Lost in the Stacks

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Every Friday afternoon, from 12 – 1 PM, Georgia Tech’s radio station (WRECK 91.1 FM) hosts a show called “Lost in the Stacks“, which features music and interviews with various librarians, faculty, and staff. I have taken an interest in the show because they have been interviewing various individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting during my studies and internships. Usually, the show revolves around a particular theme (one 2 Fridays ago was “Bicycles”, for example).

Tonight, I am listening to the archive of the show they did today; this week, they have invited some librarians from Georgia State University to discuss what they do at the library, as well as what is going on at the GSU library. Ironically,  I have been a fan of GSU’s radio station (88.5 FM) since I was in middle school…they used to play strange and eccentric music late at night. And for those who know me, I am a fan of staying up late, as well as strange and eccentric things :). I would always tune into the station, and pretend that aliens were communicating with me through the music.

Anyway, weirdness aside… as I was listening to the show, I was realizing that this show could serve as a great resource for current or future MLIS students such as myself to learn about the various roles people serve in the library.  I personally think that it’s a cool idea that the library has a radio show. Of course, this is one of the many examples that the Tech library has been forward-thinking regarding library services and marketing. But having a presence on the radio station (even if not a lot of people listen to it) emphasizes the fact that there is more to libraries that just a building that houses books and journals. If anything has been beaten into my head since my intro to reference class I took my first semester of library school, it is that libraries are all about dissemination of information. Freedom of information is the rock on which ALA builds its house. However, it seems unheard of for libraries to utilize the airwaves as a means of dissemination.  A library that collaborates with student activities – intermingling with its primary user population – can serve as an effective means of outreach. At little cost, an academic  library could reserve a spot on the campus radio, which not only broadcasts within the university boundaries, but into the public as well.  Furthermore, today’s show in particular reveals that there are many facets to librarianship. Librarians are not just frumpy old ladies who sit behind a desk and scowl, but provide a diverse set of services, and come from a variety of different backgrounds.  One guest has a developed a very technical background and has taught many sessions on emerging technologies, while another guest had a marketing and graphic design background (as well as creates his own comic books).

I can think of a couple interesting ideas that libraries can utilize the radio. Similar to Lost in the Stacks, subject specialist librarians can host a show related to an interesting theme on their topic specialty…something educational, yet fun and interspersed with relevant music. Or, I can see the library present itself on the radio as an information sleuth…offering a answers to life’s commons questions. Maybe something similar to Loveline with Dr. Drew….but perhaps less sexually charged. After all, librarians are sexualized enough due to the fantasies some men have about us wearing a leopard print thong under our maxi skirts.

Perhaps the library can use the airwaves to host fascinating intellectual debates. I have a fond memory of back in my undergrad days where a faculty member hosted a debate between this ultra feminist religion professor, and the head of the religion department at crazy fundamentalist Bob Jones University (BTW, they really need to change their domain name from “bju.edu”…just reeks of pent-up sexual frustration). The debate topic? Homosexuality. I was actually so excited about that one that I wanted to sit up in the front row and bring a tarp. And I know many friends who were eager as well for the verbal jousting that would ensue. The turnout, of course, was tremendous. The library, which prides itself on objectivity,  could serve as a great debate host.

As someone who hopes to enter to profession some way, I want to keep the traditions of the library, but I also want to view it in a new light. The library is not what it was 30 years ago (anyone can tell you that), and if the profession is to survive, it is imperative to be creative to find new ways the library can connect with and serve its users.  I think as more and more people from diverse backgrounds are entering the profession, it may open up a new spin on library services that appeal to today’s user…which would hopefully help those with the purse strings to not view the library on the top of their list of programs to be slashed.

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