Research Roundup

Miss hiding out in your university library? Tired of only reading library publications? Want to know what other scholars are doing? Once a month I’ll do the browsing for you and let you know what’s going on in the world of pop culture, sociology, literature, pedagogy, and more. If it seems relevant to libraries or young adult services, you’ll find it here. When possible, I’ll also offer some insights or suggestions on application for libraries or librarians. Revel in being a student again!

  • Contexts Discoveries, a sociology blog, says that Facebook isn’t just a tool for social interaction, but it’s a tool for sociologists to study how students create their physical social networks. With our world getting more technological every moment, it’s good to know how your patrons view their social roles and responsibilities.
  • David Darts describes how artists and art teachers have combined social justice education with art education and created street art projects that didn’t just bring art to the public but also brought the streets to the public’s eye. Posing as panhandlers, street artists, and shoppers, students “performed” the streets after a series of activities in the classroom and out including field research, interviews, and journal reflections. This “performance art pedagogy” incorporated visual art, acting, and social research and made the students more aware of street life and culture, in both its positive and negative aspects. Take a look at the community surrounding your library, and think about your teen patron base–would this be an activity for them? And would it be an eye opening one, or a validating one? How can you approach the sensitive subject of homelessness, the sex trade, poverty, and social exclusion in a way that’s meaningful for your community?
    Darts, David. “Invisible Culture: Taking Art Education to the Streets.” Art Education, 64:5, 2011. 49-53.
  • There is a lot of talk in libraries about how best to serve the “underserved,” the “low-achieving,” the “at-risk,” and rightfully so. But what about serving and supporting the needs of gifted and creative young people? Two articles in the spring issue of Gifted Child Today address these issues. One looks at legislative and legal concerns with regard to advocating for gifted programs, while the second focuses on how teachers (but also librarians!) can foster creativity and opportunities for growth for gifted and creative teens. Citing research into the personalities, histories, and work of creative individuals like Picasso, the articles stress the need for dedication to gifted teens as well, who make up about 20% of high school dropouts. Are you supporting innovation in your library programming? And do you know the laws and educational programs in place (or not) in your state?
    Fletcher, Tina Sue. “Creative thinking in schools: finding the ‘just right’ challenge for students.” Gifted Child Today, 34:2, 2011.
    Christopher, Mary M., V. Dianne Fowler, and Kyle Wiskow. “Active advocacy: working together for appropriate services for gifted learners.” Gifted Child Today, 34:2, 2011.
  • Pull up your favorite search engine and type in one of these terms: “Pro-ana,” “Pro-mia,” or “thinspiration.” What you’ll find, as researchers did in The American Journal of Public Health, is hundreds of websites promoting eating disorders. Yes, promoting, not providing support for recovery. In a study of 220 pro-eating disorder websites, researchers found interactive web spaces where members could share tips for weight loss, calorie counting, and purging. With galleries of “thinspiration” (thin celebrities and models), creative expression forums (poetry about how great it is to be bulimic), these websites are alluring and dangerous, especially to youth. Studies have shown that repeated viewing of information leads to emulation. If you have a peer support or discussion group at your branch, bring this up. Or consider adding to your collection (or displaying) materials that offer other views than those found on pro-ana websites, or even the subliminal messaging in most mainstream magazines. Offer periodicals that provide safe, healthy information on exercise and diet, display cookbooks, and make sure teens have access to popular science books on nutrition, fitness, and body image.
    Borzekowski, Dina L.G. et al. “e-Ana and e-Mia: A Content Analysis of Pro-Eating Disorder Websites.” American Journal of Public Health, 100:8, 2010. 1526-1534.
  • Shocking news: more people watch more television each year, especially reality shows. Even more shocking: reality shows influence both the behavior and buying patterns of teenagers. Okay, not so surprising. But this is when it gets really dystopian-YA-novel on us: in The Journal of Advertising Research, a study attempted to understand the social behaviors that influence the watching of reality television and identification with the shows’ “protagonists” among teens. In their findings, they discovered that teens with a high interest in popularity and physical attractiveness are more likely to watch reality television, especially shows that deal with those characteristics, like American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The researchers offered tips on how to exploit these findings in order to schedule programming, but librarians would do well to take a look at these correlations and how they might relate to the interactions of different social groups who use the library, as well as how this might impact programming.
    Patino, Anthony et al. “The Appeal of Reality Television for Teen and Pre-Teen Audiences: The Power of ‘Connectedness’ and Psychodemographics.” Journal of Advertising Research, 51:1, 2011. 288-297.

What do you think? Which topics here are a surprise, and which are old hat? If you have any suggestions of specific articles, journals, or topics you’d like to see me cover in a future Research Roundup, comment here and I’ll be sure to take a look.

About Hannah Gómez

School librarian in Northern California. MA children's literature, MS library and information science (Simmons College). Sometime scholar, sometime reviewer, sometime creative writer, always media-obsessed.
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