Category Archives: Services

Walk The Talk: Information Professionals and Discrimination

By James Johnson

It can be said that archivists, librarians, digital curators of modern data etc., all share core systemic values that fall in the realm of civil liberties and what that means to public hubs of information sharing and consuming. Some of these values include privacy, non-discriminatory access to information, and neutrality when it comes to engaging the public or community as access points to that information.

Through my studies I have come to learn there are a great many perspectives in the world of information professionals. And that means there will be differences that may come in to conflict with the core principles of library philosophy. These differences arise from the simple fact that we are all human beings with our own moral compasses; freethinkers in a free society. Is it possible that champions of these cherished freedoms could suffer from the same ills they seek to eliminate? Is it even possible that librarians and information professionals, who often have the loudest voices in social justice congress, discriminate against some of their patrons?

As it turns out, yes.

An economics paper on racial discrimination in public service sectors highlights some interesting findings. The authors sent emails to libraries (and other public offices) using fake names. Either black sounding names or white sounding names. They found that the more “white” a name appeared the more likely the email would garner a response to their inquiries, often times with a more polite tone than when the name appeared more “black”. These are information professionals (probably, the datasets on whether the staff are LIS trained are unclear) appearing to provide weaker quality services to blacks.

It’s clear this issue needs to be addressed and I’m not entirely certain it can be at the systemic level. What I believe can help is active observation of the self. How are we as service providers, those on the front lines of customer service, positioning ourselves when responding to others? Are we placing labels on these individuals based on how they present themselves? And if so, how can we remain neutral and provide quality, non-discriminatory service to everyone?

I think Donna Walker’s article on active listening is a good start. Instead of thinking in terms of ideas or arguments in the work place as she outlines, transition this methodology towards customer service. Use active listening to address the queries of a patron. We may not hear these concerns over our own biases, and these may very well be internal or subconscious. This can be a difficult concept to overcome, maybe even Herculean. That’s why it may be best to combat this issue on a purely customer service oriented re-positioning. Take the active listening position. Hear all queries and comments from this angle. Provide the best service you can by being a better listener. Doing this can remove invisible barriers and meet the needs of the community as neutral facilitators of information.

I think its important for everyone to have the freedom to hold their own opinions, unpopular or otherwise. We do not need thought police in our free society. But as providers of crucial services, information professionals need to be cautious and ever-present when dealing with all types of patrons. Walk the talk and actively pursue patron interactions with positivity and good listening skills. It’ll make everybody’s day better.

Gaming in libraries: Addressing Contemporary Literacy Challenges Through Play

Estimated reading time for article: 4 mins

By James Johnson

Today’s youth have vast opportunities to access games and other forms of play media. Gaming has long since been a large part of play for generations, however today we see gaming incorporated not simply as tools of play but learning tools for multimedia literacy. Acknowledging the importance of gaming has become vital in implementing literacy strategies and policies for many modern libraries. As gaming develops and becomes a bigger part of society, so too develop problematic concerns surrounding potentially negative aspects of gaming, such as addiction and violence. Though it has been demonstrated that modern games can contain graphic violence and can be potentially addictive, it has also been demonstrated that these issues pale in comparison to the benefits of gaming as promotion for literacy.

Gaming has been present and a part of library culture for quite some time. In the past libraries in the UK installed billiard tables and chess boards to attract more patrons. Decisions to add gaming fixtures in the library was progressive, an attempt to draw more people to a building long believed to be solely for the purpose of quiet, reflective reading.

The games we enjoy today are quite different from those of yesteryear. Board games have evolved into creative, challenging, and engaging mediums of gaming. Video games have grown with technology to incorporate intensely realistic and troubling themes. Concerns have arisen regarding the influence these games can have on our reactions and contributions to violence.

News agencies have reported in the past on violent incidents in the public, suggesting a correlation between violence in reality and violence in video games . But this is not the case according to Ferguson et al. In their 2016 study they found that stating video games are a source for aggressive behavior and violence is too simplistic a response to the issue, and their results suggest the correlation is null

Another concern often voiced regarding gaming is the potentiality of addiction. However, Scott Nicholson suggests that there are plenty of preexisting addictive mediums in the library already, such as books or movies.

In addition to the Ferguson findings, further readings can find links to how video games engage players in new forms of literacy development. Buchanan and Vanden-Elzen write that “Video games do introduce a new literacy because messages are encoded and decoded in new ways”. This introduction of a new type of literacy is extremely important and supporting it as a library service is specifically important.

Children are learning with new mediums. Technology is more than a tool for literacy. Technological literacy is paramount for the development of children to become successful adults in society. I believe that the technology sector will be a primary employer of the next generation. Vivian Alvarez has a similar view in the connection between tech literacy and the future success of our children in the workforce, stating it is “more important than ever before as we foster a generation of students who must be lifelong learners as technology—and its impact on their careers—rapidly evolves throughout their lives”.

Storytelling has evolved and we share experiences with each other using these evolved mediums. Education can be bolstered by incorporating video games to assist in children’s literacy. Librarians Swiatek and Gorsse believe that their profession will inevitably deal with developing and supporting gaming services as core policies become standard.

The components of gaming like education, learning, addiction, violence, literacy, and it’s history are important factors in determining how the library can adopt services that address the complexity and significance of gaming for the community. I think it’s clear that gaming has more positive potential than negative, and like Swiatek and Gorsse, I believe that addressing the need for policy and service development is crucial for the library to continue to stay relevant.

For more information, check out the sources contained in this article:

“Playing Games at the Library: Seriously?” By Swiatek and Gorsse
“Do Video Games Lead to Violence?” By Susan Scutti
“Games and Literacy”  and “Gaming in Library Session: concern about gaming in libraries” by Scott Nicholson
“Violent Video Games Don’t Increase Hostility in Teens, but They Do Stress Girls out.”  By Christopher Ferguson et al.
“Beyond a Fad: Why Video Games Should Be Part of 21st Century Libraries.” By Kym Buchanan and Angela M. Vanden Elzen
“Engaging Students in the Library through Tabletop Gaming.” By Vivian Alvarez