There is no denying that libraries are changing with the times. While people were once (and some still are) content to sit and listen to a lecture, the more hands-on activities always get much greater attendance and generate a lot more interest. The 4th Floor at the Chattanooga Public Library, the Labrary in Cambridge, and the Idea Box are just a few examples of changes libraries are making to be much more participatory-oriented and user-focused, as opposed to the traditional lecture-style spectating experiences.
While I personally have never had the opportunity to go to any of these amazing makerspaces, I have had the great pleasure to go to EMP, or Experience Music Project, in Seattle. EMP has experience in the name, and it does not disappoint. Every exhibit you go into has some element of participation, whether it’s the interactive touchscreen quiz in the Fantasy: Worlds of Myths and Legends exhibit to discover which fantasy archetype you are (I can’t remember now, but I was either The Fool or The Unlikely Hero…), the sound booth in the We Are 12 exhibit for the Seahawks, which gives you and a partner an opportunity to try to run a play while simulating how loud the stadium is when all the Seahawks fans are cheering (hint: it’s so loud it feels like your eardrums might shatter), or recording tunes with your friends in the Jam Studio, which provides the instruments and recording equipment which you can use to make (and later share) your very own song. EMP has no lack of opportunities for creativity; the Sound Lab, which includes the Jam Studio, is one of the coolest and most participatory experiences you can have – it has everything from electric guitars and drums to samplers and mixing consoles, and the users get to play with it all!!
The point that I’m trying to make, is that participatory learning, for me at least, is a far more meaningful and engaging way to learn. The more hands-on I can be with something, the more I learn from it. I will never forget what it was like to try to run a play shouting over the Seahawks fans (my friend and I only successfully did it one of the two times we tried). When I have taken various trainings through my library system, I have retained more of what I learned when we were given time to practice than when I sat and took notes while the presenters were speaking. I’m not opposed to this, by any means. There is a time and a place for lectures and listening, but for something like reference (a training I took a few months ago), I found the mock reference interviews we did were much more helpful and more valuable than reading through the steps that are recommended. By being able to have a hand in my learning, I retained more because the more you practice, the more ingrained it becomes in your routine!
Here are a couple of pictures I have from my visit to EMP. With the Superbowl just around the corner, these seemed like relevant photos:
This is my foot compared to Russell Okung’s shoe… He apparently wears a size 17! I, obviously, do not:
And this is my hand compared to Russell Wilson’s… It looks so small!!