As we search for ways to improve the content of our LibGuides, it’s inspiring to look at the work done by professionals like Jenny Ferretti, Digital Initiatives Librarian at Maryland Institute College of Art’s Decker Library. When creating guides meant to connect users and resources, it’s tempting to conceptualize them as a complement to a specific class or academic program. However, by allowing ourselves to think freely about the interests we and our users might have that could be empowered by a research guide, we’re able to see how flexible LibGuides or similar software can be. We can see some of this flexibility reflected in the Bank Street’s resource guide for families of incarcerated parents, the fashion librarian’s resource guide created by the Fashion, Textiles, and Costume Special Interest Group of ARLIS/NA, the business of art guide at the University of Kansas, and Ferretti’s guide on understanding civic unrest in Baltimore.
Ferretti’s latest guide—one that pulls together the different visual, literary, and cultural references in Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade—garnered a huge response from within and outside the LIS community. Ferretti was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about the reaction to the Lemonade research guide.
Curious for more? Join the #libeyrianship Twitter chat hosted by Decker Library on June 8 at 2pm EST.
AV: What has been the best thing that’s come out of creating this research guide?
JF: IRL and URL discussions hands down. Lots of people have talked to me about this guide in person and have been very complimentary even if they haven’t yet watched Lemonade. After I give my typical spiel about why I composed it, they usually respond with something like “Now you’ve made me want to watch it.”
People in the library and information service profession have been overwhelmingly supportive, but it’s also reached people who might not have thought about the information and cultural literacy aspects of Lemonade. So far it’s been viewed over 40,000 times. It’s produced such a positive reaction online that Decker Library is organizing a Twitter chat so that we can directly interact with people who have used it in their own libraries.
AV: What do you like and dislike about LibGuides?
JF: LibGuides are great for institutions and organizations who don’t have an easy way of publishing resources and information on their own websites. If I think of an idea for a LibGuide, I can make it immediately and from anywhere I have an Internet connection. If you know the basics of how to make a LibGuide, you can figure out its other features fairly easily. I also like the fact that it uses the Bootstrap coding framework. Writing code is like writing in another language, but I find Bootstrap to be among the less complicated languages that produce an attractive product, at least from a beginner’s perspective. I haven’t ventured into anything too complicated, so maybe that will change in time.
I think one of the downsides to LibGuides being very simple to use and publish, is that it’s easy to be critical about how they look. As it goes, what we want out of websites as a user changes quickly. However, since Bootstrap is so easy to use, I feel like these LibGuides present a perfect opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, make some mistakes, and try something new by editing the code.
The only other thing I have an issue with is less about LibGuides and more about how we, the people who utilize the platform, talk about them with patrons. Saying “libguide” to an incoming freshman, for example, means nothing to them. They don’t understand what you mean unless your library really pushes this word into their vocabulary (by doing outreach and promotion). My preference is to refer to them as research or library guides. I’m absolutely not saying that students are incapable of learning what you mean by the word LibGuide. What I highly doubt is that every student that doesn’t understand what a LibGuide is will speak up in order to get clarification.
AV: I read your Medium article and loved what you said about Beyoncé “closing the gap between artist and archivist.” What do you think the Beyoncé archive will eventually look like?
JF: One of my missions in my position at MICA’s Decker Library is to close the gap between artist and archivist. As MICA alum, I know how difficult it is to gain intellectual control over your work (assets), which might include knowing which versions are the most up-to-date, file naming, and what to do with master files. I thought about this for years after graduating and didn’t know how to talk about it until I started working at Smithsonian Channel archiving born-digital video. I was doing things to archive video that artists could easily learn and should learn.
I was incredibly impressed to hear that Beyoncé’s company was looking for an archivist through library and information listservs. Obviously the archivist or archivists who have seen and worked with Bey’s archive can’t talk about it, but this is an important point to stress. Artists who show frequently domestically and internationally typically have teams behind them. When I hear a mega star like Beyoncé includes an archivist on her team, it makes me think information professionals should bring this up in order to be included in new dialogues.
It’s difficult to say whether or not the Beyoncé archive will be public one day whether in part or whole. All I can say is that I hope so. With an incredible amount of video footage, the archive would be an asset not only for the content, but also for the digital footprint it leaves behind.
Thanks so much, Jenny! Remember, if you’d like to chat more about the guide, mark your calendars for the #libeyrianship Twitter chat on Wednesday, June 8 at 2pm EST.