Washington University’s (GWU) Gelman Library, Vice Provost for Libraries Geneva Henry and her team revealed the way academic libraries are transforming the educational experience of college students while serving faculty and researchers at the same time. Curriculum growth, research application development, community collaboration and bridging multiple disciplines through collaborative research were four significant areas highlighted.
For example, all GW freshmen are required to take one of the University Writing classes, which are co-taught by librarians who take students beyond finding sources and using databases to imaginative ideas for approaching online research. One writing class that Librarian Bill Gillis co-teaches includes a short-term study abroad writing and research class to Paris each summer.
Social Feed Manager is a prototype application developed by the GW Libraries to collect social media data from Twitter and potentially other social media sources. It connects to Twitter’s approved API to collect data in bulk and makes it possible for scholars, students, and librarians to identify, select, collect, and preserve Twitter data for research purposes. Along with GWU, many colleges are collecting and analyzing the expansive role of social media in 21st Century life, including UCLA’s work in connecting up collections of news issues augmented by social media, and North Carolina State University’s deep dive analysis through its Social Media Archives Toolkit and Social Media Combine.
The D.C. Africana Archives Project is a collaborative archival resource that will document the culture, history and politics of black life in D.C. And cross-disciplinary collaboration has led to Software Developer-Librarian Justin Littman’s work with stakeholders throughout the university to implement an Expert Finder for GW faculty, librarians, and staff. This Expert Finder will make the publications and research interests of the GW community visible and searchable to facilitate new and innovative partnerships.
Final stop of the day was Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Public Library. A vibrant part of the DC community, MLK library boasts its expansive Digital Commons which offers 70 computers loaded with software such as the Adobe Creative Suite; access to tools like an Espresso book machine; and enhanced meeting rooms and gathering spaces aimed at encouraging creation and innovation. Its Dream Lab is a collaborative, shared space for small organizations, groups and individuals using technologies to develop and sustain new ventures; Studio Lab is a state-of-the-art studio to produce a broadcast or record a podcast; and its Fabrication Lab is stocked with a laser cutter, Shopbot and seven 3D printers spitting out anything from replacement parts for broken equipment to decorative replicas of the U.S. Capitol building.
“Clearly today’s libraries are not just about what we have for people, but what we do for and with people,” Sari said at the conclusion of the day. “The goal of the Libraries Transform campaign is to change the perception that ‘libraries are just quiet places to do research, find a book, and read,’ to a shared understanding of libraries as dynamic centers for learning in the digital age. Libraries of all kinds foster individual opportunity that ultimately drives the success of our communities and our nation.”
Government Officials Meet with ALA leaders
During the Libraries Transform campaign launch in Washington, Sari also took part in high level meetings at the Department of Labor (DOL) and at the Library of Congress, which were organized by Emily Sheketoff, executive director of ALA’s Washington Office. DOL officials discussed collaborative opportunities with the ALA leaders through the Workforce Investment program; while at the Library of Congress they met with Acting Librarian of Congress David Mao and Chief of Staff Robert Newlen, who said they welcome the chance to work closely with ALA.