Library Services, Fall 2016: The Memory Theater Revisited

| January 18, 2017

During the Fall 2016 semester, library staff completed a significant number of service transactions in the following categories:

  • Research librarians and Services Associates answered a total of 1,717 in-person and phone reference
    Memory Theater Cover

    Critchley, S. (2015). Memory Theater. Other Press, LLC.

    queries.

  • Services staff members responded to  896 research- and information-related email support requests.
  • Library staff worked collaboratively with students in 95 one-on-one research consultations.
  • Librarians provided 16 course-specific library information sessions for a total number of 284 attendees.

As the library’s Smith Learning Theater has passed through many stages (figuratively) towards becoming a reality, I feel compelled to continue to seek a working metaphor that links the teaching and learning aspects of library service with the interactive and dynamic potential of the theater space.

Art of Memory Cover

Yates, F. A. (1992). The art of memory. London: Pimlico.

I’m interested in that fact that there are Library of Congress Subject Headings for “theater in literature,”  “libraries in literature,” and “memory in literature,” and I realize that I am looking for the intersection of these three concepts.  (It’s probably worth noting that there are also LCSHs for “time in literature,” “space in literature,” “mortality in literature,” and for a good number of other Big Ideas in literature, as one would expect, and hope.)

I think that a concept with real promise for connecting the notions of the theater, memory, and learning may be the idea of rehearsal. Rehearsal’s crucial role in the successful delivery of a theatrical production is self-evident, and it’s also understood to be a key element in the engendering of memory (types of memory rehearsal include maintenance rehearsal and elaborative rehearsal, about which more in an upcoming blog post).   Relatedly, rehearsal in educational psychology is understood to be fundamental to the cognitive process by which information is acquired and retained.

Library of Babel cover

Borges, J. L. (2000). The library of Babel. Boston: David R. Godine.

As in the past, my hope is that the Learning Theater can be put to use in the delivery of library research instruction in ways that truly capitalize on the dramatic, immersive, and intellectually engaging possibilities of the space.  The role of rehearsal for the librarians/information specialists delivering this instruction, as with the place of training in library instruction in library school curriculum, is, I believe, generally seriously neglected, but of real importance in our use of the theater to best advantage.  I believe also that becoming a skilled researcher entails the development of a kind of muscle memory so far as the key research practices–critical thinking, resource evaluation, analysis and synthesis–are concerned, and I think that library service providers at Teachers College should dedicate ourselves to promoting the level of research mastery that our new teaching/learning/memory theater can with best effect stage and enact through a commitment to excellence in library instruction and services delivery equal to the research fluency and acumen we aim to support.

A blog post surveying the topics and fields of inquiry on which we consulted with our users during the Fall 2016 semester will follow.  As always, we’ve been impressed anew by the scope and depth of research interests that are being investigated by Teachers College students and researchers, and I look forward to offering a sampling soon of the work with which our patrons sought the library’s service providers’ guidance and support.