On April 28th at 9:09am, Jenny Ferretti, the Digital Initiatives Librarian at the Maryland Institute College of Art, tweeted that she had published a LibGuide on Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album. The response, especially on Twitter, was astounding. In just 24hrs, Jenny’s LibGuide had over 14,000 views and her tweet has been retweeted and liked over 200+ times. The NYPL even got in on the buzz and tweeted Jenny’s LibGuide to their over 1.5Million followers. School Library Journal interviewed Jenny and wrote a blog post on the importance of building a LibGuide that unpacks the research behind the album. Providing much needed context so that users can make connections to and find references within the work.
When we reached out Jenny to collaborate on a blog post, the first thing we discussed was, “What do we want to talk about that hasn’t already been said?“. What can we add to the conversation? Jenny, not surprisingly, had some great ideas about why she chose LibGuides, the overwhelming community feedback, and inclusion with instruction programs.
Why did you use LibGuides to create your Lemonade research portal?
I’m a fan of topical LibGuides, particularly those focused on recent events and popular culture. I’m a self-identified first generation American Latina. I have a fine art undergraduate background and I’m interested in various styles of fashion, music, television, and film. My background and interests help shape what I’m interested in discussing with Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) students as the Digital Initiatives Librarian at Decker Library. I approach media and art from the perspective of an information professional. So when Beyoncé’s visual album Lemonade was released, I wanted to unpack the hour-long film using resources from publications and popular websites.
I chose LibGuides as the platform to explore Lemonade because it’s a convenient tool that supports items in your library’s catalog or Worldcat, images, and gifs (which is pretty important when referencing Beyoncé). If you know the basics of how to make a LibGuide, you could make a guide right now. I have experience creating topical LibGuides after making “Understanding Civic Unrest in Baltimore, 1968-2015.” My personal research interest in Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era helped me understand that what happened in 2015 was not an isolated incident, but would our patrons know this? I wanted to create a space that had information about the history of civic unrest, community groups, and art.
When developing the Lemonade guide, I tried to accomplish a few different things. I wanted to compile articles and resources about Lemonade in one place. Articles analyzing and sharing information like all of the musical collaborators started showing up in feeds and timelines fairly soon after the visual album was released. I immediately wanted to categorize them and place them somewhere for others to find. For example, a recent addition is the #LemonadeSyllabus compiled by Candice Benbow through online suggestions.
Beyoncé samples three lines from a Malcolm X speech in the Anger chapter of the visual album. I wanted to hear the entire speech for context. I found that speech on YouTube and added it to the guide. Similarly, the Forgiveness chapter of the visual album includes three women holding photographs of their sons. Although I recognized the photos these women held as black men killed by police, I wondered if others had recognized them, or more importantly, knew their names. I sought out context and more information about the things I saw and heard in Lemonade.
Another goal of the guide was to share what is happening in the job market. If you stuck around the for the credits of the visual album, you would have seen seven directors names and seven cinematographers. Other credits, like poetry by Warsan Shire, styling, score and other music, choreography, production design, and more were also included. We can’t be Beyoncé, but we can unpack what it took to make something like Lemonade. I’d like our students to imagine working on something like the visual album if that’s what they’d like to do. It’s not a fantastical out-of-reach dream. Like many large-scale creative and artistic projects, it took a team of people to create Lemonade. For art and design students, it’s important to see who played what role.
The applications, beyond the LibGuide, are extensive. What are your thoughts on using it during library instruction?
Before Lemonade was released, I spoke with Siân Evans, Instruction Librarian at MICA, about Beyoncé’s performance at Super Bowl 50 and her Formation music video. We were both fascinated by creative choices like the nod to the Black Panther Party and the criticism Beyoncé received and controversy over copyright. In seeking to make research more exciting to undergraduate art students while also promoting critical thinking skills, Siân developed an instruction session which included a visual analysis of Formation, a discussion of Black Lives Matter, and an active learning component in which the students responded to the Super Bowl performance by researching the Black Panther Party in the library catalog, research databases, and special collections.
I sat-in on that instruction session and it occurred to me that our students might be more familiar with Beyoncé rather than the history of the Black Panthers. Engaging students through a popular point of reference is a great starting point for education. The Lemonade LibGuide includes a mix of printed books, publications, and work from popular websites. It can be used to demonstrate differences between primary, secondary, and peer-reviewed sources, as well as copyright, Creative Commons, and more.
Tell us about the response and feedback you’re getting from librarians, researchers, and activists around the world.
The feedback has been overwhelming in the best possible way. Within 24 hours the guide was viewed 17,000 times and has been viewed over 40,000 times to date. Two weeks after first publishing the guide, the shares and mentions on Twitter have started to slow down. Most of the positive feedback has been from those who work in libraries and archives. It has been shared on Twitter, tumblr, and Facebook by people like Sherrilyn Ifill, President & Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, institutions like New York Public Library, and publications like Library Journal and School Library Journal. It has it’s own hashtag: #libeyrianship.
Honestly, a lot of the comments I’m receiving are about how this LibGuide in particular is different from other LibGuides. Many people have commented that they didn’t think of LibGuides as a space for topical exploration. Hashtags like #woke, and comments that include the word “relevancy” and overall gratitude for my having created the guide usually follow retweets and shares. A lot of people want Queen Bey herself to acknowledge the LibGuide. Funny story: the night I published it and realized the impact of the guide online, I got a phone call from an unknown number with a New York City area code. For a second I thought to myself, “Bey???” but it was just my graduate school asking for a donation. 🙂
Many librarians have told me that they’ve either talked about it in instruction meetings or have intentions of copying the LibGuide. At least one library has copied the guide completely and adapted it to fit the needs of their students (with my permission and credit of course). LibGuides have always seemed like a resource for not only library patrons, but library professionals. I search for LibGuides on particular programs to get an idea of what someone else thought was an important resource or topic to mention.
My next step as far as using LibGuides goes is to develop a LibGuide Bootstrap Bootcamp with my colleagues at Decker Library. Once I realized LibGuides is based in the Bootstrap framework (after excellent support from Springshare), I realized LibGuides could be customized if you gave a few hours of your time to learning this code.
Decker Library (@deckerlibrary) will be hosting a Twitter chat about the LibGuide and instruction on Wednesday, June 8 at 2pm EST.
Follow along using #libeyrianship and @deckerlibrary
Official Announcement Coming Soon!