My Week Domestically Abroad: Hidden Ireland and Helping Libraries Harness Web 2.0

By: Meg Hixon
Posted: March 11, 2011

Too long, didn't read version: Libraries are amazing and host a wealth of hidden information resources. Public programming is a way to advertise both that yes, this information exists, yes, it exists here, and yes, it is awesome, isn't it? In developing a short-term social media strategy for spring events @nypl_lpa (see what I did there?), I have been able to bring together my knowledge of the academic opinions of changing libraries, my enthusiasm for Ireland, and the general, fundamental desire of libraries to bring people together through a shared knowledge base. The events are, as always, free to the public.

After spending an amazing week in New York City and another taking time to reflect on my experience and on my goals for the brief remainder of my tenure at the School of Information, I have come to realize that a large part of what attracts me to the information field, and particularly to archival work and librarianship, is that it is a professional field organized around helping people use information as effectively as possible. Some of my colleagues do this by designing more intuitive websites or by studying the ways in which online communities differ from (or, alternatively, eerily mirror) in-person interactions; I have found that my passion lies in organizing, describing, and providing access to information. Before you construct an image of a stuffy librarian freaking out at the merest peep form a nearby teenager or panicking when a book wanders away from its proper Dewey section, I ask that you reconsider traditional stereotypes about librarianship. Anyone who has met me can tell you that keeping things silent is far from my best interest (though, of course, I believe libraries should offer designated areas for quiet study) and, instead, I encourage those who ask, "What, you? A librarian? You're too loud!" to reexamine the profession and look instead at its fundamental purpose.

SI puts it best: connecting people, information, and technology in more valuable ways.

As we continue to figure out what that means in the context of libraries, I found myself in the middle of one of the largest cities on Earth attempting to harness the power of the Internet to raise awareness of some amazing free programming at the New York Public Library. The Library for the Performing Arts is hosting an endless parade of fascinating and unique events that draw on its vast reserves, and while I deeply regret that I can't attend them myself I can't help but be enthusiastic. A library with a screening room, with actual film projectors? Amazing! A film series showcasing long-forgotten documentary films on Ireland? Sign me up, please! Libraries are (arguably) useless if people don't use them, and public programming is an ideal way to share the library love by utilizing our own passions. One of my friends, for example, is tailor-made for a talk coming up at the NYPL, and I'm thrilled every time the Ann Arbor District Library hosts a board gaming event: these programs raise awareness of the library, its materials, and most importantly forge bonds between the institution and the communities it serves. "I had no idea the library even had stuff like that!" is a common refrain, and my goal this week was to help ensure that statements like this evaporate, or are at least re-purposed in the mouths of enthusiastic referrals to other ignorant souls.

Viva public programming!