Reflection on Hyperlinked Communities

I have a friend who moved up to Norcal last year from Southern California. She knew no one when she moved here, but has since built up an incredible network of new friends in a relatively short amount of time. Her secret was Meetup – she picked a few groups with events for young adults in their 20s and 30s to get together, have drinks, and have fun. I get the impression from many of the readings this week that libraries are shifting to fulfill a similar role in patrons’ lives – we can connect people to each other based on shared interests or traits, help them build relationships, and give them a communal space to do so. Library staff act as the initial “leader” of the tribe by planning and implementing program ideas that allow people to join up. The knitting group at Gwinnett library that Professor Stephens (2017) was a great example of this. I’ve seen other great ideas in the past in my own library system, Sacramento Public Library (SPL).

SPL has innovative programming for adults in their 20s and 30s (Alt + Library) that include trivia nights at the local bars, adult animation showings (of South Park, for example), storytimes by a local celebrity drag queen, and serious discussions about important topics of the day. Why is this such a great idea? According to a recent Pew study, Millennials are the most likely generation to use libraries today. And per Pewhairangi (2014) we need to, “become obsessed with your most valuable members”. By targeting millennials, SPL is honing in on one of its largest user groups. The wide range of programming offered to this particular generation also seems to suggest that the library took Pewhairangi’s (2014) and Schmidt’s (2016) advice of getting to know their users beyond their interactions with the library, and instead asking “people about their lives” (Schmidt, 2016).

Sacramento Public Library's Alt Library program landing page on Meetup
Sacramento Public Library’s Alt Library program landing page on Meetup
A few examples of past Alt Library events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Alt+Library events happen mostly in the downtown/midtown area where trendy nightlife is prevalent. In the neighborhood branches, SPL has implemented things in the past like the (now defunct, unfortunately) “Tea and Technology” series where senior citizens could stop by for some tea and listen to lectures about technology from professionals, then engage in discussion and question and answer sessions. It was a safe and fun social space to learn about confounding new technology. Recently, one of our branches, the Colonial Heights library, has been remodeled to contain a kitchen. Though it’s much smaller than the examples presented in Kim’s (2014) article, it has been used in the past to hold Co-Op Community Kitchen events to teach patrons about cooking and nutrition. One thing I’ve noticed, however, is that these programs can be hard to maintain. It’s difficult to “delight” our patrons continuously, and/or the time/monetary cost of maintaining these programs (like the kitchen) can be high. I suppose this is all the more reason to continue discourse with our communities to ensure that we are providing them with services that speak to them, which gives us more motivation and reason to find creative ways to fund services and keep these programs going.

Finally, Schmidt’s (2016) article had the most impact on me in this group of readings because it reframes the way we look at library evaluation and user satisfaction surveys. I’ve always had an uneasiness about the questions we normally ask patrons, AKA the generic, “What do you want to see in the library?”. I didn’t truly understand why until reading Schmidt’s short article. It’s because, when faced with a question like that myself during systemwide staff surveys, I wrack my brain for something innovative. If instead asked what I like to do, I could write paragraphs on that.

 

References

Geiger, A. (2017, June 21). Millennials are the most likely generation of Americans to use public libraries. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/21/millennials-are-the-most-likely-generation-of-americans-to-use-public-libraries/

Pewhairangi, S. (2014, May). A beautiful obsession. Weve. Retrieved from http://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/WEVE_May_2014.pdf

Schmidt, A. (2016, May 4). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/05/opinion/aaron-schmidt/asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience/#_

Stephens, M. (n.d.). Hyperlinked communities. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=7ef87729-0d46-4628-94c6-508c5b995428

 

Context Book Review: Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

I have known for a long time that I am an introvert, and during my adolescence that fact always made me feel “less than”. Now I know why. I have been wanting to read this book for a while, and I’m glad that it was on the recommended reading list for this assignment. It finally gave me an opportunity to pick it up and examine how introverts have a multitude of potential. What follows is my short review of this book and how the principles and theories found within are relatable to the field of library and information science.

Thinking about what the Hyperlinked Library represents, and what we can come to expect in the future in relation to participatory library services, addressing the needs of as many users as we can is a must if we hope to keep library organizations evolving. One way we as information professionals can do this is by understanding others’ information habits, and how we can facilitate a learning environment for different patrons. In Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain seeks to deconstruct Western culture’s preconceived notions of “the extrovert ideal” and how introverts are not “less than,” but rather have their own distinctive set of strengths (Cain, 2012).

So how do we encourage introverts to use libraries, and enjoy services offered in these environments?

Better virtual environments

As Cain mentions on her book, “the same person who would never raise his hand in a lecture hall of two hundred people might blog to two thousand, or two million, without thinking twice” (Cain, 2012, p. 63). Here, Cain intimates the idea of what possibilities a virtual environment opens to an introverted person. In K.G. Schneider’s (2006) blog post, she states that “Most of your most passionate users will never meet you face to face. Most of your most alienated users will never meet you face to face”. In response to these ideas, libraries should focus on creating a welcoming virtual environments for users that are robust, easy to navigate, and allow patrons to take advantage of a wide range of library services without having to come into the physical library if they do not have to. After all, as both Schneider (2006) and Kenney (2014) emphasize, a library’s website is the “ambassador to tomorrow’s taxpayers”.

UCLA’s library has an excellent website, which can be explored here: http://www.library.ucla.edu/#oac. I created a GIF below of one functionality that makes it so user-friendly – users can simply click through tabs on the UI to search different resources. There’s no need to use “five clicks to get to popular resources”, as per Kenney’s (2014) “poor usability” example.

Solo and social spaces

Another way that libraries can encourage introverts to participate in libraries is through the physical layout of library space. In Schwartz’s (2013) overview of the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University, one thing that stood out to me was the fact that, “The Hunt is engineered for everything from solo work to many kinds and sizes of collaborative projects up through mass events” (Schwartz, 2013). There are spaces for “solo work, or relaxation” (Schwartz, 2013), as well as configurable spaces with telecommunications and audiovisual capabilities for group work. The glass surrounding the video game design lab can also be made opaque “for designers who want to make their mistakes in privacy” (Schwartz, 2013). Introverts don’t necessarily want to avoid social encounters – they just don’t want to be overwhelmed with social interaction (Cain, 2012). In those cases, having solo work rooms, or rooms with transitioning glass like the Hunt would likely be greatly appreciated by introverts. It makes the library feel welcoming and like a safe space without being paralyzingly stimulating. Susan Cain actually participated in a Steelcase (company that sells furniture) ad that featured sample introvert spaces that promote productivity in the workplace. These can serve as a starting point for libraries when they consider redesigns or new buildings.

Understanding introverted behavior

Per Cain (2012), “Studies show that one third to one half of us are introverts” (p. 255). As such, one to every three, or every other person that walks into a library could potentially be an introvert. To make the library more welcoming to introverts, it is important that librarians recognize and understand introverted behavior, and “Remember that introverts react not only to new people, but also to new places and events” (Cain, 2012, p. 248). Librarians should be kind and open, but not pushy, and avoid overstimulating a patron by bombardment with social overtures or forcing them to participate in group activities during programs.

 

References

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.

Kenney, B. (2014, January 27). The user is (still) not broken. Retrieved from https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Schneider, K. G. (2006, June 3). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto [Blog]. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/

Schwartz, M. (2013, September 18). Tomorrow, visualized | Library by design, fall 2013. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/09/buildings/lbd/tomorrow-visualized-library-by-design-fall-2013/

Understanding the Hyperlinked Library

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the concept of a Hyperlinked Library since the start of the course (for obvious reasons). Even after perusing the course website and foundational readings, I couldn’t seem to craft a defined conceptual model of it in my mind. Knowing this, I approached the Module 3 readings with curiosity and an open mind, and was surprised (and relieved) to find that each article brought me more clarity about what it means for a library to be “hyperlinked”. So, I wanted to reflect on the readings this week in hopes that, by discussing and sharing my thoughts with the class, I can further organize my ideas and allow others to clarify or strengthen my understanding where it might be weakest. (Also, sorry in advance for the length!)

To get straight to the point, all of the readings this week had the same fundamental message: We must embrace change. As this is my penultimate semester here at SJSU, this sentiment is nothing new. I’ve taken enough classes to understand that the library world has been in a state of flux for years ever since the advent of the Internet, and even more so after the rise of Web 2.0. While these readings present the same overall theme, they give a perspective I surprisingly haven’t thought of before – technology has certainly changed how people interact with and process information, but it has also fundamentally changed how people interact with and process everything else as well. We are not the only ones affected by what Denning (2015) dubs “the disruption”. While our domain is indisputably information, libraries may be doing themselves a disservice by focusing solely on how changes have affected information seeking and processing, and ignoring changes in how people (especially the younger generation) now experience the world. As Professor Stephens (2010) says in his article about hyperlinked school libraries, “These young people are living in a decidedly different world”.

This was my first ah-ha moment. It brings to mind the many proscriptive policies that currently exist in the public library system I work for. No talking above a whisper, no food in the library, and, in some joint-use branches, no cell phones allowed until after 3pm. When Pew last checked, 92% of adult Americans had access to a smartphone (Anderson, 2015). In my Social Media and Web 2.0 class last year, I discovered from several market studies that Instagram and Snapchat, both mobile apps, were the most popular social media platforms among teenagers today. Smartphones have become deeply integrated into our lives, so why try to eliminate them entirely from school library spaces instead of, as demonstrated in Matthews (2010), using them as a way to engage our patrons?

Cellphones, Computers Are the Most Commonly Owned Devices

I’m sure there are other examples of similarly outdated thinking, such as the organizational model itself, as was discussed at length in Weinberger’s (2001) mini-manifesto against traditional bureaucracy and top-down management and Mathews’ (2012) rallying call for libraries to start thinking like startups. People these days are used to iterative, dynamic, responsive, flexible, and instant services. Bureaucracy, with its myriad policies and red tape aren’t conducive to the user-centric paradigm in which we all find ourselves now.

Schmidt (2014) recommends that, in order to remedy this and move libraries out of the dinosaur age, we shouldn’t be afraid to offer innovative, contextually-appropriate services (his example being showers in the library). Break the mold, he seems to say, and evolve. Otherwise, “when we’re closed off to concepts without examining them fully, or without exploring the frameworks in which they exist, we’re unlikely truly to innovate or create any radically meaningful experiences” (Schmidt, 2014).

And in my experience, there ARE people out there who are concerned about how far we can take this line of thinking. Take, for example, this recent Annoyed Librarian post that pokes fun at the extent to which many of these new and innovative ideas have been taken. A quick jaunt through the comments is also illuminating as many oppose the new “Library Culture” push (as it’s dubbed in the article) to “bring all services within the library and giving meaning and purpose to everyone’s lives” (Annoyed Librarian, 2017). Though tongue-in-cheek and satiric in nature, the article and commenters do bring up an interesting point – is there a line we don’t cross when it comes to meeting our patrons’ needs? How far do we take this reinvention? Is there a limit to the redefinition of libraries before they become something completely different altogether?

I think that last point is where a lot of the fear with this type of change is – are we going to lose our “essence” as libraries and as librarians? If we cater to these new trends, what separates us from a café, or keeps us from becoming some kind of glorified social services space? This is where I finally began to understand what the idea of the Hyperlinked Library is. The switch, especially in public and school libraries, to becoming a more social space with services outside of our original domain of books and information, is inevitable. We need to “delight” and please our customers after all, as Denning (2015) points out multiple times. Our role has always been to connect our users to information and resources. With the Web and the shift in thinking caused by Web culture, we can continue to do so but must broaden our conceptualization of what these resources are, where they reside, how we can present them to our patrons, and so on. The Hyperlinked Model says that we are the connectors for our customers and it is our jobs as librarians to hyperlink them to the information they need in as many ways as we can swing it, whether that be connecting them to materials, other people, web pages, hands-on experiments, or so on. It is up to us to innovate what those “ways” are, and, as mentioned above, how far we want to take it. That limit (or lack thereof) is something I’m still reasoning through myself.

References

Anderson, M. (2015). Technology device ownership: 2015. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/10/29/technology-device-ownership-2015/

Annoyed Librarian. (2017). Library culture: Dream into reality. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/blogs/annoyedlibrarian/2017/07/06/library-culture-dream-into-reality/

Denning, S. (2015). Do we need libraries? https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/28/do-we-need-libraries/#687ec726cd7f

Matthews, B. (2010). Unquiet library has high-schoolers geeked. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2010/06/21/unquiet-library-has-high-schoolers-geeked/

Mathews, B. (2012). Think like a startup. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/18649/Think%20like%20a%20STARTUP.pdf?sequence=1

Schmidt, A. (2014). Exploring context | The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2014/05/opinion/aaron-schmidt/exploring-context-the-user-experience/#_

Stephens, M. (2010). The hyperlinked school library: Engage, explore, celebrate. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/03/02/the-hyperlinked-school-library-engage-explore-celebrate/

Weinberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. In R. Levine, C. Locke, D. Searls, & D. Weinberger (Eds.), The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual. Retrieved from http://www.cluetrain.com/book/hyperorg.html

An Introduction

Hi everyone!

My name is, Ashton Vagnone and this is my final year in the MLIS program here at SJSU! I chose this course because I’m very passionate about emerging technology trends in libraries and how they are used to engage patrons with information in new, creative ways. I’m very excited to be taking this course and using the knowledge gained from it to sharpen my technological skill set and learn effective methods in using the plethora of web 2.0 platforms available.

I’m strongly interested in working in academic libraries, and have tailored my courses the past couple years to fit my interests professionally. Last semester I completed an internship at a local community college here in Sacramento. My goal is to eventually work in reference and instruction.

Here’s a picture of me this year working as an out-of-class Teen Services Librarian:

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