Birds don’t know shit:
In Roberts et al. (2009), pigeons failed an intuitive information-seeking task. They basically refused, despite multiple fostering experiments, to view a sample image before attempting to find its match. Roberts et al. concluded that pigeons’ lack of an information-seeking capacity reflected their broader lack of metacognition. We report a striking species contrast to pigeons. Eight rhesus macaques and seven capuchin monkeys passed the Roberts et al. test of information seeking–often in their first testing session. Members of both primate species appreciated immediately the lack of information signaled by an occluded sample, and the need for an information-seeking response to manage the situation. In subsequent testing, macaques demonstrated flexible/varied forms of information management. Capuchins did not. The research findings bear on the phylogenetic distribution of metacognition across the vertebrates, and on the underlying psychological requirements for metacognitive and information-seeking performances.
Beram M.J. & Smith, J.D. (2011). Information seeking by Rhesus monkeys (“Macaca mulatta”) and Capuchin monkeys (“Cebus apella”). Cognition, 120(1), 90-105.
The popularity of embedded librarian programs in academic libraries is no doubt one result of the profession’s need to redefine its service model in a time of dramatic changes in information architecture, production, and access. As Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg’s 2009 report, “Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age” [pdf], shows, students bypass librarians in order to access academic resources the vast majority of the time. We gave up our roles as information gatekeepers in the last century and, not soon after, began to see our roles as information guides slip away as well. Our response: redefine the role of the academic librarian in the research process.
The professional literature provides a number of successful examples of embedded librarianship: Tumbleson & Burke (2010) focused on the relationship between faculty and librarians in Blackboard for distance education students, going beyond simple course integration. Librarians at the Welch Medical Library at Johns Hopkins University and Purdue University Libraries embedded librarians outside the library to become partners in faculty research (Brandt, 2007; Kolowich, 2010). Kesselman & Watstein (2009) provide a number of other successful examples, including one program at Rutgers which brought together librarians, faculty, and students from the Food Science, Nutritional Sciences, the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, and the School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies to solve real-world problems in the food industry (the librarians also helped faculty co-write the grant for the program).
All of these projects are examples of meaningful integration. I’ve been ruminating on this phrase for a few weeks now, trying to think of ways in which our services can be meaningful to students and faculty. It isn’t enough to simply be useful, though that is certainly one aspect of it. I started writing down a list of characteristics that, to me, help define “meaningful integration”:
Library services must be transformative.
If we want to make a difference, we have to change the way students perceive information resources, research, and, in turn, our role in the process. We need to elicit change that shakes the foundation and produces visible (preferably measurable, but I’ll take visible) results. Notably, we have to inspire change in individuals and so:
Library services must be personal.
While we make broad sweeps to change what we do, we also need to focus on the relationships we have with individual faculty and students. If social media has taught us anything over the past decade, it’s that the individual has a tremendous impact on local communities and social groups. Dramatically changing one person’s perception of the library (or research, or information, etc.) has the potential to ripple outward to others. To make these personal connections happen, we need to be “close to the metal” of academic life, whether that be faculty research or student coursework, and so:
Library services must be where the action is.
Every connection starts with a shake of the hand, be it face-to-face or virtual, but we need to be there, standing next to our user, to make it happen.
Each of these characteristics work together to bolster the effects of the other. It seems to me (and I haven’t quite worked out the “how” yet) that the three are inseparable and indispensable if our aim is to become meaningfully integrated into the shifting information landscape. I would even go so far to say that they provide a recipe for success regardless of any and all future changes in libraries, the academy, and information architecture.
And there you have it: your strategic plan for the day. =)
Brandt, D.S. (2007). Librarians as partners in e-research: Purdue University Libraries promote collaboration. C&RL News 68(6), 365-367, 396.
Kolowich, S. (2010, June 9). Embedded librarians. Inside Higher Ed. Available at http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/06/09/hopkins
Kesselman, M. A. & Watstein, S. B. (2009). Creating opportunities: Embedded librarians. Journal of Library Administration, 49(4), 383-400.
Tumbleson, B.E. & Burke, J.J. (2010). When life hands you lemons: Overcoming obstacles to expand services in an embedded librarian program. Journal of Library Administration, 50(7-8), 978-988.
Yesterday, Henry Jenkins posted a follow-up to his Comic-Con discussion of transmedia storytelling (video above), which he defines as: “a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.” He differentiates this from other transmedia activities like transmedia branding or transmedia activism. “Ideally,” he says, “each medium makes it own unique contribution to the unfolding of the story.”
This immediately reminded me of something we do in libraries, museums and archives (LAM) all the time: the exhibit. The LAM exhibit can exist across multiple platforms (display case, print publication, website) and utilizes a variety of formats (books, artifacts, still and moving images, digital interactive maps). Back in 2003, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Brooklyn Historical Society created a project entitled “Worklore: Brooklyn Voices Speak,” an exploration of the working class in Brooklyn from the 18th to 20th century. The collaboration included a traveling exhibit, public program and lectures, curriculum guides for elementary students, an online exhibit that included narratives and oral histories, and an online game called “Can You Make Ends Meet in Brooklyn” in the Early 1990s?” that allowed players to choose a type of work and see how those consequences played out in terms of personal finances (unfortunately, the website does not appear to be active any longer).
Creating a LAM exhibit that exists across different media is a similar activity to transmedia storytelling, but it comes at the story from a different angle. Rather than creating or extending a story, LAM exhibits attempt to recreate a narrative of cultural experience told through the perspective of people and objects that made up that narrative. The content of these exhibits serve some of the same functions outlined by Jenkins by offering a backstory, mapping a world, providing other character’s perspectives on the action, and by deepening audience engagement.
For librarians and instructors, the discourse surrounding transmedia could not be more relevant to the work we do. We seek to engage students in thinking about the ways in which the nature of information is changed as it moves from one platform to the next, how the choice to present information in one medium to the exclusion of others affects how we interpret it, and how we can convey meaning through these actions.
It doesn’t appear that we’ve fully agreed upon a definition for transmedia, but that shouldn’t stop us from using the term and discussing it. I recommend following Jenkins’s writings if you are interested in such things. His posts never disappoint.
What are your thoughts on transmedia storytelling? How do we do it? Are we doing it right? I’m especially interested in hearing about ways you’ve integrated it into instruction… but it’s the comments so do what you will 😉