Friday, August 17, 2012

The Element by Ken Robinson

This academic year, Grand Valley has selected The Element by Ken Robinson as our Community Reading Project book.  Being the good faculty member I am, I got a copy from the library and finished it in just under a week.

It's a shorter book, unlike long books selected the last two years (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and The Warmth of Other Suns) and is more educationally focused.  I really enjoyed the book, especially because it was full of stories.  Non-fiction of any kind is not likely to keep my focus for the entire book, so this one got a few points for me finishing it quickly, let alone being able to read it at all.

I really appreciated this book because of it's focus on all types of people. As someone with an arts background who is thinking about attending art school part time in the near future, it's encouraging to know that there are people out there supporting arts and other creative endeavors in education.

Not yet 20 pages in, Robinson hits you with this statement:
We place tremendous significance on standardized tests, we cut funding for what we consider "nonessential" programs, and then we wonder why our children seem unimaginative and uninspired. In these ways , our current education system systematically drains the creativity out of our children. Most students never get to explore the full range of their abilities and interests. [...]Education is the system that's supposed to develop our natural abilities and enable us to make our way into the world. Instead, it is stifling the individual talents and abilities of too many students and killing their motivation to learn. 

This isn't to say that what is taught in schools isn't important. We do need to know history and science and math. But those things are the only important things. Almost any job that is out there requires some sort of creative problem solving, a thought process easily developed through play and art.

I'm not sure that I can be any more eloquent on this topic than Robinson, but I will say that his book gets an A+. Also, GVSU gets an A+ for bringing this into the though processes of the university.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Design in Libraries

A reflection on "Appearances do matter!" in C&RL News by Nancy Fawley

A new issue of College & Research Libraries News arrived in my mailbox sometime late last week.  Typically, this publication is one that's more a browser than a reader for me.  The articles tend to be fairly short and you can get a lot out of just skimming them. This time, however, I stopped to read Nancy Fawley's article "Appearances do matter! What libraries can learn from Clinton Kelly."

Let me first say, I used to be a "What Not to Wear" addict.  I had cable while in graduate school and it was the perfect guilty pleasure.  I've learned a lot from Stacy and Clinton over the years and I think I'm definitely more stylish for having watched the show. When I saw Clinton was the closing keynote for ACRL last year, I was geeked.

Clinton's talk was fun, to say the least, and was insightful in discussing the way we present ourselves, not just in our fashion choices, but in the way we treat people, too. In seeing Fawley's article about Clinton, I was curious to read her opinions on how Clinton's advice applies to libraries.

While the article is not in depth by any means, it gives some great pointers as to why we, as librarians, should care about things like design, branding, and the visual appeal of the building. If I were you and hadn't read the article, I'd go check it out right now.

Nothing Fawley said was new to me.  I've been passionate about the way that libraries represent themselves to the people they serve for a long while. What was refreshing, however, was the fact that this is what I'm hoping to help accomplish here at GVSU in the coming year.  In less than a year, we will be moving into a new building that is on the cutting edge of library design. I'm excited for the opportunities we'll have to reach out to the campus in new ways.

This also means we have a unique opportunity to rebrand ourselves-to recreate our image. We've already started creating the approachable image through our @gvsuMaryI Twitter account.

There are many conversations that still need to occur and many decisions that need to be made before we're ready to move into the new library and a new chapter of the University Libraries as an organization at Grand Valley.   I think it will be an exciting process and am glad to know that others, like Fawley, agree that appearance is important even in the library.

No matter how many times we may say not to judge a book by its cover, we all know that we do and there's no stopping it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What your font says about you: League Gothic and Cooper Black

First off, let me say that I know not everyone has an eye for design.  I know not everyone thinks about fonts, dreaming about x-heights and ligatures.  I do, however, think that people should have at least some sense of what makes for a good font choice.

Case in point: each morning as I walk into work, I see a sign that I designed for the current "Exam Cram" event at the library, during which the library is open for 24 hours to give students a place to study through the night.

A simplified architect's lamp paired with League Gothic makes for a distinct look.  League Gothic has weight, but also a bit of sophistication to give it a more authoritative feel.  This look, even with the colors, says, "Time to get down to business."

Enter the other sign with the specific hours listed.  In Cooper Black.

While this has a heaviness to it somewhat similar to League Gothic, the contrast of thick and thin along with the playful roundness of the serifs give it a more playful, cartoonish feel.  If you don't believe me, then take a gander at where Cooper Black has been used in the commercial world:

The playful feel of Cooper Black is perfect for Garfield the Cat, especially when you consider it's heftiness.  As far as easyJet goes, they're going for that playful feel, while also asserting their presence using the weight.  Used with the emotion of the font in mind, Cooper Black can be effective.  If I were designing a cartoon book for kids or the box for a game, I might use Cooper Black.  I might even use it if I were working in a public library for an event for kids or in the juvenile section.  In the university library, however, not so much.  Cooper Black says something to the public about us as an institution that doesn't reflect who we believe we are.  

As we look forward to a new building, we're also trying to build our brand.  I'm doing a bit of research on this, thinking about what type of emotion we as an organization want to put out into the campus and the public at large.  Is the authority of League Gothic the way to go for everything here on out?  Or do we need something with more open space, something not so condensed.

Monday, January 30, 2012


I know, I'm bad at being consistent with this.  I'm thinking of scheduling time each week to devote to blogging something about libraries.

In other news, I'm going to be shifting focus in my job.  I'll be moving out to the main campus to serve as the liaison librarian to the sciences.  I'm really excited about this change and the challenges it will bring!