Spencer writes in the library, part 22: Library as community center

Written by: Spencer Greenhalgh

Primary Source: Spencer Greenhalgh


This episode of Spencer Writes in the Library took place Saturday, November 22nd around 2:45pm.

The Spot

Where am I working today?

Still in the CADL! One of the reasons why I came here today was so that I could practice doing observation research for my qualitative methods class; I had planned to do my observation in the lobby of the library, so I had to move from the second floor (where, as detailed last week, I was doing my book chapter) to where I wanted to do my observation. The reason that this picture is so blurry is because I get nervous about snapping pictures of where I’m working when there are a lot of people around. I don’t want to give people the impression that I’m taking pictures of them.

What’s a perk of this spot?

This actually isn’t a great place to work, primarily because it isn’t meant for working. It is, however, a great place to people watch, which would distract me from most projects but is the entire point of this one.

What’s a problem with this spot?

See above–I think I covered everything there.

What have I learned in this spot?


Oh, man. It’s easy to forget just how many services a library provides. Citizenship classes, Minecraft tournaments, free movies, computer tutorials, there’s something for everybody here. My wife and I actually don’t qualify for a CADL library card because of where we live, but we pay $50/year to hold a non-resident card, and this little visit has reminded me that that’s worth every penny, even if we’re only scratching the surface of what that card gives us access to

How would I rate this spot?

2 out of 5 dentists. (Why dentists?)

The Work

What am I working on today?

As mentioned earlier, I’m doing some observation research as practice for my qualitative methods class. I originally intended to do an observation of the graduate student common area up on the fifth floor of Erickson Hall, since that’s an area where I spend a lot of time and that I like a lot. However, I put that off until it was too late, so I decided I would go to the library and do some research there instead. I have a pretty narrow-minded focus when it comes to libraries: I want some books and maybe a place to write for a couple of hours, but I don’t pay much attention to anything else. I was curious to see how other people used the library and how it acted as a community center for downtown Lansing.

What’s the highlight from today’s work?

Boy, did I get my wish! I was surprised at how quickly an hour of observation research went by, and I was pleased to see how diverse the library experience was for so many people. I overheard conversations from people who seemed to spend hours in the library without ever leaving the front lobby, I saw some new patrons get their first CADL library cards, I saw children and adults of all ages explore the library with different kinds of curiosity, and I even saw a few people who seemed to be smuggling food and drink into or out of the building. I don’t yet know what grade I’ll get for this project in my class, but soaking in the library and community experience for a brief amount of time was a great experience that brought back all of the sappy but sincere “libraries are so great!” thoughts and feelings that got me started on this blogging project in the first place.

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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.