Saturday, 28 November 2015

Advocacy through Photojournalism

On Wednesday, I finally got to spend a book voucher a friend got me for my birthday.  Since my birthday was in July you can imagine what it was like for a librarian to have that sitting in her purse for months!  I just never made it to the independent book store the voucher was from.  Anyway, I am so pleased with my purchase.  I had a look at the non-fiction finalists for Goodreads' 2015 awards and then bought "Humans of New York: Stories" because I vaguely remembered seeing posts from "Humans of New York" (HONY) occasionally shared in my Facebook news feed.

It is just a beautiful book.  Obviously I am a bit late to HONY fandom, it has over 16 million likes on Facebook.  I have subsequently read up a lot on Brandon Stanton, listened to podcasts, watched YouTube clips...over-researched as per usual!  But I find the idea of what he does so fascinating.  He goes up to strangers in New York and asks to take their photo.  Then he interviews them and puts a caption or a paragraph, in their own words, alongside their photo on his website and Facebook page.  You get a little insight into the life of an "ordinary" New Yorker, it is captivating.

Being the obsessive librarian that I am, I immediately starting thinking about how this technique could be used in a library.  I have often heard people talk about "always carrying a camera" and "making sure you share the stories from your library" - this is a way to combine both these ideas.  It's a chance to advocate for your library through photojournalism.

This year I started a "Caught Reading" Facebook album that has evolved in a similar way to Brandon's work.  Initially it was just one photo a week of random children who were reading in the library at lunchtime.  Recently I started including a reference to the book titles that the students were reading.  The one I posted on Monday was one of the most popular this year, and was a result of me talking with my subjects a little longer than usual.

Aren't they cute?  Now that I've read Brandon's book I wish that I had been able to use a quote to make it more personal.  So that is my task for Monday - see if I can take a photo and find a good quote to go with it.  Brandon asks about people's saddest moments, happiest moments, who has influenced them the most...lovely, deep questions.  To get a library vibe I've been thinking about asking why they decided to come to the library, what they like about the library, what they are enjoying about the book they are reading, and what their favourite book is and why.  That way, I'll hopefully not only get a good quote to accompany the photo but also more insight into what students are reading and how they feel about the library.

By doing this I can also continue the advocacy that comes from posting to Facebook and hopefully build up my followers.  What parents don't love seeing photos of their children?  The more followers I get, and the more exposed they are to what is going on in the library, the more support I will have for the library from the community.  Hopefully it will also encourage our parents to come along when the library is open to parents - on Friday mornings and in the summer holidays.

I'm excited to get started.  Of course I only have three more weeks this year to give it a go, but that is OK because next year I'm going to start a new album "Stories from the Library", so that I can also show other things the students do in the library at lunchtime.  Launching a new album will be a good time to publicise our page on the school's Facebook page and newsletter.  Then all I have to do is try to be half as good as the amazing Brandon Stanton!

1 comment:

  1. We did a Humans of Southwell inquiry type thing in Term 1 this year... whilst we didn't actually complete it in the way we wanted to, it was lots of fun... and I am definitely going to steal Brandon's ideas for the library Facebook page! Such a fabulous idea... and so much good seems to be coming out of it too!