Daily Archives: September 4, 2007

The September Project

Many ACRLog readers are familiar with The September Project, but not everyone is in the loop. I thought it was a good time to check in with David Silver, who teaches Media Studies at the University of San Francisco, directs the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies, and co-directs The September Project. He blogs at silver in sf.

What is the September Project?

The September Project is a grassroots effort to encourage public events in all libraries in all countries in September. Participating libraries, mostly public and academic, organize events about issues that matter to their communities. All events are free and open to the public. Since 2004, over 900 libraries in 30 countries have participated in the September Project.

September is so busy. Can a library be involved in, say, October instead?

September is crazy! Its arrival is predictable, but each year it surprises us.

In 2004, we began the September Project as a way for people to come together in libraries and reflect upon the world – all on September 11. Since then, most libraries are moving away from September 11 and hosting events throughout the month of September. And some libraries, especially academic and school libraries, are organizing events throughout fall, when their campus communities are back from summer break and the beginning-of-term rush has slowed down a bit. September Project events have been known to take place in September, October, November, and August – as well as nearly every other month of the year!

Is there a political agenda involved?

The September Project has no political agenda.

It is, of course, political. These days, to exercise any form of public discourse is political, eh? To publicly assemble is political. To organize anything free is definitely political. To talk about issues that matter – to talk about the war, to talk about human rights, to talk about the Earth – that’s political. In our times, any idea that encourages us to be citizens rather than consumers is highly political.

But as for some kind of centralized political agenda – the September Project has none.

How are academic libraries are participating?

Academic libraries are organizing events that include art, cartoon, and photography exhibits; author readings and common books; book and graphic novel displays; dance and musical performances; film screenings; interfaith dialogues; panel discussions, student presentations, and faculty talks; reading lists and library resources; and voter education and voter registration. The diversity of events organized by academic libraries is really staggering. It reminds me how vital college campuses can be. It reminds me, again, that the library is the heart of campus.

Here’s a few examples of what US academic libraries are doing this year.

Portland State Library has been hosting an art exhibit (it began July 25 and runs through October 10). The exhibit features facsimiles of Pablo Picasso’s preliminary sketches for his landmark mural/masterpiece Guernica.

At North Carolina Wesleyan College, Lisa Kirby, an assistant professor of English, is collaborating with Pearsall Library on events centered around the themes of religious understanding, diversity, and tolerance. Along with an exhibit in the library and a common, campus-wide reading, there will be a guest lecture on September 11 by Dr. Umesh Gulati, a scholar of religious studies and cross-cultural awareness. The talk is titled “Democratic Reconstruction of Religions and World Peace” and is a collaboration between North Carolina Wesleyan College and the North Carolina Humanities Council.

The events at the University of Utah are exciting but I’m biased. Marriott Library, in collaboration with the Tanner Humanities Center, the Hinckley Institute of Politics, and the Associated Students of the University of Utah, has organized a series of events during the week of September 11. Events include a “September Speak Out” in front of Marriott Library, a talk (“Democracy as an Ongoing Project: Threats and Challenges to Democratic Governance in the U.S.”) by Alexander Keyssar, a Professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and a talk (“why i blog and why you should blog”) by me.

At the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, the UNCW Common Reading Program selected Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for the fall 2007 campus-wide read, co-sponsored by longtime September Project participant UNCW’s Randall Library. On September 11, there will be a campus film screening of the documentary Afghan Stories, followed by faculty presentations on Afghan culture, the legacy of September 11th and life during wartime and its impact on the people of Afghanistan.

(I hope we’ll hear from Barbara and her colleagues at Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library who have plenty of experience with September Projects. The Hurricane Katrina Teach-in, held on September 16, 2005 at Gustavus Adolphus College remains, to me, one of the ultimate models of an engaged college campus.)

The best way to learn more about the September Project is to visit our blog – the september project. While there, be sure to click the link labeled “academic library” in the tag cloud on the right side of the blog to see what other academic libraries are doing for their September Projects. If you are a librarian, please consider organizing a September Project event at your library.

If you are not a librarian, please a) print out this blog post, b) bring it with you to your favorite library, and c) place it in the hands of a librarian. Librarians will know what to do it with it.

And by all means, let’s use the comments for conversations.

Thanks, David!

Teaching Is A Work In Progress

Since I moved to a more administative position I’m doing less instruction, but there will be some opportunities to get back in the classroom. And I’m still teaching MLS students at the local LIS school. But even with more limited contact time with students, I still find it important to read and learn about techniques for improving teaching – or put a better way – how to develop the skills that help others learn. I came across a short reading that provide some good advice for those who consider their teaching a work in progress and in constant need of ideas for improvement. I find that occasional posts over at Tomorrow’s Professor Blog can provide ideas and inspiration. Here is one that I’ve been meaning to share.

One of the pieces of advice I’ve been given is to work to give the students something memorable in each presentation; what’s worse than being immediately forgotten. And this is much harder for academic librarians; we often get just one chance to get it right. If I’m teaching for an entire semester and I’m off a day here and there the odds are I’ll also be brilliant more than a few times. Librarians don’t have that luxury. We have to get it right the first time. In a post titled “How to Create Memorable Lectures” the author reminds us of how little students remember – just 10% of a lecture after 3 weeks. What I like about this piece is that it breaks down the strategy for being memorable into a few steps:
* Get the students’ attention
* Direct the students’ attention
* Avoid Overload
* Create opportunties for review and apply

The article provides more detail, but here are some tips:
* Be an expressive instructor because it will make you more interesting to the students
* Provide an overview of the lecture, but consider a handout the identifies the key points of the instruction session; it will help provide a framework for the session.
* Give students a short break to review notes and formulate questions; consider giving assignments that get students to summarize or paraphrase your important points
* Have students relate information in the lecture to a personal experience

These techniques, and usually other ones that payoff, will no doubt be harder to accomplish. That’s why many educators don’t bother with them and just stick with less labor intensive approaches. But if you want to be memorable, it will take some work.