Library Services, Summer 2018: A Memory Theater Research Journey in Search of the Truth about Forgetting

| September 8, 2018

During Summer 2018, library staff were asked to create an artifact or present a performance exemplifying the work they do and specifically had done during the 2017-2018 academic year.  Because I’ve been thinking (and blogging) about using the Smith Learning Theater as a site for instruction in fundamental library research, including key resources and search strategies, and at the same time obsessing about the concept of the memory theater as a potent metaphor for the use of the theater to promote research literacy by means of the space itself, it seemed a natural to build a physical representation of my ideas laid out on the floorplan of the fourth floor library space.  I had also been intrigued by a question posed in an EdLab seminar presented by Ruta Kruliauskaite, priorIMG_0839
to her joining the EdLab Design Team, when she spoke about her experience producing TED presentations in Lithuania; the question she asked the audience to ponder and discuss in small groups was “Why do we forget?”  The question resonated with me enough to lead to an exploration of the memory theater, and when thinking about a research topic I could use to illustrate the use of various research resources to explore multiple facets of the topic, the theme of forgetting was, like the idea of the memory theater, a natural (if an ironic one).

The following is my description of what I had hoped to convey in my year’s summative project:

This piece explores the concept of the memory theater, a variation on the memory palace, and its potential to promote and support library research the use of components of immersive theater and mnemonic techniques.  The piece investigates employing the Smith Learning Theater to convey students on a research journey and to provide the means, through spatial mnemonics (“the method of loci” or memory journey) to retrace their steps back to the resources and strategies they have discovered to be crucial to their research and to retrieve information they have themselves actively embedded in the structure of the Theater through their memory of it and of the experience.  The research area chosen for this journey is the subject forgetting–why, how, IMG_0853when, whether we forget–explored from multiple social science, science, and humanities disciplinary perspectives.  The piece intends to present discrete modular spaces within the Theater, each dedicated to the search for and use of a type of resource (books, periodical literature, reviews of research, handbooks of research, e-collections) and each engaging the journeyer interactively in the discovery process.  The memory journeyer is free to move from one modular space to another; there are, however, prompts or pathways that may lead the participant from one space to a related one or related ones.  The ultimate dynamic of the memory theater may be the enactment of the interconnectedness of knowledge and of the mechanisms for discovering and later retrieving it. 

In addition to the ultimately thought-provoking and fun assignment of putting together exhibits on our past year’s work, the Services staff continued to deliver research support and guidance to the community of library users.  The following are topics and areas of inquiry with which we provided students our assistance in individual consultation sessions during Summer 2018:

  • Leadership development post-graduation programs from Brazilian elementary public-schools principals perspective: a case study in the cities of Sao Paulo and Sobral.
  • Adult literacy stats for the U.S. since 2003, including poverty, demographics, incarceration.
  • What is the number of students who are learning English in the world? In the PK-12 context? Adults? University students? Professors? More specifically, what is the number of students who are learning English in Indonesia?
  • Teachers’ responses to students’ questions in cross-cultural classrooms.
  • Women and professional fulfillment.
  • A systematic review in the field of space physiology.
  • Nonprofit organizations and empirical research.
  • Designing a behavioral, developmental, and gamified curriculum.
  • Seeking information supporting the content validity of the Dolch sight word lists and the Fountas & Pinnell guided reading levels.
  • Teaching college students in an introductory statistics course with an Augmented Reality game, Pokemon Go, to increase their learning outcomes, engagement, and retention.

In addition, during Summer 2018 senior librarians handled 1,133 in-person and phone queries.

We responded to 423 queries of various kinds (reference questions, requests for one-on-one research consultations, inquiries about library hours and operations, questions pertaining to room reservations, circulation issues) that came to us via the library’s ticket system.

Senior librarians provided 22 research consultations to individual students.

And we presented two course-specific library information sessions for a total of 13 attendees.