Rock On! Celebrating the Library and Learning

By Teresa Koltzenburg | From a constructivist perspective, Rock ‘n' Roll Library, a mini-video project produced by some Pitt library grad students for National Library Week (which starts this Sunday), could be a shining example of a constructivist-learning activity. "We've had a whole lot of wild experiences," reports Rick Samuelson, a twenty-something library-studies Pitt MLIS candidate, who stars in the nearly five-minute production the students completed for a library-marketing course. "Because none of us really were familiar with the technology going into it, we've had to learn the editing programs. None of us were really familiar with copyright law either."

Guitar Boy (aka Rick Samuelson) displays his Rock-n-Roll Library Card. According to Wikipedia on March 31, constructivism (learning theory) "holds that knowledge is not transmitted unchanged from teacher to student, but instead that learning is an active process of recreating knowledge. Constructivists teach techniques that place emphasis on the role of learning activities in a good curriculum."

Rick's account of his and his fellow students' trials and tribulations suggests this video-project learning activity transmitted knowledge to the students, and the students' real-world pursuit of a quality and ethical finished product helped them understand a great deal about the importance of marketing the library too.

"Just because we're students, we didn't want to fall back on that as an excuse," Rick notes, referring to the first "major" problem the students encountered. "We're getting ready for careers in this field, so we wanted to do it right."

The first big problem, he reports, led them down the copyright path; originally, the Rock ‘n' Roll Library students had planned on using snippets of current popular music for the production's soundtrack. "Well, because somebody said, 'We heard you can use up to thirty seconds of a music clip as long as it's for an educational purpose,' we thought, 'Well, this is an educational purpose,'" explains Rick.

Still, he sought expertise at the Hillman Library, consulting Jonathan Miller, whom Rick calls "our resident copyright expert." Rick says he told Miller, Hillman Library's head of public services and a member of the library's reference-desk staff, about the students' plan to use pop music for the project. "I also explained that you had spotlighted our effort and that [ALA TechSource was] going to be putting up a link to the video on [this] blog," he adds.

"The red flags went up in his eyes," says Rick. "So that completely blew up all the ideas we had, because we were going to just lift thirty seconds out of a song here, thirty more out of a song there, and string it all together. It all was going to be popular music so it would be easily identifiable and so forth. That was last Friday or Saturday, so that sent us into this frenzy of searching all over the Internet for open-source music for free, the freeware-type music."

The Rock 'n' Roll Library group's search for lawsuit-free music paid off, and the student producers incorporated a couple of good garagey tracks by Shot by Daylight (“Unforgivable Me”) and Harry and the Potters (“Vodermort Can't Stop the Rock”). Accompanying the students' search-and-find music mission was the tangible copyright lesson as well as an exercise in creative problem solving. "We spent a lot of time looking into the Creative Commons. We finally came up with suitable stuff we could use in lieu of what we had planned on beforehand," adds Rick. Stephanie Iser shares her photos from the 'Rock-n-Roll Library' shoot via Flickr.

The Shoot and Final Production
The Pitt students shot the project a week ago Friday, which "went a lot smoother than we thought it would," he reports. "For the sake of the getting the project completed, I volunteered to be the main character. And we already had our script planned out, we had the shots set up, so we brought a whole lot of forethought to that part."

Rick admits when he initially volunteered, he thought, "Oh sure, no problem," but his anxiety level shot up during the shoot. "Once I was actually there, and I had to ham it up in front of the people out in public and stuff—it was nerve-racking." Rick acknowledges too he's nervous about the project being so accessible via the Web (being a first-time actor and all), but he seems to quell his anxiety with the afterthought that it's a "sacrifice" he's willing to make for the library (his grade likely has a bit to do with it too).

Of course, no indie production would be complete without a location problem. Rick and the crew had staked out a spot in one of the libraries in the university's system, but after an initial inquiry, they were told that an "okay" would have to come from above. Concerned about their time frame—with National Library Week coming up in a little over a week (and the project due for their class)—the students took another route. "Stephanie called up the marketing person over at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and explained we needed some place to film. They were extremely supportive and excited about the project."

On Wednesday when I spoke with Rick (who worked a five-year stint at the Boise Public Library before his Pitt days) the video's editors—Stephanie Iser, Bryan Roppolo, and Dr. Chris Tomer—were completing the final edits on the four-minute-and-fifty-one-second production. By Friday afternoon, the group had the video up on the Web. You can view it at

Constructing Experiences
Both Rick and Stephanie, the two students who shared their Rock ‘n' Roll Library experiences with me, expressed their interest in working with younger library patrons and their future professional desires to help create a library that appeals to patrons with tech tools and innovative learning opportunities. “Have you heard of these forty-eight-hour film competitions?” Rick asked me during our conversation earlier this week. I hadn't. (In case you're interested, the 2006 tour is going on now. Information is available at

"Well," he started, "I think you could adapt something like that to the library, and get teens and twenty-somethings in, maybe even thirty- and forty-somethings—reeling them in with the technology,” he explained, seemingly unaware of the analog pun (and age of the interviewer). "You could get a bunch of teams involved through the library, and they would have forty-eight hours to film a video. At the very end of it, the library could show the videos and the patrons could vote which is the best video."

Like Stephanie (who is one of the bloggers behind, an Alt Teen Services Blog, which she says it still being tweaked), Rick has experience and interest in public outreach. “In Boise, I worked with the Bookmobile and doing outreach to the community in a Homebound Services program. I'm really interested in equalizing access for patron groups, and I'm specializing in services for children and young adults. My interest in the marketing was because I'd like to learn how to market the library to get more people to come into the library,” he notes.

Whether you agree with constructivism or not, it's hard not to see the value this project provided for the students involved. It's also inspiring to hear how they already have contributed, and still are (and will continue to be) contributing to the library and its future. Although it's clear these students realize the social-learning context that tech tools can add to the library (i.e., teaching patrons how to use them and/or utilizing them to market the library as a stimulating Third Place), after watching the video it's evident that these soon-to-be librarians value books; recognize the library's role as a physical space to obtain guidance, explore information, and engage in contemplation; and hope to show patrons you really can begin to Change Your World @the library.

Long Live Libraries Indeed! (Oh yeah, and rock ‘n' roll, too.)
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