Georgia Literary Festival 2012

Natasha Trethewey, Georgia Literary Festival 2012
Original photograph by Buffy Hamilton

Two of my favorite things in the whole world that resonate deeply in my heart are poetry and the beaches of coastal Georgia (known as the Golden Isles), including Jekyll Island.  The two converged at the Georgia Literary Festival held in the newly constructed Jekyll Island Convention Center (which is a gorgeous new incarnation of the old facility and remains beachside).  The festival, which was free to everyone, included a diverse range of authors, events, and genres; you can learn more about the festival by clicking on this special publication from the Brunswick News.

While there were several events, topics, and authors of interest to me, I specifically attended the festival to hear Natasha Trethewey, U.S. Poet Laureate.  She read poems from her new book, Thrall, a collection of poetry that explores  attitudes about race through multiple contexts that are both personal and historical in a manner that is bold, courageous, and poignant.  Her transcendent readings of the poems were exquisite and searing, and I felt as though I had experienced a kind of catharsis in the hour that seemed to pass in a matter of minutes.  I was too awestruck to utter much of anything when it was my turn to have her autograph my copies of Thrall and Native Guard for it was quite humbling to have been in the presence of such a gifted artist and poet.  Afterwards, I savored some time at the beach, which is easily accessible from the convention center, to try and process the experience of her beautiful yet haunting poetry reading.  The festival also gave me inspiration for some future professional and personal endeavors I hope to pursue in the immediate and long-term future.  In addition, the festival and weekend jaunt gave me the opportunity to enjoy a memorable and cherished weekend with my mother–her company made a special weekend even more of a treasure.

In addition to the Trethewey experience, I purchased the new issue of The Georgia Review that is a tribute the authors in the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame; you can read more about this fantastic issue here. Another new book purchase was Charles Seabrook’s The World of the Salt Marsh,Appreciating and Protecting the Tidal Marshes of the Southeastern Atlantic Coast a book I’m looking forward to reading over the holidays.  I also highly recommend his marvelous Cumberland Island:  Strong Women, Wild Horses.  

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I’d like to thank all the organizers of the festival for bringing in Trethewey as well as the other gifted writers, local and national.  If you haven’t attended this wonderful event, put it on your “must do” list for the future! I’m including a video clip I shot at the festival of Trethewey reading “Elegy”, the opening poem of Thrall; you can learn more about the poem in this excellent article in The Atlantic.

Bonus Content:  “Why I Write: Natasha Trethewey on Poetry, History, and Social Justice”

Save the Date: Atlanta Mini-Maker Faire!

If you are in the Southeast, I want to invite you to come to the 2nd Annual Atlanta Mini-Maker Faire on October 6, 2012 from 10AM-5PM.  This extravaganza of fun, play, creation, and more will take place at The Tech Walkway at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.  Admission is free, but you’ll need to register for a ticket by going here.  Learners and makers of all ages are invited to come and participate–check out the awesome lineup of 2012 Makers that you’ll get to meet and experience!

I’m honored to be part of the fun and festivities as I share and present “Libraries and Makerspaces”; here’s a short preview of my booth and session I’ll be sharing throughout the day:

Buffy Hamilton aka The Unquiet Librarian will give an exciting presentation on Creating Communities Through Libraries and Makerspaces: Come learn how libraries are inviting participation and generating enchantment by crafting makerspaces for their communities! This presentation will share exciting and innovative ways that academic, public, and school libraries are encouraging a spirit of play and lifelong learning through makerspace culture.

I hope to see you there in October!

Makerspaces, Participatory Learning, and Libraries

The concept of libraries as makerspaces first hit my radar last November when I read about the Fayetteville Free Library’s FabLab.  As I began hearing more buzz about libraries and makerspaces the first few months of this year, I decided that learning more about this concept and exploring how I might apply the elements of makerspaces to my library program would be a personal learning project for the summer.

So what is a makerspace?  Makerspace defines it as:

Modeled after hackerspaces, a makerspace is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests, learn to use tools and materials, and develop creative projects. It could be embedded inside an existing organization or standalone on its own. It could be a simple room in a building or an outbuilding that’s closer to a shed. The key is that it can adapt to a wide variety of uses and can be shaped by educational purposes as well as the students’ creative goals.

The Library as Incubator Project describes makerspaces as:

Makerspaces are collaborative learning environments where people come together to share materials and learn new skills… makerspaces are not necessarily born out of a specific set of materials or spaces, but rather a mindset of community partnership, collaboration, and creation.

In late spring, I was even more intrigued by the concept as my friend and colleague Kristin Fontichiaro began sharing some of her thoughts on makerspaces and the possibilities for school libraries.  While immersing myself into researching makerspaces last week, I discovered friend and fellow librarian Heather Braum is also fascinated by the possibilities, and she shared her current list of resources with me including photos and video from her visit this past weekend to the Kansas City Maker Faire.  You can learn more about Heather’s MakerFaire experience in her new blog post here.

While I am having fun soaking up ideas and brainstorming ways we could cultivate makerspaces in The Unquiet Library, I can’t help but notice that makerspaces provide opportunities for participatory learning.  As regular readers of the blog know, participatory learning is the guiding framework for my library program and services.  Project New Media Literacies identifies these principles of participatory learning:

  • Heightened motivation and new forms of engagement through meaningful play and experimentation
  • Learning that feels relevant to students’ identities and interests
  • Opportunities for creating using a variety media, tools and practices
  • Co-configured expertise where educators and students pool their skills and knowledge and share in the tasks of teaching and learning
  • An integrated system of learning where connections between home, school, community and world are enabled and encouraged
I believe that makerspaces can provide students AND teachers opportunities to exercise these elements of participatory learning and to form what James Gee calls affinity spaces, communities formed around passions and shared interests. Tinkering, collaborative learning, play, conversations for learning, intergenerational learning,experimentation, inquiry, the act of creation, and problem solving–these are just some of the qualities that can happen in makerspaces and encourage participatory learning.

Buffy swooning over her new School’s Out Issue of MAKE

My excitement about the possibilities of makerspaces was fueled today by an unexpected trip to a local Barnes andNoble store and stumbling upon the “School’s Out!  Summer Fun Guide” issue of MAKE magazine which includes a set of 3D glasses to interact with the magazine features!  While some of the makerspace ventures do involve some startup costs and others might involve equipment and materials that wouldn’t fit the typical school library budget, this issue is brimming with ideas to help librarians easily craft makerspace culture on a dime.

So what are some additional resources if you’re in the initial thinking/planning/wondering stages for how to create a makerspace as an essential learning space in your library?

Are you thinking about incorporating makerspaces (as well as hackerspaces) into your library during 2012-2013?  If so, please help the education and library communities crowdsource this concept by sharing your resources and ideas!

Why no, B&N, MAKE is not just for men or boys–girls like makerspaces, too!

Interestingly enough, the magazine issue was on display in the freestanding “men’s interests” display rack—I did complain to a salesperson that the placement of the magazine was not only sexist but age inappropriate as a magazine geared toward children should probably not be displayed prominently to magazines featuring covers featuring excessive cleavage of women–she promised to share my concerns with the magazine section manager, and I’ll follow up to see what happens.

In Honor of Valentine’s Day: Love Thy Library

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we’ve been giving away some fun Gale Cengage Learning bling since we have access to three Gale databases we use heavily for research here on a regular basis at The Unquiet Library.  Many thanks to Gale for the free goodies that are helping our students show their love for The Unquiet Library (and databases)!  Simple yet fun vendor swag goes a long way in helping students remember our learning tools that we use on a regular basis.

Book Tasting Tweaks, Late Winter 2012

Last fall, I blogged about our book tasting I did with Susan Lester and her 10th Honors World Literature/Composition (Media 21 cohort) students; these texts were a springboard into our unit of inquiry on issues in Africa.   We just finished our later winter book tasting last period, and I did a few modifications from fall that I thought teachers and librarians might like.

Book Tasting Tweak 1

For this book tasting, which is our springboard into a unit of inquiry on war and veterans, I created a book tasting LibGuide.    Although we had hard copies of all the books except for two on the menu, I wanted students to have a portal for our book choices and book review tools.

In the LibGuide, I included widgets for NoveList and NoveList K-8, which we are fortunate to have access to through GALILEO, Georgia’s Virtual Library, so that students could read book reviews for their choices and/or browse suggested “read alikes” or browse additional books by topic if they chose to do so.  I also used the “books from the catalog” feature in LibGuides to create a visual list of books so that students could peek at the covers on our large screen in one of our library commons instructional areas before heading over to the book cart; I love the fact that you can sort your “books from the catalog” by call number with one mouse click!  For the two books that we didn’t have copies of but that we thought students might be interested in reading, I was able to hyperlink to the books in Amazon (although I could have easily pushed them to any other source like LibraryThing reviews or NoveList) so that students could get a preview since “books from the catalog” allows you to add a hyperlink (which is handy when you are creating a list of eBooks from a database like Gale Virtual Reference Library).  Finally, I included a widget for our Destiny OPAC and a LibGuides built-in widget for Google Book search.  This LibGuide page gave students a virtual portal for learning more about a book and reading reviews after browsing the hard copy of the book.

Book Tasting Tweak 2

For this book tasting, I followed the principle of “less is sometimes more” by giving students a blank 3 x 5 index card after we reviewed the LibGuide.  I instructed students to use one side to jot down notes to themselves about the books they were browsing; on the other side, students indicated their top two book choices.

Susan and I collected these at the end of the class, and I used the notecards to quickly and easily compile a roster of students and top choices.  Since we have enough copies of what everyone wanted and enough money left in our budget to purchase the few additional titles we need, I’m able to give every student his/her top choice.

Here were the choices:

  • 2 students chose Code Talker:  A Novel about the Navajo Marines of World War Two
  • 2 students chose Dear America:  Letters Home from Vietnam
  • 1 student chose Faith of My Fathers
  • 3 students chose Fallen Angels
  • 4 students chose Purple Heart
  • 1 student selected House to House (self-selected through browsing/discovery  rather than a selection from the original menu)
  • 1 student selected Sunrise Over Fallujah
  • 1 student selected The Long Road Home:  A Story of War and Family
  • 2 students selected The Things They Carried
  • 3 students chose Soldier Boys
  • 3 students selected What  Was Asked of Us
  • 1 student chose I Am a Soldier, Too:  The Jessica Lynch Story

Next Steps and Reflections

Now we’ll talk to students about how we might group our Fishbowl inquiry groups for March; it looks as though theme, veteran group, or war might be some focal points for group formation.    We’ll also give the groups some options for variations on their approaches to Fishbowl discussions.  Students will use their texts to discover an issue or topic they want to research related to war and/or veterans (which I’ll be blogging more about in a few weeks).  In conclusion, I think we were all happy with the way the book tasting rolled–students had room for choice, discovery, and exploration without any organizational structures that were overly fussy or complicated.  I’m excited to see how the student engage and respond to their texts as we kick off our unit the last week of February!