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Literary Lots as an Extended Learning Environment

Kauser Razvi, Literary Lots

July 2014

Thanks to everyone at Library as Incubator and the communities that supported Literary Lots last year. We're at it again in year two with a whole new theme and set of ideas to try. Which leads me to another set of questions, not only about Library as Place Maker, but also about the role of the individual in supporting and creating learning environments in our communities.

In my day job, I'm working on consulting projects with various school districts as well as other public agencies. But it's the work in the school districts that has me thinking about teaching and learning. Cleveland Public Schools has sign on the doors going to and from all the offices that reads "We Are All Educators." I have seen and read that sign a few hundred times as I've entered and exited the building. I never thought of myself as an educator nor a teacher in anyway. And, likely, in a traditional classroom setting, I think I'd fail pretty miserably. However, as I am thinking and working on the creation of Literary Lots for year two, I can't help but think of the sign on the door, "We are all educators" and think about what it means when working with multiple organizations to create Literary Lots.

Libraries are changing to meet the new demands of the public, new ways to use and expose ideas to the public, and creating new spaces in which people engage. Cleveland Public Library created Tech Central, Chicago Public Library has You Media, there are maker programs popping up all over to expose people to new technologies and methods of making things, as well as the libraries continued traditional resource driven and skill building programs. Literary Lots is a way for the Library, along with the program partners, to extend its reach and create a new set of learning environments where, not only are the program partners educators, but also the community at large becomes involved in the teaching and learning in the space. And, there is a particular focus on the power of the story. What and where a story can lead us in our learning and life are part of the principals Literary Lots is built upon.

Last year, it was great to see kids pick up a book from a sandwich boat and walk up to an adult, who was maybe their parent, a neighbor, or friend, and ask them to read the book out loud. It was wonderful to see groups of students from day cares come after lunch to enjoy story times, or writing workshops. It was amazing for me to see neighbors get to know each other in the Lot over the courses of a few weeks and share in the learning and creating process.

What I saw in Literary Lots was an example of a neighborhood coming together, around books, and think about engagement and learning in a different way. The idea of coming outside to explore books together was fantastic. This year, we're hoping to extend the learning with a wonderful donation from Findaway World and their audio books- using them in our set pieces so kids can sit and listen to books. We hope to engage neighbors of all ages in a set of story telling sessions Story Corp style where kids can talk to adults about their experiences and histories about the neighborhood, the sea and their own water adventures to match this years sea and water theme.

For me, and I think the partners, we've used Literary Lots as a catalyst to come together to all be educators in some way shape or form, using our neighborhood as our classroom and books as our inspiration

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