#Hyperlib: Virtual Symposium

Greetings Tribe,

It has been a kick-ass semester learning about the Hyperlinked Library, Library 2.0, and Transparent Library models. Please check out the multi-media Google Slides presentation below for my favorite takeaways.

Present button: at top right corner of Google Slides

Remember, when you get to Google Slides, click this button at the top right of the screen for full-screen viewing and access to the embedded videos.

 

 

View Amanda’s Favorite Takeaways

Course reflection

In the vernacular of Trader Joes enthusiasts: Hyperlinked Library rings my bell!

Source: Idaho Press (2014)

  • Superior course site (info architecture, intuitive usability, relevant features, exciting design)
  • Superior pedagogical techniques (thank you for trusting me to work hard, for allowing me to draw my own conclusions)
  • Outstanding service (responsive engagement with students in a variety of formats; commitment to error-free text in modules; clearly stated expectations)
  • Instructor vulnerability (verbal scaffolding during lectures showed how Michael is thinking through the challenges of 21st century issues; stands behind and models what he is teaching; communicates his passions and vision to effectively build the tribe)

This class makes my top 4 list, alongside Online Searching with Tucker, Information Literacy with Buchanan, and Info Tech Tools and Apps with Dean. These are classes that helped me grow the most, building my confidence, skills and voice in subject areas that feel critical for my future career. I have thought quite a lot about what distinguishes these classes and I feel it comes around to original thought, concept ownership reinforcing subject authority, excellent course design and teaching abilities, and passion about being present with students that becomes so vibrant it is tangible. Ah: I forgot authenticity.

Thank you.

Reflective Practice: A Library ‘Ars Poetica’

Arriving at the end of another whirlwind semester, I find myself seeking downtime to digest all I have learned, and to decompress. Importantly, I want to create some actionable items that will help effectively bring the Hyperlinked Library to small, rural libraries. I have been busy assessing some of these and can see the barriers but not how to break them down. In a sort of library Ars Poetica (a poem about the art of writing a poem), I’m going to talk about reflective practice by way of reflecting on my most stubborn stumbling blocks.

We’ve always done it that way

Source: Brain Wads

As a new technology services librarian, I spent a lot of time mentally cataloging “what is?” I determined there was: dependency on procedures, refusal to act without permission or when expressly directed, a general and staunch fear of change, and a whole lot of “we’ve always done it that way” going on. In nearly every effort that required participation by co-workers (e.g.: engaging the new OPAC before it is released to our customers) I was blatantly dismissed. When I went to my bosses for help they shrugged—because that’s the way it has always been—and I was told to improve how I approached my peers so that they would want to complete their learning goals.

I did not understand at the time that this was an example of how workplace culture can be entrenched and impenetrable. In Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service, Casey and Savastinuk (2007) explained to me that continual change in libraries is effective when it is built directly into organizational structure (p. 44). Until all levels of personnel in the library could embrace a culture of continual change and lifelong learning, my efforts to help, educate, support, encourage, inspire, and initiate desirable change were in danger of being undermined. It was quite sad, exceedingly painful, and very real.

 

Lonely out on that limb

Source: Bouki Cuts Wood: A Haitian Folktale (2011)

In 2011, I was contracted to re-write a series of folktales from around the world. My favorite of these stories is Bouki Cuts Wood: A Haitian Folktale. As the story opens, Bouki is on an errand to cut firewood, so he climbs out onto the limb of a tree and begins sawing it off, but from the wrong side. It is clear to a passerby that Bouki will fall out of his tree, probably to his death. When I think about introducing change in libraries, this analogy comes to mind—not necessarily as a bad thing.

Radical ideas look funny. Changing the way that things have always been done is very much the experience of going out on a limb. While so many others spectate from the ground floor, taking bets on whether the fool will succeed in his errand, we may worry that we’re cutting the branch from the wrong side. Maybe we are. If it is the best solution to the problem, cut the branch–just not while you’re sitting on it. Fear of failure is not an excuse to go on doing as has always been done before. The real question we want to ask here is:

Why are you out on that limb alone?

 

Like Mariah Carey said: Make it happen

Have you ever heard of the “man of constant sorrows”? We’re over that. Now, libraries want to become the “organization of continual, meaningful change;” it should be our hallmark (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. 44). This raises questions for me. Rather than being the lone nut in a tree, how do I begin helping a library transmute its static nature into a mutable one? How do I begin transforming spectators into change agents?

Godin wrenches me free from isolation with a call to invoke the hive mind. He posits that human beings are looking to follow leaders and will choose me (read: you!) for that role if I have two things going on: 1) I have a vision and 2) my passion is contagious. The author wrote, “A movement is thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better” (In Search of a Movement section, para. 2).

Stephens (2014) challenges information professionals to write our pitch, our elevator speech (Pitching Yourself section, para. 3). Does everyone remember what happened with the sales of Prince’s records once he changed his name to a symbol? The tribe needs to know who you are, and where “we” are going. They won’t know it if you don’t tell them. Writes Stephens (2014), “If you understand where you are and you have a general idea of the direction you want to go in and can share that vision with your staff and they believe in that vision, then you need to support them and get out of their way” (How to Change the Game section, para. 3). Perhaps I’m being a bit poetic here, but stepping out of the way truly is how we step out of the ordinary.

 

 

 

From Drone! to OM: UAVs and Libraries, a Director’s Brief

Friends, I’ve said it before: I don’t want to be the first OR last to experience new technologies. Imagine my delight (fright?) when a friend and engineer appeared at my cabin door with a Phantom 4 drone under arm. As we waited out the wind conditions, monitoring them with our eyeballs and the National Weather Service website, we talked about, well, the weather. My friend was searching for tranquil conditions, and so was I ….Boy, so was I…

(Imagining this mess in my head….)

Oy vey! The first glass of wine was purely medicinal. The second, which came after my first-ever drone flight was imbued with boisterous conversation and lots of “woosh” sounds. The end result was an enthusiastic report to my director briefing him on why I believe we should make drone technology accessible through the library. I’ll share that report with you momentarily, but first, let’s talk about my experience, shall we?

We removed Phantom from his styrofoam box and began assembling the propellers. We talked about the drone’s controller. One lever causes it to move on a horizontal plane while the other moves the drone vertically. Easy, right? I was only too relieved to hear about a feature called “Sense and Avoid Capability,” which tells the drone to stop before colliding with a pine tree or telephone pole–even if I direct it to do that.

Outside, my friend checked the B4UFly app to determine whether our geographic location was a legal fly zone–hey, according to Congress, this thing is a bonafide aircraft (albeit a small one). There was an entire ritual surrounding Phantom’s pre-flight prep, including getting a tablet loaded with the software that showed us the bird’s-eye-view and told us how high or far away the drone had traveled. 400 feet, by the way, is the ceiling: here are the community guidelines, as set forth by the FAA.

My friend let the drone hover just a bit above the ground for a moment as he got himself settled and explained a few more technical details. Then, he sent the thing up–way up.

Source: Pictures.4ever.eu

Dudes… STRAIGHT UP! I cannot even tell you what it was like for me to see a thing move 100s of feet away from me and virtually right over head. My friend told me later that I was giggling the whole time. I remember giggling, but more so, I remember feeling as though my stomach had been drop-kicked.

After a short, dazzling display of Phantom in flight, it was my turn to fly. The first thing that I did was forget which lever makes the drone move vertically vs. horizontally. 11 years of college education vs. Phantom 4: Guess who won? As an aside, that moment has since defined my sense of “play” and what it is that adults seek and lack and need most from their libraries. We need to have the legs ripped out from under our Danish tables just a little bit to see what we can do with that kind of instability–that novel experience.

My First Drone Experience

I could drone on and on … heh … but suffice is it to say that this experience really solidified my understanding of the relationship between libraries and emerging technologies, as well as librarians and their communities. I totally agree that one of the most essential traits a new librarian can bring to the profession is that unquenchable sense of curiosity.

Drones: A Directors Brief

by Amanda St John and shared with YOU!

Literacy AND Creativity: The Key to the Library as Classroom

Literacy has long been a core value for public libraries. The same is true in public education. Yet suddenly, in the 21st century, both institutions are addressing how intellection in the absence of creativity severely limits our capability for innovation. To speak of the Library as Classroom, I must invoke the voice and wisdom of British educationalist Sir Ken Robinson. The global educational system that Robinson is addressing was built up around the industrial age and its needs. If his assertion is correct, then the educational models and the library models that supported that era are obsolete. We need a library that supports the information age and the rapidly changing environment that it creates.

Let’s get Robinson’s voice in the room:

 

So, 10 years ago, Robinson discussed his view that educators should embrace and explore creativity in the classroom with as much vigor as they do the three Rs. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  1. “Creativity now is as important in education as literacy and we should treat it with that same status.”
  2. “There isn’t an educational system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics. Why? Why not? …. Truthfully, what happens is, as children grow up we start to educate them progressively from the waist up. And then we focus on their heads. And slightly to one side.”
  3. “It’s education that’s meant to take us into the future that we can’t grasp. If you think of it, children starting school this year will be retiring in 2065. Nobody has a clue … what the world will look like in 5 years’ time. And yet we’re meant to be educating them for it. So the unpredictability, I think, is extraordinary.”

Do me a favor for the sake of conversation, will you? Go listen to this song. It is French electronic relaxation music by a group called Telepopmusik. You don’t have to love it; just give it a try.

Every time I hear this song, I remember that I have a body, and that my body was made to move. It’s a funny thing to be surprised and entertained by realizing that there is an entire body attached to my head, but I spend so much of my time upstairs that this really does happen to me. I am a 35-year-old woman. I knit, I write, I compute, I drive a car–I look like the number five (5), seated and bent over my work, most hours of every day. There’s nothing wrong with 5, but what about X—I want to look like an X, too.

Source: Huffington Post and Racked. Click the photo to view online.

I’m getting about this the long way, but my point is:

If across the globe we are being trained out of creativity, and we are arriving to adulthood looking like a head with feet, then re-infusing our communities with creative outlet is precisely what libraries need to do to be successful in our missions of encouraging lifelong learning. We need to take our patrons back to age 4, when they were fearless and unhindered by whether their ideas were right or wrong. We need to cultivate this in a public space so that we can be free with one another, not just in the privacy of our own homes.

In the words of Thomas and Brown (2011) in their book A New Culture of Learning, “If the twentieth century was about creating a sense of stability to buttress against change and then trying to adapt to it, then the twenty-first century is about embracing change, not fighting it. Embracing change means looking forward to what will come next” (p. 43). I think the freedom to play, to dream, to make mistakes is exactly the environment where one’s natural curiosity can unfold. I want to say to my patrons what Michael Stephens said to his students: “I want you to be curious about everything” [personal communication, 2017, April 12].

In the comments below, please share the songs that makes you want to celebrate, move your body, and dream.

New Horizons, Mobile Environments, & Fountain Pens: An Essay

Warning:

Source: Deviant Art. Title: State of Dreaming by DreamingCarol

** I am going to attempt a free-flowing post this week. It is intended to be a stream of conscious writing that allows me to express a heartfelt response to the last 3 weeks’ readings, rather than a formulated and over-considered response. In this post, I hope to allow myself a space of questioning and feeling, rather than answering and stating and asserting. **

A few years ago, I was working the information desk of a public library when a gentleman approached to ask what he had borrowed at a prior date. Our Integrated Library System (ILS) was set to eradicate borrowing histories the moment an item is checked back in to the system. “We care about your privacy,” I explained, but the gentleman was furious.

He responded, “I don’t give a god-damn about my privacy. I care what I read last week!” A few months later, because of a change in software, I could offer my customer an option to track and retain his borrowing history directly inside our online catalog.

Trump signs executive order. Source: Foxnews.com

This week in history, Internet privacy is in the news. In the words of Dave Lee, a North America technology reporter for the BBC, “On Tuesday the House of Representatives voted to repeal an Obama-era law that demanded ISPs have permission to share personal information – including location data.” The protection layer that is being repealed “would have forced ISPs to get clear permission from users to share personal data such as ‘precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children’s information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history, and the content of communications’.” By Thursday, Microsoft Outlook notified me of its updated policies regarding privacy. It essentially said I should expect none because it tracks and exploits every bit of data possible. We know it does this to make money. Greed, I believe, is the word we are circling.

I cannot remember my parents being particularly involved in politics. We were not attuned to the many debates and signatures that impacted our daily lives. As an adult in library school, the conversation about privacy and intellectual freedom has mostly been something that I parrot because I am expected to embrace these professional ethics. Yet, with more layers of my right to privacy challenged, I find myself drawn in on a personal level. The conversation can no longer be avoided; everybody is talking about it—or at least SHOULD be talking about it.

This blog post is intended to be a discussion about the new horizons available to libraries, and how mobile information environments are changing the services we can and will offer. I think we cannot begin to talk about mobile circ, app development, augmented realities, or QR code engagement until we acknowledge the privacy issues that accompany all the emergent technologies available for exploitation.

As a final brief nod in this direction, I call attention to the American Library Association’s Privacy Toolkit, and in particular the Emerging Technologies with Privacy Concerns section, which identifies common technologies (e.g.: apps, smartphones, social media) and the concerns to be considered (stores or collects search histories or personal data, etc.).

The first portion of my post today is really all to say: let us proceed with exuberance, but in an informed capacity. Let us stay aware of the whole picture. Let us tread carefully.

Now, onto mobile environments…

***

Source: Mont Blanc. Name: Montblanc Meisterstück 149 Piston Fountain Pen, Black.

Dear Luddites,

I love you. If you want to, tentatively, explore your smartphone (and even if you don’t but are going to do it anyway), I will be there to support you. Tell me what you wish to accomplish and we will discover the ways you can use technology to achieve your goals. Screw the rest!

Love,

Your librarian.

***

I’ll admit it: I drag my feet about adopting emergent technologies, even though I’m not willing to be the last one out of the gate. My parents were opposites. My mama would like it very much to have maintained a family farm and enjoyed a husband who could fix any broken thing by hand. This family would eat every big meal together and talk about their day—sans music, movies, phones and other distractions. Old school, hometown, rural America: my mom. What did she get? DAD!!!: a techno-enthusiast who was eager to invest in the newest music formats, computers, and video recorders. My dad was so exhilarated by the fact his VCR could record television programs that he developed an entire library of films—just because he could. The cases were fire engine red or electric blue and they lined the walls of our basement like 3-D tile.

This sample of three people–an early adopter, late majority, and laggard– are all present in the community my public library serves. How do I serve them all? I think Jan Holmquist makes a fair argument when he encourages information professionals to explore and be aware of what is happening in our world in order to be informed consumers. He says:

Image: Jan Holmquist, Library Journal “Mover & Shaker”. Source: Library Journal

“So when do we know when it’s a meaningful way to use technology; when do we know when technology can add something to service when we already offer or when we can make a new service that makes meaning to public and the community…in which our libraries are situated? First of all, we must know how to use technology. And, if we don’t know what a QR Code is, we’re not able to determine if it’s good or bad….”

 

I think we need to listen to our patrons. What are they asking, really, when they say: “why won’t my email work in the library?” What is motivating a patron, reluctant to adopt technology, to try this new, frightening thing even though it is painful and frustrating and not intuitive at all? … even though its corporate use, in their minds and mine, is the equivalent of strip-mining human beings?

If we probe their question, we might begin to understand that the patron wants to submit a poem for publication. In this example, the patron has a manuscript of poetry—handwritten!!—and no email address, and has not a clue how to bridge the gap between his world and the world of publication. This is where we can consider how emergent technologies might assist our patrons best, and where we clarify whether the introduction of a new technology will be successful and helpful to our local community, or not. As a public librarian, I do not serve the cutting edge; I serve the community.

In order to develop new mobile information environments for our patrons, we must climb inside their heads and understand what is motivating them to explore, what excites them about the process, and how we can facilitate a smoother journey from an information inquiry to the point of accessing the answers they hope to find. For someone still using a fountain pen to communicate, privacy is still important—as it should be for all of us.

References:

American Library Association. Privacy toolkit. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/privacyconfidentiality/toolkitsprivacy/Developing-or-Revising-a-Library-Privacy-Policy#emergingtechnologies

Lee, D. (2017, March 29). Anger as US internet privacy law scrapped. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-39427026

Emerging Technology Plan: Online Community

Source: Your Hike Guide (2013, Jan. 30)

Truth: My rural county has one traffic light, and one small public library. Some of our visitors travel 1.5 hours to complete errands, and to indulge in the library’s services. Recently, library usage has changed and we speculate the reasons are linked to the popularity of our digital collections, as well as the culmination of a successful county-wide project to bring high-speed Internet to residents. By incorporating an online community platform into our regular services, I believe we may be able to maintain the personal connection our newly remote visitors used to enjoy when visiting the library. I will share some of the details surrounding our situation and then a plan to use an emerging technology to engage our community remotely.

Continue reading

Hobbit-landia and other cross-sections between staff and the Hyperlinked Library model

Source: https://churchwhisperer.files.wordpress.com

Confession: I have neglected my duty as a library leader. With more than 10 years of experience working in three different types of libraries, and a multitude of specialized training under belt, I have neglected to strategically bring my library support staff into the conversation and up to speed on today’s public library services scene. I am still running the library clerk’s (circulation) position similarly to that of a grocer: smile, scan, and say goodbye. As a manager I must find ways to open the conversation and empower my staff to be a part of the ever-changing library community.

How much more empowering would it be if I was able to convey to my teams the scope of public library service today, the possibilities rather than the established procedures, the heart as well as the brain? Don’t we all secretly yearn to reach our community in deep and meaningful ways? This week I find myself wondering about how to make the Hyperlinked Library accessible to public library support staff.

Here are my first ideas:

1.

Ask anyone! Our library is split into four areas: staff area, circulation desk, kid’s library, and main (adult collection-slash-public computers land). Everything we do, from the division of labor and decision-making, to how we treat our patrons is based on this model. I think we would promote and use our digital collection more if it existed within the four spaces of our library.

Source: Knud Schulz’ Slideshare on Maker Culture Strategies.

Jakob Guillois Laerkes’ article on “The Four Spaces of the Public Library” makes an excellent counterpoint and opportunity for re-imagining our traditional library space in a contemporary way. Says Laerkes:

The model consists of four different overlapping ‘spaces’: the inspiration space, the learning space, the meeting space and the performative space. These four spaces’ overall objective is to support the following four goals for the public library in the future: Experience, Involvement, Empowerment, Innovation.

Boom! Cut right to it: we are missing the forest for the trees.

2.

John N. Berry III shared the exciting happenings at Edmonton Public Library and how it transformed teamwork. He wrote:

Based on retail and library models, EPL has brought all customer engagement (information services, readers’ advisory, reference, digital literacy instruction, and customer service) under a single unified Discovery Service. The idea was that customers don’t group their queries into those categories and every customer engagement is a chance to showcase services and advocate for the system. Reference interview training for EPL staff is now called “discovery conversation sessions.

As I just mentioned above, our library has an extensive list of services—many of them digital—that are not reaching our users. We could be so much better at acting as information intermediaries if we spent more time discovering what our patrons want to learn, achieve or access.

Unlock the customer’s needs and release the awesome powers of our invisible collections. It’s a win-win situation.

3.

Dokk1 library in Denmark is one of many inspirational transformation stories being discussed in library school today. This needs to be shared with today’s library teams. Check it out:

Here’s the message I think staff in small libraries need to hear: it’s okay to dream, and to dream big.

Everyone understands: our little library is never going to be an 8-story marvel the size of 10 city blocks. Still, why can’t we talk about how cool it would be if our little library, which is embedded in a community of off-grid and sustainability-conscious residents, became an earth-berm Hobbit hovel? While we are discussing Hobbit-landia Public Library, we may reimagine our underused wall space as a lush, low-cost vertical herb garden.

Summary

This post is all to say that the Hyperlinked Library, as “an open, participatory institution,” (Stephens, 2011, para. 2) is not complete until all staff members are welcome to the table, and that it is up to all who understand this to lead the way. It took me 1.5-hours to link 3 small library challenges to 3 future-thinking concepts discussed in freely available online articles that I was reading anyway. We can do this, and ‘not having time’ (my go-to reason why I haven’t done anything) is no longer an excuse.

References

Hyperlinked Communities: #PUSSYHAT

Hyperlinked communities

The hyperlinked library, says Michael Stephens (2011), is:

“… built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user involvement. Librarians are tapped in to user spaces and places online to interact, have presence, and point the way. The hyperlinked library is human. Communication, externally and internally, is in a human voice. The librarians speak to users via open, transparent conversation.”

As a rural public librarian, I am eager to embrace and enact the hyperlinked library model, yet must learn where to begin moving from concept to application. One of my favorite places to start is by finding role models and exemplars. Even Stephens (2011) identified the writings of Weinberger, Buckland, and Godin as foundational resources for the construction of his Hyperlinked Library model. Exemplars put a face to the abstract idea. I am hoping that by sharing my process of internalizing the hyperlinked library I am also providing a resource for others who wish to do the same.

#Pussyhat

The Pussyhat Project is my favorite recent example of a hyperlinked community. In two months, “two women with laptops” wanting to make local level impacts inspired national activity and national-scale community. They used Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other Web 2.0 tools to make their message viral.

Before I share more about the project, here is a word from our nation’s president:

The 2016 presidential election was one of the most divided in the history of our country. Donald Trump’s campaign was loaded with derogatory statements and actions toward all sorts of people (read: minorities). Trump believes that his wealth and fame gives him the right to do whatever he wants, including sexually abuse women. His “Grab ‘em by the pussy” comment certainly made its mark in the people’s memory.

Trump, who was elected as America’s president, brings hatred and anger to the table. (Some of) The public’s reaction to this is well encapsulated by the Women’s March mission statement:

“The rhetoric of the past election cycle has insulted, demonized, and threatened many of us – immigrants of all statuses, Muslims and those of diverse religious faiths, people who identify as LGBTQIA, Native people, Black and Brown people, people with disabilities, survivors of sexual assault – and our communities are hurting and scared. We are confronted with the question of how to move forward in the face of national and international concern and fear.“

Scheduled for January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration, the Women’s March descended on Washington D.C. It was a nonviolent display of resistance to the new administration and their discriminatory attitudes. Looking at photos of these crowds, no one could mistake the community’s solidarity. In fact, even those who could not attend the march at D.C. could demonstrate at the local level and still be recognized as Women’s March participants—the distinguishing feature being pink, knit hats.

Photo: Cover of Time magazine Source: timedot.com.files.wordpress.com

How did the symbolic pink pussyhat come about? It was the dream child of individuals wanting to make a contribution to the movement. “We are two women with laptops who started this project,” proclaimed Jayna Zweiman and Krista Suh on their blog. Jayna and Krista invoked the help of a local knitting shop owner, Kat Coyle, for the hat design. The hat had to be simple enough that even beginning knitters could make them. Together, the women developed the ultimate feminine artifact: pink (a color associated with female), knitted (traditionally a female activity), pussy (reclaiming the word from Trump), a hat (easy to see in a crowd, and a device to protect wearers against the ‘cold’).

By the time this wheel really started spinning, it activated the making and gift-giving of hats, united diverse groups of people to a cause, received endorsement by powerful celebrities and women’s movement icons, encouraged sales at local yarn stores, enticed the media to produce stories, and spawned global attention. It inspired true citizenship, which Peter Block (2009) discussed in this way:

“A citizen is one who is willing to be accountable for and committed to the well-being of the whole. That whole can be a city block, a community, a nation, the earth. A citizen is one who produces the future, someone who does not wait, beg, or dream for the future,” (p. 63).

Reflection: bringing it back to libraries

Seth Godin (2009) wrote, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea…. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate” (p. 1).

This project was not about reinforcing its leaders as such, but reinforcing each member’s sense of belonging to the community and relatedness to the cause.

I think about this: every pussyhat was handmade by a person. Hat makers could donate hats to others. The Pussyhat Project created printable tags for the hats and instructions on how to distribute them to those in need. The tags allowed knitters to share their name, location, contact information, and a statement about how this movement mattered to them personally. This provided an avenue for hat wearers to reply to the knitters. Suddenly, individual people in Washington D.C. are feeling love generated by someone in, say, rural Minnesota. They have never seen one another before(!) and yet, from across the miles, this little gesture suggests:

  • I matter
  • what I believe in matters
  • I am a part of something important
  • my contribution is valued
  • other people support what I am trying to do today

Who among us doesn’t need to hear this, to have this reinforced? I do. My loved ones do. Some of my patrons do and they are bravely willing to say so.

Often times in library school, we talk about reaching our non-users—the community of people in our area who are not using the library. #Pussyhat has me thinking about the non-users beyond city limits, county lines, and country code. Our patrons are already riding this wave; can my library peers and I catch up?

Source: Yahoo! news. https://in.news.yahoo.com/

I think sometimes in libraries we don’t move fast enough to react to the pulse of our communities. Trapped by our need to plan everything out to the nth degree, or by our perception of resource constraints, or by our hesitancy to embrace risk we stall until it is too late to be a part of what the community is already living out.

David Weinberger (2001) gets at this problem in The Cluetrain Manifesto, where he discusses his concept of the hyperlinked organization: “We often assume that complex projects can only be accomplished through centralized planning and control. It worked for building the Hoover Dam, after all. Not to mention World War II.” Blatantly, he adds, “Command and control don’t work when you’re cultivating the wilderness.”

I wish I had known about #pussyhat as it happened and that I had encouraged our library to do pop-up knitting events to connect with our public and the depth of their outrage over the current political scene. I want to embrace an attitude of ‘cultivating the wilderness’ in the way that Ferguson Municipal Public Library did when the rioting began in response to the loss of Michael Brown. Any more, it isn’t about us: the library. It’s about us: the community; we: the tribe. The deeper I delve into the Hyperlinked Library, the closer to “we” I will come.

Get involved:

References:

Context Book Report: Seth Godin’s Tribes

Source: Sameer Mathur (2015) http://bit.ly/2la4vtC

Seth Godin’s (2008) book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us is an interesting one to relate to library service. “A tribe” he explained, “is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea” (p. 1). Acknowledging our very human, millions-of-years history of congregating in tribes, as well as our intrinsic desire to break free from the bonds of rule-bound, humdrum sameness, he calls readers to take up the reigns of leadership. Godin warns readers not to confuse leadership with management; this is no top down method for allocating resources. Instead, Godin’s tribal leaders function more as guides on the side, presenting opportunities for the tribe to speak, and choices for action rather than instructions to follow. Web 2.0 and other technologies amplify the voice of a tribe allowing them to break free from the constraints of local reach. Effective tribes spawn meaningful change; they start movements.

Meaningful change is needed in public libraries today. Faced with continuous reductions of operating budgets and competition from the user-driven market, the demand for new services is evergreen. To this conversation, User Experience Consultant and MLIS Lecturer Aaron Schmidt (2010) adds:

The pervasive concept of library as commercial content provider is preventing us from adapting and evolving. Libraries will have to build a new foundation if they are to recover from these economic hard times—a foundation of valuable services, of user experience, not just free content (para. 1).

The call for constant and rapid change may seem overwhelming, improbable and risky for libraries. This perspective is easy to adopt if librarians rely only on themselves to generate ideas and results. Godin’s concept of tribes presents an opportunity to incorporate the creative powers of our users and our non-users, thereby ensuring our future library is relevant and exciting for everyone. Isn’t this our aim? Godin’s approach reflects Casey and Savastinuk’s (2007) Library 2.0 model, in which libraries embrace constant, purposeful change, and participatory, user-driven services.

Stephens’ (2011) message in “The Hyperlinked Library” echoes Godin’s Tribes. Both are centered on the importance of human connections, conversations and user participation. Both value how modern technology as a tool can expand our reach to the non-local community, gain momentum and provide meaningful, ongoing change.

Source: http://bit.ly/2lk43rk

This leads me to a practical example and personal ah-ha! moment of how these pieces come together in the real library world. About three months ago, I was setting up audiovisual equipment for a library program when a familiar face appeared in the doorway. “Diane!” I squealed, (we’ll call her ‘Diane’), “…haven’t seen you in a few months; where have you been?” Diane said she had discovered our non-fiction eAudio collection. She felt badly that she hadn’t been into the physical library in some time, but ecstatic that we had such a stellar collection of titles for small business startups.

“I just download them and listen through my Bluetooth.” Diane pointed to the hands free wireless earpiece she was wearing. “Doesn’t matter if I’m cleaning house or making a grocery run, I’m always learning something new about being a smarter business owner. It’s empowering!”

Let’s pause here to highlight two key points:

  1. I was in the library, setting up an event for people in the library, using technology designed to communicate to local audiences only.
  2. My patron, who was still a library lover, confessed she was no longer coming to the library but connecting remotely and feeling a bit lonely out there.

A chorus of library leaders’ voices champions me along the path of connecting this revelation back to Godin’s Tribes:

  • Schneider (2006): “The user is not ‘remote.’ You, the librarian, are remote, and it is your job to close that gap.”
  • Casey (2011): “The participatory library is open and transparent, and it communicates with its community through many mechanisms.”
  • Stephens (2012): “Technology extends human reach but participation requires engaged participants who feel welcome, comfortable and valued.”
  • Kenney (2014): “After all, some users—like committed digital readers—may never visit their local library or meet its staff…. It could be a decade before they stop by the library, if ever.”

To recap, Godin’s (2008) definition of a tribe is “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea” (p. 1). For my library, Diane was telling us that we were still connected to our remote users by an idea, but we needed a new way to link her, the library, and other members of the community together. Once that communication path is available, a library leader can encourage the tribe to use the platform in ways that are meaningful to them—show them that they will be rewarded, not ostracized, for being creative, nutty, and vocal.

One way we could build the tribe in this case is to support digital collections platforms that allow customer-driven reviews and thought sharing. Our competitors, Amazon.com for example, already permit this feature. But even this remains within the realm of the status quo. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to have some FUN! So I’ll throw it out to you, readers: where can we go from here?

How to start a movement:

 

References:

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. New York, NY: Penguin.

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken.

Schmidt, A. (2010). Services before content.

Schneider, K (2006). The User is Not Broken.

Stephens, M. (2011). The Hyperlinked Library.

Stephens, M. (2012). The age of participation.