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A Librarian’s Role in Sustainability

Meet Scott Spicer: Media Outreach and Learning Spaces Librarian for the U of M Libraries. For the past 10 years, he has been working in the media spaces of the libraries to enrich students learning experience in the classroom via use of media and technology. Read about the conversation we had to learn  how his work in the libraries translate to real and meaningful work in the world of sustainability.

Q: Scott, tell me a little bit about yourself!

A: I function as head of the library services program. That program has two primary services under its portfolio:

  1. Course integration of student produced media and
  2. Supporting course integration of commercial media such as independent films, documentary, and so on.

So when an instructor wants to show media we find some way to provide streaming access. I was the first media librarian at the U! The services were launched in 2008. Since that time I have been one of the primary people who works with people across teachers across disciplines. I also work with media specialists in the SMART learning commons at Walter Library and other locations. I work with instructors to develop media assignments by giving them tips or host workshops whatever they need to fulfill their media assignment. I also do on demand media consultations for when studios start to make their digital media. If they have any questions, we provide them with that support (i.e we can answer questions students have on how to use equipment etc.) We are really geared to non-media intensive disciplines. Since media studies is likely the only department to have access to their own equipment,everybody else on campus will come to us and we will make sure they have access to all the equipment and products needed. We also have recording spaces in the library as well like the one- button studios. 

Q: Tell me about how your work in the libraries applies to sustainability.

A: Over the last 12 years, I have supported over 400 classes. A significant number of these classes dealt with themes of sustainability, including SUST 4004. So, I’ve seen across the University different types of ways that the University has used media. I also applied to the educators cohort and ultimately got accepted. I’ve gone back and looked at all of these classes I have supported and pulled out 10 different categories that media projects can potentially fall into.

The Goal of this project is to inspire K-12 teachers and higher ed professors to at least consider the possibility of integrating a student media assignment into the curriculum because they force students to engage more and get students out of their seats and into the community. Students will be engaging with professionals in  a way that you cannot get from lectures and textbooks- it truly is hands on learning. Students need to engage heavily and deeply in climate change, sustainability and eco-health and the future health of the environment.

It’s actually a personal topic for me because I have a 3 year old son and I want to think about the world he will live in. (I would do it regardless though just to clarify). I am also thinking about civics for the more traditional students (18-22 years old) and thinking of the next generations- trying to inspire this generation of educators to fully engage the next generations of citizens to critically engage with the environment and sustainability. I am not an expert in science, but I am an expert on how to use media in the classroom and I have found that it really works.

Q: What is this website you’re working on? What are the projects like and how can educators use this as a resource?

A: There are different genres of assignments and they each have different purposes. The cool thing is that all of these projects are all real world examples.

I don’t know how you could create a video and not learn something. You can’t fall asleep during a video editing session. It really has to soak in because you are constantly engaging with the media content. Furthermore it is a great networking opportunity for students because many have gone on to get jobs and be hired by the people or organizations they were working with for the project (though that is not the ultimate intention).

Being able to take that subject matter and translate it for a policy maker or other academics or the general public and knowing how to do that messaging is really important. And these projects really help you know how to do that. Going through the whole process of scripting, fair use, recording, whole production process is really a valuable skill set to have and it is marketable to future employers.

The other element of working on these projects is that students have to delegate and parse out different roles and stay on your project tasks and be able to execute is really important. Dealing with interpersonal conflicts that come up during projects (for example: subjects changing mid-semester or groups lose projects etc.)

Q: Tell me about how being an IonE Educator has impacted you and helped this project grow.

A: IonE has been invaluable (Peter Levin and Beth Mercer-Taylor in specific) have been awesome in helping to support me. They have continued to check in, help with focus groups, they sponsored me to attend a sustainability educators conference and in developing educators cohort who allow me bounce ideas of of other educators. I am not an expert in sustainability, so being in the cohort has given me some context to speak on sustainability. It has been a learning process. I hope going forward, to keep working with IonE to conduct some outreach to reach out to various communities as a media outreach librarian- it’s part of my responsibility and research. I also hope to conduct some workshops in the future.

Q: Scott, what if a student or professor wants to integrate this media component into their learning experience, how would they go about that?

A: The purpose of the Sustainability Student Media Resource is to inspire, so give me 3-5 minutes of your time looking over the site, and hopefully you can get started towards a potential direction of the kind of project you would like your students to produce.  Further, instructors are welcome to contact me directly, ideally after checking out the Sustainability Student Media Project Resource, and I am happy to provide feedback to further refine their assignment according to their specific course needs.  It should be noted that while I am happy to provide some level of project idea feedback to any educator, I am typically able to provide more in-depth consultation and course support for UMN-Twin Cities instructors..

Students or instructors can email me at: spic0016@umn.edu

View the website here: Https://z.umn.edu/sustainabilitymediaprojects

The above link is just a prototype but I welcome feedback. The official website is opening in February.

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