To Thine Own Library Be True

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Authenticity has been on my mind lately. From all the recent issues with fake news, discussions about how perceived authenticity factored into our latest election, and the continued popularity of “reality” TV, I think the topic is having a moment right now. On a personal level, I recently saw the movie Ingrid Goes West and it got me thinking a lot about authenticity and social media. The movie follows a woman who becomes obsessed with another woman’s Instagram page. I won’t spoil the movie for you, but I thought it was fascinating and I’ve been thinking about it and social media authenticity ever since. When I checked our reading list for this assignment and saw Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want by James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, I knew I wanted to read it immediately.

Authenticity focuses mainly on large companies, but it had some interesting ideas that I think can be applied to libraries. In particular, I liked a test they put forth for gauging authenticity – the Polonius Test. This test is based on the Polonius line from Hamlet, “This above all; to thine own self be true: And it must follow, as the Night the Day, Thou canst not then be false to any man [see image above].” Here is how the authors formulate the Polonius Test:

  1. Being true to your own self – Is the offering true to itself?
  2. Being who you say you are to others – Is the offering what it says it is?

Gilmore and Pine discuss this in terms of how companies talk to customers, describe themselves, and market their products. I think Instagram pages are good measures of whether libraries are passing the Polonius Test, at least in regards to their social media presence. Here are two examples of public libraries that I think pass with flying colors – one example from a large library and one from a small library:

  1. New York Public Library:
    • This page has a very interesting mix of posts – from charming pictures of handwritten reference questions they have received over the years to a timely picture of Sloane Stephens, this year’s U.S. Open tennis champion, visiting a branch. Overall, the pictures are very high quality and look professionally done. Here’s an example of an ad for their 2018 calendar:
  2. Burlingame Public Library:
    • This is a small town library. It is part of a larger county consortium for borrowing purposes, but their Instagram page is produced by and reflects the individual, local branch. Their page has a great mix of videos and images. The videos really stand out to me and clearly take quite a bit of planning and technical skill to produce and edit. Here’s an example of a post advertising their new book delivery service:
Digital image of page featuring “to thine owne selfe be true” quote from Shakespeare’s First Folio. I added a blue box in the lower left hand corner to highlight the quote. (Source:

Both of these social media accounts appear cohesive, as if created with a unified vision about who that library is and what message it wants to convey about itself. The high engagement and positive feedback their followers have provided indicate that this message is resonating well.  Polonius Test passed!

Most of the large companies discussed in Authenticity, like the Walt Disney Company, have a staff of people whose job it is to craft and convey their company’s image. It appears that the New York and Burlingame public libraries have either intentionally recruited staff who are skilled at social media or are lucky to have someone on staff who happens to be very good at it. Not all public libraries are so lucky. This could be because managers do not see the value in social media so they do not consider it when hiring, do not encourage training opportunities for staff tasked with maintaining the accounts, or do not allow sufficient work time to devote to creating high-quality content.

I think the techno-fears discussed in The Hyperlinked Library (Stephens, 2011) may play a role in libraries that do not embrace social media. In particular, I think techno-stress and techno-hesitation could be common culprits. Techno-stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed by new technologies. For people who are not tech-savvy, I think it is understandable to see the constant stream of new technology and feel paralyzed. Stephens (2011) explains that techno-hesitation arises when libraries decide not to implement new technologies, instead waiting to adopt the next thing that comes along. I have heard people say that they do not have the time or budget to jump on every new social media bandwagon.

Personally, I think libraries benefit from being involved in social media. A criticism I have repeatedly heard lodged at libraries is that they are not relevant anymore. I think not adopting technologies and not engaging in technology forums only adds to this perception. To succeed in a modern world, I think libraries need to adapt to user’s wants and needs.

To play Devil’s Advocate, I do think it’s valid to question whether maintaining social media accounts is worth the effort for some libraries. Do patrons pay attention? Libraries in some communities may and in other communities may not. Does it impact library usage or program attendance? Is there a negative impact if it is done poorly? Are there so many different and emerging social media forums that it is impossible to stay current and, therefore, not worth the investment of staff time? I don’t think there are any easy answers to these questions and if the aim is truly authenticity, then there won’t be a one-size-fits-all answer because every library is unique and has its own identity.



Burlingame Public Library [burlingame_library]. (2017, July 12). burlingame_library The Burlingame Public Library is excited to announce the launch of its new book delivery service, GET LITerature: Books hand-picked by #library staff and delivered to your home! Queue up now before the program* fills up. To find out more information and to register, you can visit the link in our bio! *For Burlingame and Hillsborough residents only
#librariestransform #librariesofinstagram #getliterature #libraries #books #animation #librarylife #bookdelivery #libraryprograms #community #outreach #🦄 #📚 #burlingame #burlingamelibrary [Instagram post]. Retrieved from

Digital facsimile of the Bodleian First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, Arch. G c.7. (September 12, 2017). Retrieved from

Gilmore, J. & Pine II, B. (2007). Authenticity: What consumers really want. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business School Press.

New York Public Library [nypl]. (2017, September 2). nypl Show your @nypl love year-round with our quote calendar, featuring architectural details from our Stephen A. Schwarzman Building and inspiring quotes about the magic of libraries and reading. Shop for this and a bunch of other literary calendars via the link in our bio. #ShoppingSaturday #librarylove 📆📚 Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2011). The Hyperlinked Library. Adapted from a presentation given at the 4th Leipziger Kongress für Information und Bibliothek in Leipzig, Germany in March 2010. Retrieved from



Podcasts, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit – and Libraries? (bonus blog post)

This week’s lecture about how technology has changed us was 100% correct. Like most of the world it seems, I have been caught up in the Game of Thrones phenomenon. Not only do I watch the show and talk to friends, family, and co-workers about it, but I read online articles about it, listen to podcasts about it, and read and participate in online forums discussing it. Before computers and the internet, these last three things weren’t an option – and how lucky I feel to be living in a time when it is possible because I can’t get enough Game of Thrones. Here’s a great YouTube video that discusses the latest Game of Thrones finale (season 7, episode 7) – SPOILERS, obviously:


What’s interested me most about this new way of consuming media though, is that I find myself wanting it for other shows and books. For example, I just started reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and I wish there was a podcast that discussed the book chapter-by-chapter that I could listen to and/or an online book club I could join (on-demand of course because I want it right now, not next month). There are a million ways that technology has changed our lives, but this one made me wonder if libraries could play a role. I’ll be looking for innovative library examples throughout the semester. And if anyone wants to discuss The Handmaid’s Tale with me, let me know.

A Tiny Sticker Can Make a Huge Difference

library books

Photo credit: Library books by timetrax2 (via Creative Commons)

While browsing books in the library the other day, I noticed that each time I picked up a book, turned it over to read the description, and found that the description was covered by a library sticker, I gave up on that book and put it back on the shelf. I was sort of shocked with I noticed I was doing this (and had been doing this forever) – Was I just lazy? Was there a reason library staff did this? Was that reason good enough to impede access to the material? If I have this response to library stickers, I’m sure other people do as well.

About a week after having this revelation, I had another related experience that shocked me. I participate in an amazing online forum for librarians. I’m routinely inspired by the members there and the amazing work they do, programs they create, patrons they help, and their general love for the field. However, on this day there was a conversation where several people shared how much they enjoy putting stickers over book descriptions on the back of the book just to mess with people. After having my revelation about how these stickers impact my use of these books – and getting over my frustration – it really got me thinking about how small things in a library (or one staff member) can make a huge difference. A couple people chimed in to say that they did not like putting stickers over descriptions, but were required to because of library policies.

This week’s material made me remember this incident and it got me thinking about the future of libraries. What are the things that libraries do that make it hard for users to access materials? How does library staff culture impact patron and library usage? The Module 3 lecture did a great job of pointing out how a “library director” parking spot or an unwelcoming reference desk can negatively impact libraries. I loved the Aaron Schmidt article because it touched on one of my all-time favorite topics – innovation and being open to possibility. I think this is one of the key issues that determine success and failure – in every realm, not just libraries. I will definitely be coming back to this idea over the course of the semester.



Denning, S. (2015). Do we need libraries? Retrieved from

Schmidt, A. (2014). Exploring context. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. Module 3 lecture.

Stephens, M. (2016). Open to change. Retrieved from`

Hello from San Francisco!

I think being a librarian has always been my destiny, but it took me awhile to get there. Along the way, I’ve been a gerontologist and a lawyer. I started my first library job about a year and a half ago. Over the summer I interned at an academic law library and this semester I’m volunteering at a museum doing cataloging. I want to figure out which environment is the best fit for me. I started the MLIS program in Spring 2016 and it’s amazing how much I’ve learned and grown since then.

In my spare time, I like to read, make art, hang out with friends and family, eat good food, watch the SF Giants, crochet, see movies, binge watch great shows, and write. I wrote a baby name book that was published in 2009, Baby Names Made Easy. If you have an interesting name story, I’d love to hear it! Fair warning, if you share a good story (and you don’t object), you may show up in my blog –

I love meeting other MLIS students, so if you live in the Bay Area let’s put together a study group or grab some coffee.

Looking forward to getting to know you all this semester!


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