Unprogramming [part 3]

April 9, 2008 at 8:11 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

And now for the final post in the Unprogramming trilogy! (See parts 1 and 2 below to bring you up to speed.) Besides giving me a place to set up the computer, my table in the lobby also turned me into the de facto library concierge for a couple of hours. People had questions about library operating hours, story times, computers, etc. I was able to either answer their questions or direct them to helpful branch staff members just a few feet away at the desk. What else did I do during that time?

  • Uploaded a picture to a patron’s myspace account
  • Talked about the pros and cons of switching to a Mac from Windows
  • Explained how to sign up for a Gmail account
  • Demonstrated how to import to iPhoto from Photo Booth
  • Gave directions to a different library branch
  • Looked up the title of book through the library’s website
  • Showed someone how to set up the iMac

I consider this experiment to be a successful one. Not every program has to be planned to death. In fact, sometimes the programs with looser parameters turn out to be more enjoyable experiences for everyone involved. I know that we cannot call every library program an “unprogram” and there is definitely a place in libraries for detailed, thoroughly planned experiences. But there is also a place for free flowing experiences that put the objectives and outcomes in the hands of the users, not the staff. I am already planning (err..unplanning?) my next unprogram.

One additional note: I realize that not every library branch or system has an iMac to use for programming. You can unprogram with technology (try iPods, digital cameras, scanners, podcasting, gaming, etc.) or without. The important factor is the engaging experience, not the use of cool tech toys.



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  1. Jason What a great idea! This is really similar to what they are doing in Apple stores. I’m glad it was a success! The librarians from Australia were amazed at the size of some reference desks here in the US. They mentioned that they have NO reference desks. Staff float and roam and are looking up ready to help the customers.

    Keep up the great work!

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