Peace and Love and Multimedia

March 14, 2009

The ACRL exhibit floor is usually a no-nonsense affair. Rarely do you see Elvis impersonators or talking robots, and giant fuzzy characters from kid lit are nowhere to be seen. AL Direct Editor George Eberhart at the sit-in However, when I heard that Alexander Street Press was holding a 1960s-style sit-in to celebrate the launch of its new online multimedia collection, I decided to join in and demonstrate that even American Libraries could engage in gonzo journalism (left). After providing the crowd with flowers for their hair, the bell-bottomed and headbanded Alexander Street presenters demoed The Sixties: Primary Documents and Personal Narratives, 1960 to 1974, a web-based collection that records the Zeitgeist of the era with narrative, documents, music, and video. It even has an option for users to contact the project advisers directly about submitting their own materials to be added to the collection. The sit-in only lasted 15 minutes, but the masses were energized and felt empowered to "Bring back the Sixties for serious scholarship." Another vendor that specializes in multimedia is the UK-based Adam Matthew Digital, which had a booth seven aisles away from the sit-in. One of their collections is a fascinating study of the social history of Britain from 1937 to 1965 in which academics interviewed, observed, photographed, and eavesdropped on ordinary citizens to learn their thoughts, habits, likes, and dislikes. Even their diaries (500 of them), dreams, reading preferences, cinema experiences, and the graffiti they scribbled on the walls of the pubs they frequented were of interest and recorded. The Mass Observation Online archive offers an invaluable glimpse into what life was like in England during the Depression, World War II, and the postwar era. Nedra Peterson Visuals can be a major help in conveying complicated concepts to restless students. As Nedra Peterson (right), director of the Woodbury University library in Burbank, California, explained during a Cyber Zed Shed presentation, "Students are visually oriented. Any tactic you can use to engage their attention is fair game. That's why we use film clips, pop music, and commercials to explain key concepts in information literacy for our required class in library instruction." Apparently the video and audio formats induce an emotional "affective state" in the students, which stimulates their brains and triggers recall of content later on. Peterson showed how she uses a clip from High Fidelity to introduce cataloging and collection arrangement, and a clip from The Ring to demonstrate effective research techniques (find the lighthouse) and critical thinking.