Rachel Payne Karasick


From the outset, the research plan for my time at LIL was centered on the Library of Things and resource sharing. My project was described early on by a LILer as “ILL for non-normal ILL things” and yes, true, that was the essence of the idea at the beginning. The baseline assumption being that libraries:

[try their best to get materials to the people] + [have developed smart systems to facilitate sharing] x [are now collecting wacky new things!] = resource sharing for the Library of Things 

So the original aim of the research was to figure out how we could adapt ILL for ‘things’ collections in libraries. We already share media, books, and digital resources through Interlibrary Loan — how could some of this institutional expertise inform a regional or national exchange of items from tool libraries, baking pan collections, musical instrument libraries, and maker equipment? It’s a valid question that has changed shape pretty rapidly over the course of the summer.



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Library Innovation Lab

I’ve spent a good chunk of this summer with the fine folks of the Library Innovation Lab, which is housed in Harvard’s Law Library. The Library Innovation Lab (fondly referred to as LIL) exists at the intersection of law, librarianship, and technology. The LIL team is working on solutions for libraries and educational institutions, or as their website succinctly puts it: “We build things in libraries.”


The themes and goals of LIL projects seem to careen all over the map, but ultimately support the mission and collections of the Harvard Law Library. Though with projects spanning from visualization tools for library collections to the physical construction of library talking spaces [currently manifest as a cardboard phone booth prototype], there  seems to be plenty of room to tackle more universal library problems. The lab is fueled by a mix of individuals with tech, design, data, and legal backgrounds, with some superlibrarians thrown in the mix as well. It’s a fascinating place to spend time.

This summer I’ve been fellow-ing as a part of LIL’s summer fellowship program. There are five other fellows floating around the Lab this summer, as well as three dynamic LILterns. I’d like to share more about the fellow/LILtern projects in the future, but in the meantime there’s more info up on the people section of the LIL website. I’m pretty thrilled to be spending time with this crew and all of their big thinking.

During the fellowship I’ve been working on a research project that is focused on seeing where we might incorporate foundational tenets of librarianship into emerging Library of Things collections. The Library of Things trend has rapidly gained traction in public and academic libraries over the past five years. I’m especially interested in resource sharing, collective purchasing, and access considerations. The scope of the project has veered from quite close to home (interviewing other academic librarians who support ‘things’ lending in the Fenway Library Consortium) and further afield, trying to connect with public libraries that have fully invested in robust Library of Things collections. More updates on my research and the LIL experience coming soon. Better late than never!

Juvenile Justice & ICTs

Been undertaking some serious thinks in my Social Informatics course this spring, which has been blowing my mind on a regular basis. The conversation that is happening in that classroom is what I’ve really missed during library school — specifically the critical thinking and seminar style. Having the space and time to ramble broadly in a subject area, recollect my thinking, and plunk it all into a concise paper has been refreshing. I’ve loved all of the tech training so far, but this course was just what I needed to come full circle in the MLIS program.

I recently poked around in critical informatics for a paper to frame and think through how technology is being used to shape society. I looked at the use of electronic monitoring systems as ICTs, specifically examining the unchecked rise in parole sentencing involving locking ankle bands in the juvenile court system.

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Minimum Viable Protoype

I’ve been taking an unusual course this summer: Library Test Kitchen. It’s a joint offering between SLIS and Harvard’s metaLAB, and it’s focused on designing new services, technologies, physical materials, and spaces for libraries.

Although I’m no stranger to daydreaming about far-fetched library solutions, I haven’t spent much time actually hacking apart my ideas to decide what the bare minimum deliverable would be. Since the class is only six weeks, we have been tasked with creating some sort of prototype for our final class. My plan is to design something to bring more attention to Simmons’ rad zine collection, but the idea is still taking shape. Last week I answered a set of questions that helped me think through the concept a bit more concretely.

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