Participatory Culture – There’s a Need for That

Whether you work at a public library, school library, or academic library, your users are what matters. If you have no clientele, you have no library. That said, who better to tell you what will make your library better. K.G. Schneider (2006) said, “the user is not broken” and “your system is broken until proven otherwise.” Inviting patron and staff input into your library plans is a no-brainer, whether you are planning a redesign or simply next month’s programming.

NCSU Rain Garden Reading Lounge from the North

Libraries always seem to be on the chopping block when budget crises occur. If your community (neighborhood, school, university) is a partner in your library, you will find greater support when it’s most needed. “Getting them [patrons] to participate, at any level, will go a long way towards gaining their buy-in” (Casey, 2011). Academic libraries are moving more and more books into storage and relying on online journals accessed through databases (Stephens, 2011). To that point, in the eleven courses I have taken so far in this program, I have only used two physical books (other than textbooks) for research so far. Everything else has been online journal articles and websites. I would imagine this to be true for most college students today. The amount of space that can (and eventually will) be freed up in libraries can be redirected toward spaces that accommodate user preferences. At North Carolina State’s Hunt Library, four bookBots (robots) retrieve books from beneath the first floor. The storage space “houses some two million volumes in one-ninth the space of conventional shelving.” The newly redesigned library space focuses on users’ needs from the Rain Garden Reading Lounge to the Game Lab, and was designed in consultation with various stakeholder groups (library staff, faculty, students and community members) (Schwartz, 2013).

The high school I work at is undergoing a $50 million modernization project over the next 5-7 years. The library was originally supposed to be part of the project, but due to the fact that too many other buildings were not earthquake proof, it was eliminated from the plans. Not for lack of effort. We contacted the school board and district library services to no avail. Reading all these great articles about redesigned user spaces makes me, once again, saddened that the library won’t be included.



Casey, M. (2011, October 20). Revisiting participatory service in trying times [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Schneider, K. G. (2006, June 3). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Schwartz, M. (2013, September 18). Tomorrow visualized [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2011, April 15). Stuck in the past [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://lj.library


~ by on February 27, 2017.

8 Responses to “Participatory Culture – There’s a Need for That”

  1. Hi Lori, I agree with you that no clients means no library and that having advocates for your library helps in keeping them functioning and relevant. It is also a pity that the library is generally the first on the chopping block in any organizational expansion and it is sad to hear that you may not get your library.

    • Paula,
      We have a library, but it was built in the late 1950s when the school opened and had a population of 1,200 (currently 3,200). It was remodeled in 1998, but there was no expansion, so it looks nice enough, but there is not enough room for our student population, every inch is accounted for, and there are very few outlets, etc.

  2. I am glad you made the effort to keep the library in the renovation plans. I hope for the next go round it can be updated. Perhaps there are changes you can make within the existing space that echo the inspirations you are finding here at #hyperlib.

    • I have been inspired to weed. I convinced a newly retired colleague to help out. Yesterday we took out a few hundred dusty books. More next week. At least I’ll be able to use my space better.

  3. So sorry to hear your library was nixed from the current renovation plans. I can empathize. My local public library is in dire need of a revamp and all the libraries in the surrounding cities have more modern facilities. We just got word that the city council voted to spend $50 million (a penalty payment from Pacific Gas and Electric for a huge explosion) on a new pool and recreation center instead of another plan that would have expanded the library. Local feelings are definitely mixed and I was bummed. Not even a budget crisis issue! We had a ton of money to spend on something! So sad to see a resource that benefits the entire community be looked over in favor of athletic facilities that not everyone will be physically able to use.

    • A rec center is great, but the library is so important too. Our school will be getting a beautiful performing arts center complete with orchestra pit, but I get a new security gate 🙁

  4. The library at my children’s public school has experienced severe budget cuts, so much so that the library doesn’t really resemble a library anymore. It breaks my heart that the library is now referred to as the ‘Learning Commons’, new books have not been purchased, and the librarian has been replaced by a teacher. The school board no longer sees merit in the traditional space and my children use the new space for group work. Teachers and students have been affected by these changes as they can no longer use the school library resources to access information for projects, listen to stories, or find a quiet space to read or complete homework. On the plus side, it has brought many more users to the public library where I work, as there is still a need to access books for pleasure reading or research. I understand some of the reasoning behind these changes, and that the space is being utilized for other activities, but the library was such a central part in my school experience and unfortunately my children will not have the same opportunities.

    • @carolyne,
      This doesn’t sound like a learning commons, just the waste of a good space. My district has hundreds of schools, but the elementary schools only have part-time clerks. Some middle schools have no one. Others have TLs. Fortunately, most of the high schools have TLs. The middle schools were cut back during the recession. The last couple of years, I’ve been feeling the difference in the students that have been coming up.

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