As many of you know, I’ve had a silly but beloved habit of saying, “Goodnight, library” every afternoon when I leave. Today, I said farewell to my students, fellow teachers, and the library that has been like my child for the last time. May others always love you as I and our students have; may you always be a place of inspiration, enchantment, learning, and joy—thank you for giving me the time of my life. I will carry you all with me in my heart as I begin the next chapter with the amazing Cleveland Public Library in Ohio.
Earlier this week, I ran a short feature on our art gallery inspired by student research. In the video below, Teagan takes a few minutes to discuss her work and the importance of choice in igniting student passion in research/inquiry projects.
This fall, The Unquiet Library has hosted a unique art installation inspired by student research this past spring. Some of you may remember Teagan from this past winter and her unique approach to creating mindmaps. Teagan and her partner Kristiena (whom you may remember as one of my co-authors from this fall for a Knowledge Quest article) created a digital multigenre research composition on veterans and PTSD. Both Teagan and Kristiena were part of a group of students who generously shared their insights and reflections on being immersed in a participatory culture of learning. In their words, they set out to explore “…PTSD, the effects it has on veterans, and how veterans can receive help from this mental illness. It is very important to understand the severity of this undermined illness because without knowing about the organizations that help these veterans, the specific treatments these organizations use, and what we can do as a community to help, we are letting our country’s veterans down.” Their inquiry was inspired by their readings of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Code Talker by Joseph Bruchac, and Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson.
Teagan, who is a gifted photographer, decided to create her own original images to depict some of the key ideas and findings from their research and integrate them into the multigenre digital text. I was so struck by the artistry of her work that this fall, I asked her if she would consider letting the library create prints of her work and have a research inspired art gallery. She graciously gave me permission and used excerpts of her research to create informational placards for each print. After we mounted the prints and placards on art easels, we arranged Teagan’s artwork in the sequence she outlined for us so that viewers could follow the narrative of her artistic creations. Students and teachers alike have been impressed not only with her moving and striking photography, but they have also been pleasantly surprised to learn that it was sparked by the information she discovered in her research and that the gallery is an alternative representation of those findings. Not only did Teagan photograph and process the photographs, but she and her father both served as models for the prints.
The research inspired art gallery has not only helped others learn about PTSD and its impact on veterans, but it has also nudged people to see research as something more than an assignment and that it is a mode of learning that can far beyond a class assignment. I am hopeful that future galleries featuring inquiry inspired creative works will be commonplace and can incorporate additional participatory mediums for interacting with the gallery with a feature like panels coated in IdeaPaint where people can respond to the art and ideas. On behalf of the library and our learning community, I would like to thank Teagan for generously sharing her talent and wisdom with us.
Nearly seven years ago to this date, I began the story of The Unquiet Library when I was hired in late December 2006 as the school librarian for the soon to be Creekview High School. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined how the library program would grow or how I would evolve and learn as a librarian as well as an individual. I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had during this time, both near and far, and for the teachers, students (especially my students), and people in my personal learning network who have profoundly shaped my thinking and understanding about the profession of librarianship, public education, and alternative sites of learning. The narrative of The Unquiet Library has been one of innovation, collaboration, passion, questioning, and insight in both good times and during challenging circumstances, and it’s a story that has always come back to the central themes of learning and creating library experiences that have hopefully been transformative in some way for students and teachers.
Now, nearly seven years to the date I began The Unquiet Library, I’ll be starting an exciting new chapter of my professional career and personal life as I move to Ohio in early January to begin a new job as the Learning Strategist in the Knowledge Office of the Cleveland Public Library, a progressive urban library whose strategic plan reflects an organic vision of libraries that values communities of learning and frames the library as a catalyst for participatory practices of play and learning to empower the people we serve. Here is an overview of my new role from yesterday’s official press release:
She will serve as an internal consultant to management and staff on matters related to CPL’s mission as the “People’s University”, the center of learning for a diverse and inclusive community. Ms. Hamilton will champion the formation of innovative, sustainable, library-supported communities of participatory learning throughout the city with special attention and focus on those that address specific deficits affecting our community. She will also work to coordinate and design a learning and teaching agenda based on the 2012-2014 strategic plan, and work with the new Literacy & Education Coordinator to build an array of effective learning programs at each of CPL’s onsite Learning Centers. As CPL’s liaison to the school systems, she will develop strategies to support curricula through library resources and services.
I’m delighted to be joining such an innovative organization where I can contribute to the library’s mission, serve the community, and have the time, space, and resources to dwell in deep thinking and learning experiences. The prospect of learning from my colleagues and the Cleveland community is one that warms both my heart and mind, and I have no doubt my immersion in this position will challenge my creative energies and spirit. I am truly humbled to have been chosen to take on this role and so proud to be joining the Cleveland Public Library.
As I have in the past, this blog will be my “think aloud and wonder” space, and I plan to continue to share my insights, projects, reflections, questions, and ideas that are rooted in my day-to-day work and use that as a lens to look at issues in our profession and issues relevant to our society at large. I look forward to continuing the conversations about libraries and learning as I begin this fantastic new journey with the Cleveland Public Library. What stories and narratives of the library experience will we construct together as a community? I can’t wait to find out!