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.
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.
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?
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.
- Block, P. (2008). Community: The structure of belonging.
- Godin, S. (2009). Tribes: We need you to lead us.
- Stephens, M. (2011). The hyperlinked library.
- Stolls, A. (2015). The Healing power of libraries.
- Weinberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual.