Hi there, Henry here.This month’s High-Tech Highlight is a special edition for the new year. I wanted to share a fun project of mine where I took three World War II recruitment posters and updated them (via Photoshop) to help highlight some of the new technology roles that modern library staff should adopt today.
But first, some background: The inspiration for this project stemmed from a promotional graphic I created back in 2014 for TSLAC’s You Can Do I.T. (YCDIT) technology training program. For the workshop series’ logo, I updated the iconic Rosie the Riveter image from the World War II propaganda poster. Re-dubbing her “I.T. Heidi”, I made her a TSLAC shade of blue, gave her a library symbol badge, and modified her flexing arm to proudly show off an ethernet cable. For my co-worker Cindy Fisher, who spearheaded YCDIT, I fashioned an action figure to take on the road as a kind of mascot, and we had a lot of fun asking participants to flex their arm, hold up a cable, and strike the ‘Heidi Pose’ for our cameras.
Recently, I was remembering those experiences and how empowering the image of I.T. Heidi was, just like her grandmother Rosie. I began musing about similar ways to encourage library staff to embrace the new technology roles that the profession has been rapidly adopting. World War II recruitment posters, like Rosie’s, encouraged American women to join the war effort by becoming workers in munitions factories, and I wondered if the same patriotic messaging style could be updated for today’s library staff with regard to technology.
Below are three examples with this idea in mind. Note that the ones on the left are the original recruitment posters, and those on the right are my updated library tech versions.
Poster # 1: Teaching technology is a patriotic duty
“Your Country Needs You.”
The Second World War necessitated the recruitment of courageous American women to roll up their sleeves and work in factories. Their contributions and service to the country are irrefutable. Although not to serve a war effort, modern library staff also need to become trailblazers and bravely step out of their comfort zones and take on work they haven’t traditionally been involved with. To ensure the vitality of the U.S. economy, there’s a need to provide American citizens of all ages opportunities to engage with STEM/STEAM programming as well as learn computer and coding skills. Libraries are crucial community partners in this effort and a great resource to support patrons in gaining the tech skills essential to future employment and civic participation. Think of it as a patriotic duty to teach technology.
Further reading on how libraries are currently teaching technology:
- Colorado State Library’s Tech Training Curriculum for Library Staff
- TSLAC’s Digital Literacy Training Toolkit
- Digital Privacy Training Initiative based on the Data Privacy Project curriculum in Brooklyn, Queens, and New York Public Libraries
- ALA’s Libraries Learning to Code Initiative
Poster # 2: Broadband is a library service equal to books
“Get ’em to read, get ’em high speed”
Improving the literacy of a community is a cornerstone of what libraries do, and it always will be. Libraries should unashamedly continue to be buildings filled with books, and library staff should be motivated to put those books in people’s hands to read. Humanity’s future relies on it. But there’s something new added to this already successful, civilization-saving mix that can’t be denied: broadband
For my second poster, I decided to start with the traditional image of a library staff member gripping a gateway book (in my case: “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”) and gazing with determined purpose at a group of youth with whom she hopes to foster a life-long love of reading. Then I added an ethernet cable to her other hand to give it equal weight in her objective. Providing free high speed Internet has become an important and critical service for libraries. The Homework Gap is preventing children who lack adoption of broadband at home to succeed in school. Libraries act as bridges, reaching across the divide to connect patrons to the information and services they need, even if it means providing a safe, Internet-connected place to get their homework done. Literacy now takes many forms: digital, media, information, etc. And libraries can boost their signal strength out into their communities in more ways than one.
Further reading on how libraries are getting folks high speed Internet access, and what they can do with it:
- Blog post I authored “Close the Homework Gap with a local Wi-Fi Map“
- COSN’s Digital Equity Initiative Toolkit to address the Homework Gap
- ALA article: Digital Empowerment and America’s Libraries (PDF)
- ALA article: Libraries and E-rate: Leveraging Broadband to Provide Opportunity Across the Nation (PDF)
- Chapter from ALA book: The Rural Public Library as Leader in Community Broadband Services (PDF)
- Urban Library Council’s: The Library’s Role in Bridging the Digital Divide
Poster # 3: Disaster Response
“Libraries respond and provide refuge”
When disasters, emergencies, and other crises strike, libraries stand strong in their communities as anchor institutions to provide immediate support. Besides acting as safe spaces for people to share news and resources, they are trusted curators of authoritative, often life-saving, information. The free electricity, WiFi, and computer access can be a crucial life-line to those who need it, particularly disadvantaged populations. Libraries also connect the affected to essential services, helping them fill out e-government forms. They help alleviate confusion and disorientation and provide distractions and entertainment so community members can take the necessary steps toward recovery.
It’s also worth nothing that it’s not just in the event of disasters that libraries respond and provide refuge They’re fair weather friends, too, and like Elsa, cold never bothered them anyway.
Further reading on how libraries can develop disaster response:
- Current, ongoing research project involving Texas libraries: IMLS Libraries and Disasters | Blog post with project update
- New Jersey State Library’s The Librarian’s Disaster Planning and Community Resiliency Guidebook (PDF)
- ALA’s LibGuide for Library Disaster Preparedness & Response
- Recent Book Riot article: When Natural Disasters Strike, Libraries Support Their Communities
I will leave you with one more bonus poster, riffing on the idea that libraries are so much more than places to get books; they’re also communities’ technology hubs.