CiL 2008 Keynote: Libraries as Happiness Engines

Speaker: Elizabeth Lane Lawley, Rochester Institute of Technology

Libraries are an emotional center of a community that make people happy. The elements of happiness include: satisfying work to do, the experience of being good at something, time spent with people we like, and a chance to be a part of something bigger. Libraries will survive if we remain in the happiness business.

Virtuality is a way of beating an unhappy life. People go into virtual world to escape a lack of happiness in their real life. And, there is a blurring of the boundaries between virtual worlds and real worlds as players make connections in both that bleed over into the other.

“The grind” is a process that gamers go through in order to move forward or advance in levels. Players do tasks in game repeatedly until their goals are achieved. Lawley thinks of the grind as being a meditative activity, due in part to the repetitive nature of it. Why can’t we convey this to our potential readers? We can correlate the reward of working through a game to the reward of reading a book through to the end.

Tupperware parties are an example of real world games, with competition and rewards. Salespeople will work hard to move up levels and be recognized for their work. Another real world game that is popular in public libraries is Super Sleuth, which gives daily clues that kids research to find the answer every week. Summer reading programs are also like games, and they make reading a challenge that kids want to do in order to reach a point goal to win a prize.

Chore Wars is an online game that blurs the line between real and virtual worlds. Parents post job tasks with point values, and kids earn those points by doing the chores. In the business world, Seriosity’s Attent is a game that causes players to evaluate the value of email message sent and received. Social Genius takes casual game concepts and applies them to enterprise problems/solutions, basically by making players learn the names and faces of other people in their organization and forcing them to keep their online photos and bios up-to-date.

Passively Multiplayer Online Gaming gives points to players for visiting websites, among other things. Missions become annotated pathfinders that reward players for surfing websites that have some sort of relevancy to each other. It makes the process of going to websites fun instead of tedious.

Games can serve as gateway drugs, like Guitar Hero. [side note: I heard recently about someone modifying a real guitar to use the strum bar and buttons used on the Guitar Hero guitar.]

Online rebound is what happens when we go from virtual to real and back again, like LAN parties, Moo cards (“We love the web, but you can’t put it in your pocket.”), and Etsy (hand-crafted items sold online). Virtual does not take the tangible away. You want to retain a connection to the real world. Libraries are taking advantage of this online rebound by creating spaces where people can be together physically while also being online.

How does your library make people feel happy? How does it pull them into something bigger than themselves that makes them feel playful and productive at the same time?

she’s such a geek

I have managed to read the first four chapters of She’s Such a Geek: Women Write about Science, Technology, and Other Nerdy Stuff, edited by Annalee Newitz and Charlie Anders, but since I’ve had it on my desk for nearly six months, I decided it was time to return it to the library. So far, it has been an interesting read. I recommend it to all my geeky sisters.

since when did this become a column?

To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.

I started to respond to Michelle’s post in her comments section, but then it got too long to be a comment, so I’m posting it here.

I attended a session at NASIG entitled “Column People: What’s their Future in a World of Blogs? The Role of Columnists in Academic Journals.” I erroneously thought it might be an interesting discussion of blogs in scholarly communication, but it turned out to be a “bloggers are hurting our profession!” diatribe. A poorly organized and presented one, at that.

At one point, the presenter pulled a quote out of a blog that seemed to lean more on the cat-blog side of blogging. Although I didn’t recognize the source, I thought it was a rather weak point in an already weak presentation. Not only that, but upon reading the full context, the blog post seems to be more substantial than the presenter would have us believe.

The conversation would have been better served if he had focused on the positive aspects of blogs and the relationship they have to columns. Some of the unwashed actually have pretty good self-editing skills, in addition to having useful things to say.

In the Q&A part of the session, I posed the question of “why worry?” — blogs and columns can continue to co-exist, and as per usual, readers will be drawn to what interests them. Bashing blogs and bloggers will not result in more edited columns in academic journals. They’re serving different purposes and users. It’d be like saying that we should stop using toothpaste because shampoo is an effective personal hygiene tool.

I also noted that the blog medium is just a tool, and it can lend itself to peer and editorial review. For example, I can write whatever I want here, but if it’s crap, at least one of my peers will correct me. There are also collaborative blogs that have evolved to become online magazines with editorial staff, such as Blogcritics.

To all columnists out there: don’t worry — your information dissemination medium isn’t going away because of blogs.

five non-librarian blogs

I meant to do this last night, but I forgot. So, here are five non-librarian blogs that I regularly read:

  • WWDN: In Exile – Wil Wheaton’s not-so-temporary blog that he created when the one at wilwheaton.net crashed and burned in September 2005. I think that the exile has become a more permanent blog home. Regardless, his writing is often witty, poignant, and full of geek empowerment.
  • Feminist SF Blog – Yes, I am a science fiction geek and a feminist. As if you didn’t know that already. Make sure you read the Women in Battlestar Galactica essay.
  • A Year in Pictures of Working – I went to high school with Arnie and we both were involved with several theater productions. I ran across his old blog, A Year In Pictures Following The Break-Up, when I was doing a random Google search of various classmates. One thing that I remember most about Arnie is his witty and slightly silly sense of humor, and it seems he hasn’t lost any of it in the past twelve years.
  • Jonathan Coulton – “Code Monkey like Fritos / Code Monkey like Tab and Mountain Dew / Code Monkey very simple man / With big warm fuzzy secret heart / Code Monkey like you”
  • Blogcritics Magazine – I would be remiss if I did not include this on my list. I don’t read everything that is published (approx. 50 articles every day!), but I do browse the reviews and news items. I’m also one of the writers and involved in some of the behind the scenes work. About 95% of the lengthy reviews you see published here are from materials I have received as a BC writer, and the reviews are all cross-published on the BC site. Their version is after an editor has looked it over, but my version is pre-externally edited. Usually, they’re the same copy.

Are you a librarian blogger? Tag. You’re it.

radcon 4c

Last Wednesday, I woke up and decided I needed to be with my people.

Spaceball CityLast Wednesday, I woke up and decided I needed to be with my people. By that I mean I decided to attend Radcon. Radcon is a science fiction and fantasy convention held in Pasco (WA) every year over President’s Day weekend. I attended it last year, which was the first time I had been to a scifi con, unless you count the time I hung out with some pals in the same hotel as a con in North Carolina half a lifetime ago. I don’t think that counts.

Not much different happened at the con this year compared to last year, except this time I knew what to avoid and what to attend, and there were more familiar faces in the crowd. I still feel a bit like an outsider hoping to get invited to the party, but that’s the problem with any relatively small group of people. Anyway, I took some pictures this time, although I missed most of the Star Trek costumes (dangit!), and I also use the video function on my digital camera to capture two medieval combat events (event 1 and event 2).