Guest post #4 – Creating curiosity for young and old alike, by Richard Veevers, Library Camp

I’ve worked with scores of people in our library who’ve never used a computer. Whilst the majority are retired, we see an encouraging number of younger folk. Scared or brave enough, they ask for help. Some we’ll see once, some twice and some stay.

Whilst trying to explain about the reach of technology, I often find that one piece of information becomes a tipping point in their understanding. That is to say they start to want to know.  Some undergo a revelation when trying to comprehend the number of zeros and ones involved in computing.  Others find the concepts of a virtual Second Life or buying virtual money, to be their tipping point. They begin to want to understand. Their fear of the unknown is replaced, not by understanding, by curiosity.

If we can help someone, get past that tipping point, into curiosity, we have succeeded. How do we define success? Is our success, not to be needed, to do ourselves out of a job? The curious student will continue to study with or without attention.

Fortunately, for us, students are not in short supply. Every Friday I see a constantly regenerating line of these students.

Every Friday for five years, I have been paid £8ph to act like a 3 yr old; or to have as much fun as I had when I was 3. I’m encouraged to regress my behaviour; to sing, to laugh and giggle, to dance, to make dubious comments about biological functions.

We have drawn stern looks, not just from the librarians.

Some disappointed taxpayers have voiced their concerns at the suitability of the volume of noise generated by our Baby-Bounce, in the corner of the main lending library. A complaint from a customer is as important as a compliment and should treated so. My response: “can they think of a better free advert?”

To our concerned citizen: I’d ask them about their library experiences as a child. I’ve found that however much they loved their library, they inevitably had a tale about The Library Policeman™; a story about how they were made to feel terrible by a figure so terrifying it seared itself into their memory. Whilst these experiences didn’t stop our tenacious public from coming to the library, I like to think if they’d been to a few Baby-Bounces in their infancy, they think differently about the noise being created.

I would ask them to come along to Accrington Library on a Friday or Thursday, or Monday and Tuesday if I’m at Burnley Campus.

And if any councillor wants to do a half hour in front of a group of 30 infants, (from a few weeks old to 5 or 6 years old, and their parents, grand-parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, relatives, friends….) I’d be delighted to arrange a slot for them too, we always give our volunteers a warm welcome.

Richard Veevers is a frontline librarian who helped set-up Library Camp.  Library Camp is an informal group of individuals passionate about public libraries who run free events to “debate, explore and learn” how libraries can develop and adapt.  The next Library Camp is in Leeds on 26 May and a national Library Camp is being planned for the Autumn.

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3 Responses to Guest post #4 – Creating curiosity for young and old alike, by Richard Veevers, Library Camp

  1. Richard makes some great points on the reach of technology and the tipping point or hooks but we also have the potential to deliver on so many more council and government agendas
    Yesterday the Guardian published an article asking if “local government could close the service
    funding gap by using community service portals?
    Who has more skill in working with information, IT, communities and their information needs?
    The People’s Network was delivered by the library and Information sector – the only government UK wide IT project on time and within budget.
    Who is positioned to deliver community information portals best? Library and Information professionals have these “unrivalled local insights, community links and often existing technology platforms to act as an umbrella or sponsor for community-based portals”
    Our “your edinburgh” portal is very much a community hub. the “your edinburgh” elementThis model allows the community to design and publish their own content and encourages community participation . It creates a more interesting site for citizens who become more aware of the services available online and are more likely to use them. It links to resources books and web content. Information portals belong in the hands of library and information professionals

  2. philmonks says:

    My local library in Leigh in Lancashire made a real difference to my life when I was young, not by stimulating my curiosity, but by feeding it. I was already curious, what I needed was a place that could support that curiosity. I’m very much in favour of all the activities that take place in libraries (and in fact do some of them myself) but it’s important to remember that a library does a great deal just by being there in the first place. Of course, it needs to be sufficiently welcoming and have enough to offer that you can explore it in your own way, but free libraries are a grand statement of our values as a country and we mustn’t forget that in the detail of the discussion.

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