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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

 


8 Comments

  1. This is really cool! Libraries as the new dating hub (or at least meeting people hub). What an excellent idea. Do you know why your tea and technology didn’t continue? I wonder how you would convince people that libraries are trendy. Probably some kind of design or marketing approach. It seems like a great area for libraries to get involved in more.

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your comment! Re: dating hub – I can’t remember where I saw it since I try to visit the local library wherever I go, but I distinctly remember a library holding a speed dating program to help bookish people meet like-minded partners. I thought it was very innovative. As for Tea and Technology, the original program did spectacularly well, but the assistant running it left the system and it eventually fell by the wayside. Other branches tried to emulate it, but couldn’t get seem to generate as much interest. It was a shame because it was a cool idea.

  2. @ashtonv Thanks for the SPL example of ALT + Library. What an interesting example! Also glad to read about the community kitchen. I wonder if there could be more ideas for programming and use of space that are not so expensive. Maybe those things could be duplicated/replicated far and wide.

  3. I never knew that the SAC libraries had these actitivties! I’ll need to go check them out when I go visit my parents who live in the area. I really love the story time by a drag queen. What an engaging and fun library you have there! I know at least one of our branches where I work (SJPL) has a kitchen. They really don’t use it all that much, other than for the yearly Christmas party. I really think they can get some cool events going!

    • Hi Lisa –
      Definitely check them out. Glad I could spread the word! The kitchen is a great idea, and I like that we offer hands-on cooking and nutrition programs, but it IS time-consuming to maintain.

  4. I love your example of the Alt Library as a hyperlinked library model. I’ve already shared it with a bunch of librarian friends. Thanks for the food for thought.

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