Seattle Public LIbrary and Tupac
For Summer 2005, Seattle Public Library added to its book discussion groups a unique forum. Inspired by the interest and demand at the University of Washington for its course The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur, which addressed books the rapper had admired and social realities, the library adopted the readings for a book discussion group. The rap star died eight years ago and leaves behind a fanbase that continues to grow. The success of this program is an example of the practice of several organization theories covered in Mary Jo Hatch’s text Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic, and Postmodern Perspectives.
I Get Around at the University of Washington and Seattle Public Library
Georgia Roberts is a graduate student in the English Department at the University of Washington. She created the course on Tupac after realizing that in nearly every aspect of her coursework, she would find some relevance to the rapper. It had become a joke to her and her colleagues until she realized that Tupac could be a useful learning model because of his interests in politics, religion, and cultural theory. Roberts developed the course after being approached by the Comparative History of Ideas Program at U of W. Not only did the 400 level course bring together his fans at the school, but also students of business, biology, and religious studies. “We studied Tupac’s ideas alongside Nietzsche, Frantz Fanon, and other writers and philosophers and looked for connections. The students challenged each other’s assumptions about categories like race, class, and gender” (Texts and Tupac). The course quickly developed a waiting list and has been offered for the Summer 2005 quarter. Seattle Public Library saw the curiosity for the program and approached Roberts to lead a discussion group..
Seattle Library is not Strugglin’ for patrons
Hatch discusses in her book how population ecology theory permits an organization to develop focusing on the environments perceived interests and needs. This theory reinforces the necessity for user-centeredness when creating programs so that the patron feels welcome and accommodated. Successful organizations evolve throughout time to consistently oblige customers, in this case patrons, and validate its usefulness.
In addition to population ecology, one may see how postmodern organization theory applies to this program. Hatch states: “One postmodernist idea for redressing the imbalance [of power] is to give voice to silence. This means seeking greater levels of participation by marginalized members of organizations such as women, racial and ethnic minorities, and the oldest and youngest employees” (46). One may substitute the word patron for employee in this statement. This program may have sought to empower the “disempowered” by introducing literary works which had inspired Tupac.
By combining the defining elements of these theories, one may see the program’s success may be attributed to the following:
Patrons saw the program as legitimate. Participants included teachers, parents of teenagers, and fans. The varied audience represented members from inside hip hop culture, as well as those who were interested in learning more about it.
Advertising for the discussion group was widespread. Roberts’ course at the University of Washington received so much attention after a student took the initiative to post the syllabus online, that the library was able to take advantage of it as well. The poster for the program featured graffiti style artwork and Tupac’s portrait making it easily recognizable.
The reading list is composed of significant works, including: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, and The Prince by Machiavelli. Without the unifying theme of Tupac (or Roberts, for that matter), I am not sure that the program would have been successful.
Holla if You Hear Me at Seattle Public Library
It is clear that Seattle Public Library has so far been successful in making this program a flourishing one. It has been legitimately accepted by Tupac’s fans and has had media attention and praise. How can this be a positive example for our prospective libraries? I am motivated, personally, to bring my unique perspective so that I may be a positive example in encouraging patron participation.
When asked what she thought Tupac would think about the discussion group at Seattle Public Library, Roberts replied “[Tupac] says, ‘I don’t think I’ll change the world, but I guarantee that I’ll spark the brain that will change the world.’ As someone who studies literature, I’ve always believed in the transformative power of reading to spark and ignite social change. So if people are encouraged to read by his example, well, I think he’d see that as a cool thing” (Texts and Tupac).
Hatch, M.J. (1997). Organization Theory: Modern, Symbolic and Postmodern Perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.
Texts and Tupac. (Winter-Spring 2005.) A&S Perspectives Newsletter. Retrieved July 15, 2005 from http://www.artsci.washington.edu/newsletter/WinterSpring05/Tupac.htm
The Seattle Public Library: Library News Release Detail. Retrieved July 15, 2005 from