Speaker Series (Literacies of Contemporary Civic Life): Buffy Hamilton

Buffy Hamilton spoke on February 11th as part of the English Department’s Speaker Series, “Literacies of Contemporary Civic Life.” The title of her talk was “Metanarratives of Literacy Practices: Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies,” described this way,

How might libraries deconstruct the ideas and power relations that influence the ways they reinforce and distribute specific literacies and literacy practices to better understand their role as sponsors of literacy in their communities in a more nuanced and robust way? By using Deborah Brandt’s concept of sponsors of literacy, libraries can situate and contextualize their work to frame their work as co-learners in a participatory community of learning who can collaboratively construct the possibilities of print, digital, information, and new literacies – rather than being a paternalistic sponsor that deliberately and/or unintentionally marginalizes the experiences and literacy histories of the people libraries serve.

This first presentation was streamed live via Google On Air Hangouts. Buffy Hamilton’s talk “Metanarratives of Literacy Practices: Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies” can be viewed here: http://www.theamericancrawl.com/?p=1341

Antero Garcia had this to say about the presentation, “As I mention in the introduction to this series, I am hoping attendees (and viewers) will consider the dialogue that unfolds across these five different speakers. What intersections can we imagine in the work we do with and for young people across the U.S. today? Kicking off our CSU speaker series this week, Buffy Hamilton’s presentation ‘Metanarratives of Literacy Practices: Libraries as Sponsors of Literacies’ helped us challenge our notions of what’s possible in libraries and how these spaces should be thought of critically as ‘Sponsors of Literacies’ – building off of research by Deborah Brandt. It’s been a true pleasure getting to learn from Buffy (even if it means she’s been stranded in Fort Collins longer than she planned due to an insane season of weather). If you aren’t already reading The Unquiet Librarian, what’s wrong with you?”

English Department Communications Intern Brianna Wilkins attended the presentation, and has this to share:

“Come on in,” she said; a middle aged woman with a southern twang waved at me from inside of the room, and I immediately felt welcome amidst the crowd of unfamiliar faces. Surrounded by nothing but professors and English education majors, I had no clue what to expect from the first Speaker Series of the semester. After about five minutes the speaker was introduced by CSU’s own Professor Antero Garcia; it turned out that the nice lady who greeted me was the speaker for the evening —  Buffy J. Hamilton, a librarian at an Atlanta, Georgia high school who spoke on the topic of libraries as sponsors of literacy.

Hamilton began by using Debra Brandt’s (an English professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) ideas on sponsors of literacy, focusing on how literacy for individuals is related to the economics of literacy. Hamilton mentioned that although many students are able to use their tech savvy gadgets to download apps and be active social media users, a lot of them don’t know how to upload an email attachment. Her main objective was to get the audience to understand that students, elementary through high school, need ways in which they are actually excited to participate in gaining knowledge inside and outside of the classroom.

It was interesting to see all of the activities she used to encourage students grades K – 12th, activities that not only kept their interest but kept them learning as well. One of the neat ideas she presented was YOUmedia; a program for middle school and high school students at some of the Chicago Public Library’s. YOUmedia allows students to have access to thousands of books, laptops and desktop computers, and software programs, which increases their digital media skills. This along with other programs nationwide increase students’ involvement in educational activities that promote learning while having fun doing it.

As I mentioned earlier, there was an abundance of English education majors in attendance, but the information that was given is beneficial to anyone interested in the well-being of our youth’s education.

We were all once children who had the opportunity to go to our school library and gain access to the many resources that it had to offer, but a lot of the school library programs across the country are being cut. It is up to people like us, those who are invested in education, to step up and involve ourselves in promoting fun ways to learn so that more students are likely to engage themselves and succeed in their education.

Buffy Hamilton and Antero Garcia

Buffy Hamilton and Antero Garcia

Hamilton left me with a better understanding of how important the presence of a library is to student’s education, especially when it comes to reading and writing. I left their more knowledgeable than when I came. Plus the cupcakes and fresh fruit that were offered was also nice, and after her talk they were devoured by almost everyone in attendance.

If you’re interested in learning more on the topic, please visit Hamilton’s blog at http://theunquietlibrary.wordpress.com/.

~Brianna Wilkins

More about this series: Throughout the spring semester the department will host nationally recognized literacies-based researchers and educators to discuss how literacy and youth civic participation intersect from varying, interdisciplinary perspectives. The speakers will be presenting their work and engaging in dialogue from 5:30-6:30, followed by a brief reception. These events are free and open to the public. All of the speakers will be presenting at the CSU campus in Clark A 205.

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