Spencer writes in the library, part 0: An introduction

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh

About four years ago, BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library released a video encouraging students to come study there instead of caves, showers, and wherever else we were studying at the time. I don’t have any solid statistics on this, but I’m guessing that most videos encouraging students to come study in the library have been quickly and easily forgotten. This one, however, had two advantages that have since earned it a respectable amount of mainstream media coverage and over 3 million views: First, it featured one of the stars of one of the comedy groups at BYU. Second, it was a really good parody of an Old Spice ad campaign that was popular at the time. It is definitely worth a watch:

I, like most BYU students at the time, ate this video up. Phrases like “eight out of five dentists,” “celestial sandwich,” and “I’m on a cart!” quickly found their way into the Greenhalgh family vocabulary; I haven’t counted how many of those 3+ million views I’m responsible for, but it was quite a few. I never started studying in the library, though. I liked the HBLL, but I had an office elsewhere on campus, I liked working at home, and I just didn’t find the idea of studying in the library attractive.

A couple of weeks ago, while working with one of the hybrid cohorts of MSU’s edtech master’s program, I started visiting the Main MSU Library fairly regularly. Now, BYU’s library is considered one of the nation’s best, but something about the MSU Library caught my attention in a way that the HBLL never had. I don’t think it’s anything about architecture or organization or book classification systems; I think it was something about being in a place that celebrates and tries to collect the entirety of human knowledge at a time when my career and schooling are focused on preparing me to make my own contributions to human knowledge. I had been using the MSU library’s electronic resources for months at this point, but regularly stepping foot into a place that is entirely dedicated to the preservation and advancement of what we, as a species, know struck me as an awesome experience. Being able to check books out for longer than I expected certainly helped, too.

So, I’ve set myself a goal. At least once a week, I want to spend some time researching and writing (not grading, not anything else – just contributing in my own small way to human knowledge) somewhere in the MSU Main Library. To better get to know what the library has to offer, I’m planning on exploring the different floors, wings, and rooms of the building. To hold myself accountable for this goal — and to hold myself accountable for regular writing and research — I’m going to be blogging about it. I’ll show you a picture or two of a place that I’ve picked recently, I’ll fill you in on the perks and problems of that particular place, and I’ll even (as a nod to the HBLL) rate these different spots on a scale of zero to eight out of five dentists.

I’ll also let you know a little about what I’ve accomplished there. There’s a lot of talk about blogging about one’s research, and since I hope to be doing a fair amount of writing and research over the next year, this should be a good way to stay on track and let people know what I’m up to. Blogging about libraries and research at the same time will be my way of connecting my work with the bigger picture of human knowledge — hopefully you can all get something out of it too.

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Hi there! My name is Spencer Greenhalgh, and I am a student in the Educational Psychology and Educational Technology doctoral program at Michigan State University. I came to Michigan State University with a strong belief in the importance of an education grounded in the humanities. As an undergraduate, I studied French and political science and worked as a teaching assistant in both fields. After graduation, I taught French, debate, and keyboarding in a Utah private school before coming to MSU, where I plan to study how technology can be used to help students connect the humanities with their lives. I have a particular interest in the use of games and simulations to promote ethical reasoning and explore moral dilemmas, but am eager to study any technology that can help students see the relevance of studying language, culture, history, and government.