Reflecting on reflecting

Image of rearview mirror on 1970's model truck, reflecting the desert and skyImage Source


I’m returning to this post with the image I used in my first post as I think it’s just as appropriate now as 13 weeks ago.  As I thought about how to maintain a reflective component of my future practice, I thought a lot about this class and how @michael curates an amazing collection of important library activities and explorations around the country and the globe; and in public, private, and academic libraries.  I don’t know that I have ever had a single source provide more ideas for contemplation and consideration in one place on a regular basis.  One activity I will certainly be doing after this class and after the completion of my degree is following @michael through all his various virtual channels, checking in on this website and future classes, and hopefully attending in person presentations at conferences. 

For me, I require weekly inspirations to remind myself to stay present, stay mindful, and engage with the heart of users and librarianship, otherwise I slip into a daily grind with my head down and no real focus on the future or opportunities for potential change and improvement.  While I hope to never become an archetype of “we’ve always done it this way” librarian as I get older and potentially more crotchety; if I don’t commit myself to weekly explorations into the world of librarianship, I run that risk.  Ways that I currently keep myself open to new ways of doing things is by subscribing to library-esqe RSS feeds  such as Library Worklife, Library of the Future, and now @michael’s Tame the Web and Hyperlinked Libraries.  I also read American Libraries cover to cover, the Educause Review and the New Media Consortium’s Horizon trends reports (higher ed and libraries). But beyond keeping myself engaged in opportunities, I have to engage my colleagues as well and that can be a challenge.  To engage others with me it will require an unfailing commitment to modeling the behavior and constantly sharing my findings and asking “how do we do this here?”.  


How does one achieve this type of engagement without burnout?  Well for me, it is completely checking out for about 4 weeks a year.  Fortunately or unfortunately, not all at once!  Normally a week here or there every 3-4 months.  But I know myself and I know that I need to disconnect with work to be able to come back to it reinvigorated and refreshed.  One of those times is coming up very quickly for me at the end of year where I will have two weeks to not check work emails and not be expected to be available 24/7 for the building operations I support (it’s also AWESOME that school is out too during this time as I’ve been going at it straight for over a year at this point thanks to summer session). 

While I may disconnect from work emails, as the Reflective Practice lecture (Stephens, 2017) discussed, I don’t disconnect from technology at all and the gadgets are a means for engaging more with real life.  I typically up my personal technology use and read and read and read to my hearts content all the books I can checkout at one time from my public library.  I also socialize more online and look up DIY projects and then share my results with my online social network.  I will hike more and then post pictures from my hikes with my friends.  Some of whom yes, I’ve only ever been friends with online (from this program)!   

As I count down to this recharging the old batteries time, I am excited to explore some things I’ve cued up for personal advancement. No doubt as my life is often synchronistic, I will discover things to improve my work life and the library I so fondly call home M-F 8-5pm, and I will save them for 2018 when I head back to my library world.


Stephens, M. (2017). Reflective Practice. [Panopto lecture]. Retrieved from


Virtual Symposium

I have to admit that the last two assignments in the course really were a bit of forcing myself to take the time to learn new technologies, but it was worth it.  Yes I could have done a Prezi (I’ve done a few), but I decided to bite the bullet and try something new.  So I went with Powtoons and had a lot of fun this past week. Now  I’m already dreaming of ways to use Powtoons for employee welcome videos at our library.  Dorky, I know!  But it would set the tone of what type of library we’re trying to be and that we do have a lot of fun even while we work really hard!

Enjoy my Powtoon presentation everyone!

23 Things @Kennedy Library

I took the opportunity to utilize Option 2 for the Director’s Brief assignment and explored 23 Things in libraries across the globe.  I’ve applied the program back to my academic library at home, which is just starting a renovation project that will have us looking deeper into how we provide services.  This will no doubt impact our staff and thus, exploring professional development methods with demonstrated positive impacts in libraries is important to me and my management team.

I’ve chosen to create a flipbook presentation for this assignment and I hope you enjoy the format!

PDF of Director's Brief

You can also view the  pdf file

Yes, and….

Devil’s advocates need not apply

As I was listening to the Library as a Classroom (Stephens, 2017) lecture this week, the devil’s advocate component reminded me of a phrase that is more productive.  That phrase is “yes, and…” rather than “no, but…” or “let me play devil’s advocate”.  In conjunction with this flip on devil’s advocate, asking people to bring solutions is an excellent tool and one I’ve been actively trying to train my staff on for a few years now.  When someone comes to me with a complaint or is being a naysayer, I will frequently ask them to remember I am happy to hear their concerns around issues, but don’t bring me a problem without an idea for a solution.  Partially this is because I cannot default to the manager who fixes everything for everyone or I will never get anything done, but this also provides people with the opportunity to think bigger picture and gain some skills in this area.  An area that is key as libraries rapidly innovate and we need library staff to have the skills to be flexible, forward thinking, and innovative.  Depending on the top to provide direction means we’re going to miss things that are really important to our patrons.  Many that the “top” don’t have daily interaction with.  I can’t support the library’s patrons and drive new services if I don’t have staff helping me create programs and services.  Devil’s advocates need not apply as they are not leading the library forward, but instead holding us back.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

So now we’ve thrown out the devil’s advocates.  What now?  Libraries are really trying to think of new services and programs to provide for their patrons, but there are so many amazing examples out there already and it is perfectly okay to copy!  I often feel that libraries are worried about staying relevant and in turn, don’t innovate out of fear that whatever they begin offering will not be relevant or will be replaced by a newer technology days after it’s introduction.  As Greenwalt (2013) says in Embracing the Long Game “Will all of these new ideas succeed? Of course not. It wouldn’t be library science without a little experimentation, and some of those experiments are going to fail. But occasionally, an idea is going to succeed. And when it does, it creates an opportunity to reshape the notion of what our libraries can do.”  And what libraries do well is meet our users where they need us.  As our lecture this week discusses, not offering a new technology learning opportunity because we’re still teaching people how to use basic technology is not an excuse.  We will always be teaching technology basics, and we should continue to do so right alongside newer technology skills.  This is how we evolve in the rapid changing technological world.

Now I know I’m a minority in this course in working in an academic library and many of the readings are public library focused, but I do think there are ways both can use each other’s services and programs effectively to support their user’s unique needs.  One of the 8 Awesome Ways Libraries Are Making Learning Fun caught my eye for my academic library.  The Supper Club at Madison Public Library where parents are able to have dinner with a librarian and learn about kids apps and how to integrate them into learning and activities at home is completely transferable to my academic library (Lloyd Bookey, 2015).  My university’s motto is Learn by Doing, so we’re big on getting our hands dirty, peer to peer learning, and exploring.  The students I interact with are really engaged, they dive right in and provide their input, and in general are outgoing and personable.  I could see my library hosting a supper club where students share with other students the different apps they use for academics, time management, personal finances, etc.  Us librarians don’t necessarily need to be the teachers in this event, but organizing it is something we can definitely get behind. “[Users] want help doing things, rather than finding things” (Kenney, 2015, What Patrons Want section, para 1).  Organizing and holding this type of peer to peer learning opportunity in the library makes complete sense, as we’re the gathering place for students for studying, relaxation, and socializing.  All things really good apps can help improve your experience around!

Finding new methods

I want to turn now to the more traditional academic librarian focuses of pedagogy and curriculum support.  While I appreciated Lippincott’s (2015) ideas around integrating librarians into the pedagogy and curriculum within universities, the challenge many university libraries face is around sufficient librarian staffing.  My library in particular has a librarian to student ratio that so high that it is absolutely impossible for any one college librarian to reach even 1/4 of the students in their college, never mind work with more than a handful of faculty to develop the type of integration into assignments Lippincott (2015) is suggesting.

Yes, and (see what I did there, I bet you thought I was going to play devil’s advocate!) this means we cannot stick to the old model of one college librarian to all of one colleges students and faculty.  Not in person. Similar to how Kenney (2015) suggests we must change the reference model to meet our users wants, we must change our instruction and curriculum integration models to meet our student and faculty wants.  We must leverage and explore technology to spread ourselves wider across the curriculum without sacrificing our expertise and individual support. 

What does this look like?  I’m not sure. But you can be sure when someone proposes the idea to me, my response will be “yes, and…”


Greenwalt, T. (2013, February 21). Embracing the long game. Public Libraries Online. Retrieved from

Kenney, B. (2015, September 11). Where reference fits in the modern library. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from

Lloyd Bookeye, J. (2015, June 29). 8 Awesome Ways Libraries Are Making Learning Fun. Huffington Post [blog post]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2017). The Hyperlinked library: Library as a classroom. [Panopto lecture]. Retrieved from

IoT and improving library UX

As I read Borowicz’s (2014) article on changing the narrative around the Internet of Things, something the library I work at came to mind.  Right now we have digital maps in the building that tell people how many seats are available on specific floors, to help guide our users to a location that is available for studying.  As the number one complaint we receive is that there is not enough study space in our building, developing this was a no brainer, and something we thought would be highly useful (more on that later). 

Version 1.0

So, how do we do it?  We do it through the Things connected to the Internet…and our users have no idea.  Just as Borowicz (2014) suggests, people are not thinking about the “Things” they already have in their pockets that are connected to the “Internet”.  We use the WiFI connection data to identify where in the building are users are, and then feed that into our digital maps (it’s much more complex than this, but I had nothing to do with writing the code!).  What I find most interesting in this entire service is that most students still don’t use it.  Good old fashion walking the building usually wins out in finding a study space.  So while this service appeared initially to be in line with Borowicz’s (2014) suggestion – “The point is creating a structure for gathering and processing data from all those devices, giving access to them to developers and building meaningful services that provide real value to the users on top of that structure.”,  we haven’t yet identified how to get this information to the users at the time they are searching for it.  But I have no doubt we’ll figure out how to improve this service, once technology provides us the vehicle.

Version 2.0

So let’s start thinking about what that new technology could look like.  I’m envisioning some “push notifications” that could be developed to notify our users when they walk in the building to locations that are less busy based on their study preferences.  With many people already comfortable with giving up some privacy in order to receive information, could this be an area the library could pursue if we consider our foundational ethics first when developing the service?  Could we set some standards around data privacy that could be shared back with the tech industry and begin to broaden our privacy values to a larger population?  Could we develop something that wouldn’t require a “user agreement” that no one reads and just clicks “agree” to, but instead informs our users in clear language what using our service means for their personal privacy?  And finally, could we develop something that barely infringes on privacy, but provides an enormous benefit?  

“These are important issues for us in the profession, and we need to make sure that we are both educating our users about what’s happening in the wider world, and being good stewards of our own data.”

Ken Varnum, Web Systems Manager, University of Michigan Library (OCLC, 2015)

While I’m not a programmer and I have absolutely no idea how my library could assign resources to develop something like this, I do know our university’s motto is Learn by Doing and that this could be an excellent senior project idea for a computer science major.  I can dream at least (and hope I receive credit should someone read this post and have the resources to make it happen!) 


Borowicz, W. (2014, July 19). Why the Internet of Things narrative has to change. The Next Web. Retrieved from

OCLC (2015). Libraries and the Internet of Things (IoT). NextSpace: The OCLC Newsletter, 24. Retrieved from



Emerging Technology Plan – Feedback 2.0

Feedback Cycle: Solicit - Review - Respond - Improve

Libraries must continually evaluate services, procedures, staffing, and other library operations, and make changes whenever necessary, in the hopes of making the library better for both the organization and its customers.

(Casey and Savastinuk, 2007, p. 14)

Plan Objective

The objective for this plan is to form a library taskforce (Feedback 2.0) that will explore, research, and develop a cycled approach to creating a formal feedback system, aka what Connaway (2015) calls a user-centered assessment.  Within this cycle, each stage will have sub-objectives:

  1. Soliciting feedback from our users
  2. Regularly reviewing the feedback
  3. Responding timely to feedback
  4. Systematically and strategically implementing new services based on feedback

The impetus behind this plan came from both the insights in this course, and ironically, an email that was sent through our primary (and practically only) regular feedback collection method, the Kennedy Library’s email address.  A librarian at UNC Wilmington sent a request for more information about the methods we use to compile, respond, and track complaints.  True, while most feedback that comes into this email address is a complaint of some type, if we were more user centric in our feedback mechanisms and in turn made improvements based on feedback that came in no matter the size or frequency, would we begin to see a shift in the type of feedback we receive?  Would it become more valuable and drive us into thinking more futuristically about our services and in turn be user-centered?

Kennedy Library’s Community

The Robert E. Kennedy Library serves the Cal Poly student population of just over 20,000.  The building is over 30 years old and was built in the time when the student body was less than half of what it is now, collections were physical, and having food could get you kicked out.  Over these thirty years, users expectations have evolved around technology, the physical building, and the library’s services.

However, the only new additions to our feedback system include a generic email address and various social media accounts, both which still require the person providing the feedback to provide their personal contact information, which may dissuade some users from providing feedback.  The only anonymous feedback mechanism we have is the very sad feedback box at the front desk, and our annual online satisfaction survey.  None of these mechanisms has a component built in for reviewing the feedback, responding to the feedback, and evaluating the feedback for trends to make improvements for our users.  Our community deserves better from the 2014 ACRL Excellence in Academic Libraries winner!

As Pewrainangi (2014) urges us, we should focus on the most valuable constituent group to us.  The community that is most valuable to provide us meaningful feedback are our library fans.  These are the users that <3 us, post about being at the library on their social media accounts, follow and share of our social media posts, engage with us in comments, and attend our events regularly.  This is the community to engage with for obtaining honest feedback that is meaningful and will help us to become even better.

Action Brief Statement

There are two groups to obtain buy-in from for this plan:

Convince the Cal Poly student community that by providing the library feedback on their experiences they will be valued for their contributions, which will improve the services the library provides because they are directly relevant to our community.

Convince library management that by creating a dedicated taskforce that develops a feedback cycle mechanism they will help develop a culture of continual improvement, which will ensure the library will receive campus funding because it is actively striving to ensure it provides the most relevant and needed services to the campus student body.

Supporting Evidence and Resources

Soliciting Feedback

MIT Library Idea Bank

Asking the right User Experience Questions

Library evolution & design

Identifying community interest in items available for loan

Reviewing Feedback

User-Centered Assessment – Research by OCLC

Measuring and evaluating progress with library services

Responding to Feedback

How to earn your users trust with your service evaluation

Improve using Feedback

Anythink Library Strategic Initiative 3 – We Understand and Collaborate with Our Community

Piloting services that fail so you can improvement

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy


The mission of the Feedback 2.0 taskforce is to explore, research, and propose a formal feedback mechanism that actively encourages meaningful feedback from our users in easy, low effort ways; thoughtfully engages staff in regularly reviewing what our users are telling us about our services; creates a mechanism for responding to feedback in a customer service driven manner; and creates opportunity for on-going assessment and planning using the feedback obtained.


Guidelines for developing this taskforce might best be created by following the Three Branches of Change model proposed by Casey and Savastinuk (2007).  The branch for this Feedback 2.0 taskforce is best described as their Planning Team, which will further explore the feasibility of the Feedback 2.0 plan, create an implementation plan, and suggest a review/evaluation of services plan going forward.  An secondary committee, the Review Team, would be valuable in executing this plan, and would recommend to the library management team how this Feedback 2.0 program continue.


Policy for this Feedback 2.0 concept would ultimately be developed by the taskforce.  Much of the policy around how feedback is received, standards and guidelines for the voice used in responses, how timely response is made, and whether any management approval is needed at any level for a response, should all be set by the taskforce that is researching and proposing the ultimate plan that is put forward for consideration.  Each of these components should be addressed in the taskforce’s proposal.

Funding Considerations

Every service a library rolls out will have some form of resource requirement and this plan is no different.  Initially, staff time (labor cost) away from regular duties will be required by the taskforce in order to perform research, explore options, meet regularly as a group, and jointly develop a formal proposal to the management team. In the secondary phase after the proposal is accepted by the management, implementation costs will need to be budgeted.  Costs to the project in the implementation phase will potentially include software purchases or licenses if a formal feedback tool is purchased, or staffing costs if something in-house is developed.  Staffing costs will continued to be in the form of release time from regular duties for taskforce work and feedback response time.  However it is highly recommended the Planning Team would include an on-going sustainable model for integrating these methods into regular work duties, building the desired user-centered assessment culture among all library staff.

Funding considerations for the student population should include participation incentives.  On our campus, pizza goes a long way to obtaining larger crowds and getting students to show up.  Including relevant incentives funding for this population should also be included in the taskforce’s proposal. 

Action Steps & Timeline

As there is no formal feedback program in place currently for the library, this creates a unique opportunity develop a plan that is comprehensive, well researched, and thoughtfully developed.  As the plan is also meant to be iterative in nature, piloting various feedback methods would be very valuable and would allow the library to identify the most effective ways to interact and engage with our student community.  The timeline for planning should take no longer than six months, providing time for taskforce members to perform individual and group research for feedback methods across libraries and similar institutions, and develop a proposal for the first phase rollout.  Library management should approve the taskforce’s proposal with very little feedback, recognizing the plan will be iterative and continue to be evaluated for relevance and usefulness.

Potential staffing & training: Considerations for the taskforce

  • Research the potential benefit in hiring a dedicated Community Engagement staff person
  • Develop a core competency for all library staff around evaluating and responding effectively to feedback.  Find tools and trainings for staff to learn these newly required competencies (See Anythink’s Staff Core Competencies)
  • Provide staff release time to participate in the planning taskforce, review committee, and pilot projects
  • Develop on-line training guides through the university’s online employee professional development training system
  • Develop recommendations for supervisors to provide appropriate release time for trainings in new feedback culture

Promotion & Marketing

Returning to Pewrainangi’s (2014) idea of our most valuable community, considering our power users:

“When do they use the library?  How do they get to the library?  What do they do on their way to the library?  What do they do after they leave the library?  Who do they come to the library with?  What are their favourite websites, music, sports, celebrities, television programmes, food?  Which library services do they use and don’t use?How often do they use the library?  Do they place requests, have fines, or return books late?  What else would they use the library for, if they could? “(p. 9)

Thinking about these traits of our library power users will allow us to find ways to promote and market the Feedback 2.0 services where they are, using methods they are already using regularly, and hopefully engage friends and fellow students to also participate!  The taskforce should consider building these research components into the proposal.

Evaluation, aka continual process improvement

Throughout the past decade the Kennedy Library has performed regular satisfaction surveys.  Typically we obtain less than 10% of the student body response rate (between 1500-2500 responses).  Success after implementation of a formal feedback program would be to at least be regularly receiving feedback from 25% of the student body for our mass feedback solicitation efforts.  As highly encouraged component of the plan includes building in a regular evaluation component for continual process improvement, if 25% response rate is not being regularly achieved in our larger feedback outreach efforts, we should review how to improve, and use those ideas for the next push.  This will ensure that “Plan, Implement, and Forget” (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007) does not occur with this process.  It will also ensure that the change in culture that will drive the Kennedy Library to become a library that is user-centered and focused around all of it’s services (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007).


Agresta, M. (2014, April). What will become of the library? How it will evolve as the world goes digital. Slate. Retrieved from

Anythink Libraries (2009). Core Competencies for all Anythinkers [pdf document]. Retrieved from

Anythink Libraries (2012). Anythink Libraries 2012-2014 Strategic Plan [pdf document]. Retrieved from

Booth, C. (2013, April 12). Love your library: Building goodwill from the inside out. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from

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

Casey, M. & Stephens, M. (2008, April 15). The Transparent Library: Measuring Progress. Library Journal (133)7. Retrieved from

Connaway, L. S. (2015). The Library in the Life of the User: Engaging with People Where They Live and Learn. OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. 6565 Kilgour Place, Dublin, OH 43017.

Garrison, E. (2015, February 1). Borrow a sewing machine? Sacramento Public Library to start loaning more than books. Sacramento Bee.  Retrieved from

MIT Libraries (n.d.). Idea Bank. Retrieved from

Peet, L. (2016). The future of futures. Library Journal141(15), 26-31. Retrieved from

Pewrainangi, S. (2014). A beautiful obsession. WEVE, 1, 7-10. Retrieved from

Schmidt, A. (2017, May 4). Asking the Right Questions. Library Journal141(8). Retrieved from

Schmidt, A. (2013, November 5). Earning Trust. Library Journal138(18). Retrieved from

Wannerton, R. (2013, December 2). Changing the story: Using social media in library customer services. [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from;amp;v=&amp;amp;b=&amp;amp;from_search=3

Privacy – All in the eye of the beholder

While I work in an academic library, my true passion for libraries stems from providing not only information to all, but protecting their privacy while searching and accessing said information.  Hence, my adventure was to travel into the world of privacy and the hyperlinked library.

Parental Guilt

Every parent has it.  Guilt.  Guilt you aren’t doing everything for your children.  Guilt in your reactions to your children’s behavior, both in private and in public with others witnessing it.  Well, thanks to this article I now have parent is a librarian and should know better guilt… let me explain. In reading Anderson’s (2016) article I had the sudden realization that everything I tout about protecting personal privacy and providing people the ability to maintain their privacy went out the window when I applied it to my own children.  Anderson’s (2016) article discusses the Pew Research Center’s findings on how parents monitor their children’s online and physical location activities using technology.  As a parent of two teenagers, my husband and I have fallen into the top monitoring level for every category discussed at least at one point or another in their childhood  (web browser history, social media, location tracking, etc.).  While as a librarian I can honor that children have the same rights to privacy as adults when information seeking, I am apparently the strictest of the strict authoritarians around allowing personal privacy in my own family!  What exactly am I scared of?  Well these are MY children and I have the obligation to protect them from harm, right?!

What I realized in exploring my actions is Pew is only asking the question, but not asking the whys.  While I may fall in the upper echelon of the monitoring categories in this survey based solely on question design; I’m not actually invading my children’s personal privacy at all, but rather teaching them how to be a productive member of society once that magical number 18 hits.  Let’s explore:

Monitoring their web browser history helps us identify who put the virus on the computer so we can teach them what to look for in their adult life with their own computers (I don’t really care what they are browsing and never have).  We have only ever cared if the sites they are visiting are virus free.  If I started digging into what they are looking at, I would probably see that my kids are just curious beings.  And that’s fine by me.

From a young age we have discussed the appropriateness of what they post on social media.  That we don’t know how companies will use this history in the future to either discriminate against them or applaud them.  Again, teachable moments, right?  Well this is an area I can honestly say only has an impact if they care more about what you think that what their peers think.  My daughter is currently exploring being a weed-tuber (yes that’s exactly what you picture), and while it probably won’t get her an office job at the FBI, it be just the social media presence her future employer at High Times is looking for…  So I’ve still done my job if she gets that job!

And finally, location tracking.  Yes, I’m that parent and apparently I’m not alone:

While I do not track my 20 year old adult daughter, my 17 year old son does have a tracking app on his phone that he knows we access for specific times (usually if he is being unresponsive to our pings or misses curfew).  He can also see where I am too, so this works both ways. It will be VERY hard to me to disable this when he turns 18 this December, but he will be an adult and he will have that choice to turn it off.

The location tracker gives me piece of mind and I hope that he sees it this way going forward.  My sister has it too and turns it on when she’s traveling to my house so I can see where she is and how long I have to finish baby proofing the house!  My husband turns his on when he travels so I have peace of mind that LA traffic hasn’t caused him any harm.  My son can turn his off, but he knows I’m only looking if he’s not keeping in contact or is disrespecting family expectations.  When he goes away to college, I fully expect he’ll turn it off unless he’s driving home.  In each of these instances, ultimately it is the person with the tracking app who has the ability to be tracked.  So what happens when you don’t have the control over your privacy?

Big Brother

The second article in my adventure into Privacy Land was another Pew Research Center survey that explores American’s attitudes on privacy and surveillance (Madden and Rainie, 2015).  Again, as a librarian I strongly feel it is my duty to protect information seekers privacy.  I do my best to consider patron privacy in each decision our library makes, from the seemingly obvious ones to all staff (covering book spine labels on the hold shelf) to the less obvious ones to all staff (methods for requesting user identification at time of checkout).  However, recently I was out with colleagues and the topic of government surveillance came up and every single person at the table had the majority viewpoint that since they had nothing to hide, they didn’t care if they were being listened to or recorded.

Wait, what?!!!  We’re librarians people!  We’re supposed to care enormously about protecting personal privacy!  And here I was surrounded by librarians voicing the same consensus as Madden and Rainie (2015) found the average American expressed.  Are our users all doomed?

Well no.  Similar to the location tracking app, my colleagues feel that if they are aware they are being monitored, they are okay with it.  They feel it’s for the greater good and similar to my familial expectations around privacy, if they are not doing anything wrong, they won’t be monitored.  While the Pew Research Center has a very small survey selection (only 461 participants), taking my colleagues feelings into consideration, it seems the survey findings are in line with what the general population may feel.

Libraries and Privacy

So where does this leave libraries?  Our own staff are okay with being monitored and may even be doing it in their personal lives with their own children and family members.  How can we be trusted to uphold patron privacy?

Well firstly, we need to ensure sure our staff understand the Library Bill of Rights and what it means to uphold it in every decision we make and services we provide to our users.  If we only start with this, we will be on the right path to protecting user privacy and our own.

And secondly, by ensuring that we provide our users the knowledge about how their information seeking behavior may be monitored and by educating them in personal privacy. We can start with the simplest methods as Stephens (2017) shared about a sign at Cornell University’s Olin & Uris Library:

Sign at Olis & Uris Library, Cornell University: This is a Library. Inspiring Discovery. Championing Truth Against Rumor. Defending Intellectual Freedom. Protecting Privacy. Open to All. This is a Library.
Olin & Uris Libraries, Cornell University

Let’s provide community workshops on teaching their children what personal privacy protection means, and how to have conversations with them about the reasons they are monitoring their activities.

Let’s demonstrate how these tools work and teach the parents and the children how to enable and disable them.

Let’s have workshops on how the library protects their personal privacy, but also areas in which they may not be able to protect it.

Let’s be transparent about privacy.


Anderson, M. (2016, January 7). Parents, Teens and Digital Monitoring. Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

Madden, M and Rainie,, L. (2015, May 20). Americans’ Attitudes About Privacy, Security and Surveillance. Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2017). The Hyperlinked library: Participatory Service & Transparency. [Panopto lecture]. Retrieved from

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon [Latenight]. (2016, November 24). Leslie Mann Leslie Mann Uses an App to Track Her Daughter at College [Video File]. Retrieved from


Getting feedback right

Before the module on hyperlinked communities, I really felt the library I work for does a pretty decent job at engaging our users and soliciting their feedback and then turning it into valuable services. Then I read Aaron Schmidt’s (2016) Asking the Right Questions article…

Before I discuss Schmidt’s article, let me give you some history on our library’s satisfaction survey

You asked, we listened

When I started working in the Kennedy Library in January of 2011, the Student Library Advisory Council (SLAC) was already established and had just started administering a library satisfaction survey to the student body. Throughout the years the questions have remained mostly the same (for trend analysis purposes), with additions or subtractions based on library priorities for the year (i.e. new services added, space renovations, etc.).  Each year, the management team would receive a report about the survey and review recommendations for changes in services and programs.  We made a lot of changes based on this feedback. And we told the students over and over again “You asked, we listened”.  But did we really?

Maybe they mean soup?

We were and are still leaning heavily on survey respondents to dream up the ideas for us when they don’t really know what it is we do. Our previous prompt of “What kind of food would you like to see in the library?”  typically provided responses like “better” or “warm” or “not coffee and pastries” and left us and our campus dining folks guessing every year.

– Maybe they mean soup?  Let’s offer soup…

So this year I served as a management team liaison to SLAC and rather than the survey being developed by the students, we actually used them as the advisory body the group is intended as and asked them how to ask the questions. While we didn’t change the trend questions, we did take an entirely different approach to the food options question. Rather than leaving it open ended, we provided categories the SLAC group developed and we received excellent feedback:

Survey results from the Kennedy Library Dining Question
(Robert E. Kennedy Library, 2017)
Survey results from the Kennedy Library Dining Question
(Robert E. Kennedy Library, 2017)

In my opinion, the answers to these questions were the most valuable from the survey. The comments were more detailed as well:

I would like to see less expensive and fresher food options. I am never willing to buy the plastic packaged wraps and snack packs at Julians even though that is really the only fresh food option because it is too expensive. There should be healthy snacks such as apples, bananas, granola bars, salads, etc at a reasonable price.

Would be nice if there were bagel breakfast sandwiches or breakfast burritos. Would be nice if there were more heavy filling meals. Would be extra nice if prices were affordable.

I would love to see more healthy snack options, particularly energy bars and fruit strips. – Anonymous student feedback (Kennedy Library, 2017)

We sent the feedback to Campus Dining and we are hoping for some food option improvement this year.  But we can’t pat ourselves on the back just yet.

How may we help you?  Let us start with asking you better questions!

Reading Aaron Schmidt’s (2016) op-ed piece, I realized we’re still really guilty of expecting our users to dream up new ways for us to do things. I laughed when I read Schmidt’s (2016) example of how strange this looks to users from their perspective if say the IRS was asking me “Create a way to improve filing your taxes” (Rethinking Our Approach section, para 2). I certainly have no idea how to improve it and as Schmidt (2016) proposes, it’s because I don’t know how the IRS works, I don’t know all the services they provide and how interconnected their services may be, nor do I understand what resources constraints they have.  It’s very logical, but why haven’t we thought of this before?  Most of our users only interact with us on a very few of our services.  Asking how to improve the whole place is quite an undertaking! We can’t ask library users how to improve the library point blank, and as Schmidt (2017) and also Pewrainangi (2014) suggest, we need to learn about our users daily lives, what is important to them, hobbies and interests, etc.

Surveys aside, our library also has a “suggestion box” at our front desk.  The quality of feedback from this box is also pretty much useless to us, and is almost a way we placate our users by allowing to feel that we care.  Most likely that’s why we mostly get “it’s hot in here, get some A/C” or “the toilet paper is poor quality”.  Stephens (2017) discusses a library in his locality that is taking this feedback to the next level and in turn receiving quality feedback that administrators can and want to respond to.  Feedback is posted on a bulletin board with the responses to the questions from library administrators directly below it.  A feedback mechanism and an FAQ all in one!

My mind has been thinking about how to make this happen in our library since listening to that lecture and I have a feeling it will require some technology and maybe even offer a senior project opportunity to one of our amazing tech students.  Stay tuned!

So while I still feel our library does a good job at soliciting feedback, I now have some useful tools in my kit to suggest going forward!


Pewrainangi, S. (2014). A beautiful obsession. WEVE, 1, 7-10. Retrieved from

Robert E. Kennedy Library (2017). [Library Satisfaction Survey Results]. Unpublished raw data.

Schmidt, A. (2017, May 4). Asking the Right Questions. Library Journal, 141(8). Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2017). The Hyperlinked library: exploring the model. [Panopto lecture]. Retrieved from


The Long Tail

Have you ever considered whether you are a Long Tail consumer?  Are you right now scratching your head and picturing this?

Long tailed lizard
No, not this long tail

Well I will be honest.  Before reading Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service by Casey and Savastinuk (2007), the picture above is what came to my mind.  Casey and Savastinuk (2007) described how this Long Tail idea could be applied to libraries:

The idea of the Long Tail is based on one primary reality that is true for any physical library building: Shelf space is limited. As a result, we can only keep what is most in demand by our users. By only keeping what is most desired, we are choosing not to house less popular titles that appeal to a broader spectrum of readers. The untapped masses desire more esoteric titles, but, when looked at in whole, the demand for these titles is greater than the demand for hit titles. (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007, p. 16)

Casey and Savastinuk (2007) go on to dedicate a significant portion of Chapter 5: Participatory Services and the Long Tail to services libraries provide attempting to reach this so called Long Tail.  But I felt something was missing around the Long Tail in libraries because an entire chapter only discussing interlibrary loan, and library blogs with comments enabled did not seem to be a new way of thinking in my mind. With multiple references to Chris Anderson’s (2006) The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More I had to know more about the Long Tail.

So what is this Long Tail you speak of?

In short, the Long Tail is a shortened up name for a statistical long tail distribution – for Anderson (2006), the shape that follows the initial high demand of “hit” products and describes the small volume of individual niche items that are sold, but the small demand of those niche items that continues when people are able to obtain the items.  The Long Tail starts to show up in our searching and shopping habits now that we’re online and the options can be limitless when we’re not attached to shelving space.  It looks like this:

Anderson (2006) helped the reader comprehend the Long Tail by providing several examples.  The one that most clearly defined the Long Tail theory to me was that of Rhapsody.  Please keep in mind we are talking about the Internet in the mid-2000’s!  Rhapsody was an online music marketplace (picture iTunes) that provided people with the ability to purchase the “hits” but also had a substantial back catalogue of old hits, B-sides, and non-mainstream music genres.  Anderson’s (2006) research of the data found that while the “hits” provided about 75% of their revenue, 25% was coming from the purchases in the Long Tail.  While Anderson’s (2006) work primarily focused on the online shopping world (he also discusses Amazon, Netflix, and Google frequently), as I discussed above with Casey and Savastinuk’s (2007) Library 2.0 work, this distribution model can be applied to a number of services within the library to benefit both us and the users.

Playing with the Long Tail

We’ve already discussed interlibrary loan and library blogs as a having the ability to engage with the Long Tail, but there are several other opportunities for libraries to explore the Long Tail concept, as more and more of our services are online, do not require much if any valuable shelf space, and most importantly can be found without formal structures that physical book stacks rely on:

“… the Web obviously isn’t predicated on individuals. It’s a web. It’s about the connections. And on the World Wide Web, the connections are hyperlinks. It’s not just documents that get hyperlinked in the new world of the Web. People do. Organizations do. The Web, in the form of a corporate intranet, puts everyone in touch with every piece of information and with everyone else inside the organization and beyond.” (Weinberger, 2001, Hyperlinks section, para. 9)


Several library online systems are including the ability to search beyond what our own library subscribes to.  Exploring digital interlibrary loan document delivery systems (such as RapidILL) can mitigate the impact to users on research down time.  Providing our users with the most complete picture of the information available on any given subject is fundamentally what we’re about.  Access to information for all.  If we don’t have the budget to buy everything, with a reallocation of funds to document delivery, we can still provide it and make it available.

Peer 2 Peer

Academic and public libraries are providing more and more spaces for collaboration and learning.  By providing the “hits” for our users in our instruction and training, but then providing the opportunity for peers to learn from their peers on more niche topics, libraries can engage with the Long Tail.  Logistically, libraries cannot provide every type of instruction our users may need.  The idea of Repair Cafes is an exact example of this type of Peer 2 Peer learning that libraries are facilitating, but leaning on the niche to provide.  Repair Cafes provide users the opportunity to learn how to fix broken items in their home from other library users and community resources (Cantrell, 2017).  By engaging resources outside of the library, libraries can provide services to more users in the Long Tail.

LibGuides and Library “Pedias”

LibGuides are most often used by academic libraries to provide subject matter guidance and they are usually created by the library on the “hit” topics.  But if we want to engage our Long Tail user needs, exploring how less popular topics, but ones that have relevance to a niche group of users performing very specific research on a hard to understand topic, could be really interesting to explore opening up for creation and modification by our community.  This idea comes from the success of Wikipedia and is briefly discussed in Anderson’s (2006) work.  While there are the “hit” Wikipedia pages, there are also niche Wikipedia pages (like the Long Tail’s for example).  The niche ones are just as important for one person needing that information to start some research as the big “hit” ones are for the masses (just for fun, check out the always changing weekly Top 25 Wikipedia pages!).  Libraries exploring creating library-pedias can provide access to information with very little overhead and zero shelf space.

Institutional Repositories

The idea of an institutional repository engaging the Long Tail came to me after I attended a presentation by Dr. Pamela Bleisch this week.  Bleisch (2017) discussed how the low barrier to our student research via our open access digital scholarship DigitalCommons@CalPoly platform is providing people all over the world with research that directly impacts them.  Specifically, Bleisch (2017) referenced a senior project about a bicycle powered maize grinder that has already had 33 downloads and counting since being published on August 10, 2017.  This research is directly helping people in Malawi with food insecurity and is certainly a Long Tail candidate, with access made possible through a system that provides the “hits” and the niche needs.  The activity showing the breadth of scholarship downloaded demonstrates how our library is engaging with the Long Tail:

DigitalCommons@CalPoly Digital Readership Map

Good old Search

One way the California State University Library 23 campus system is serving the Long Tail is through the recent implementation of the ExLibris Primo search function they’ve branded OneSearch.  The OneSearch function searches the collections of all 23 campuses to produce results of all physical resources available to users all over the system (Walker, 2017).  Users can initiate an interlibrary loan request for materials at another campus using CSU+ (Walker, 2017).  This provides access to many more resources than a user may have available to them at their campus.  Library consortias are just one way we can begin expanding into the Long Tail, but another could be through providing users with the WorldCat search.  This search expands their Long Tail beyond their own library and to the entire world of participating libraries.

The future of the Long Tail in libraries

The ideas above are just a start to what libraries can begin exploring to provide more information to their Long Tail users.  As Anderson (2006) proposes

“Every one of us – no matter how mainstream we might think we are – actually goes super-niche in some part of our lives” (p. 184).

Libraries should explore the niches to determine how best to serve all users in non-mainstream ways.

There is a whole world of information out there and libraries exploring the Long Tail opportunities are on the right path for their users.


Anderson, C. (2006). The long tail: Why the future of business is selling less of more. New York, NY: Hyperion.

Bleisch, P. (2017, September 14). Future of Institutional Repositories: Service, Content, Research Support. [Presentation]. Robert E. Kennedy Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, CA

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

Cantrell, M. (2017, September 1). Libraries and the art of everything maintenance: Hosting repair events reduces waste, brings in new patrons. American Libraries48, 12-14. Retrieved from

Walker, D. (2017, June 13). OneSearch: The new CSU library discovery system. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Weinberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. The cluetrain manifesto. Retrieved from

The rearview mirror effect

Look how far we’ve come

Image of rearview mirror on 1970's model truck, reflecting the desert and skyImage Source

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Buckland’s (1992) Redesigning library services: A manefesto for the pure entertainment around seeing how well the author predicted the use of digital files, as well as thought out how efficient technology could make library resources for our users.  What was interesting to me were how many ideas Buckland (1992) had around digital files that we still have not implemented using current technologies.  Sure we have PDF files that are searchable thanks in part to OCR, but jumping back and forth between the library catalogue and files still isn’t nearly as seamless as it could be.  Certainly not as he describes it in the Electronic Library section:

“In an on-line world the user could move to the table of contents by depressing a key, then on to examine a chapter. Next the user might want to look for specific terms or names in the index, on-line, then move to specific patches of text, again on-line. Since the text is on-line one could expect a concordance providing access to all of the text. The user might abandon that text, follow up a reference (from inside the text or from a citation index) to another text, go back to the catalog records to look for another book, or scan the subject headings with a view to reformulating the search. There would be a continual changing, “zooming in” and out between a broad view and focus on details. It is not that the familiar data elements of the catalog record will have disappeared or that the identifying and locating functions are any less important, but rather that the catalog will effectively have disappeared as a recognizably separate, physical entity. Instead, the catalog data would be part of a much broader set of data elements and the catalog function would have become one feature in a suite of related functions in on-line library use” (Buckland, 1992, p. 40).

Buckland (1992) also foresaw the significant investment that library vendors (publishers and software) would have in the future technology.  Often using the phrase “in practice” or “in theory” when describing sharing of electronic documents or databases could be done by multiple users at the same time.  It is mostly in theory because in my experience, vendors aren’t super eager to share without some type of monetary exchange!

And look what we’re still doing

Overall, reading Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service by Casey and Savastinuk (2007) provided a dose of inspiration I certainly needed of what is possible in a library to remain relevant to users and also engage staff in the mission. Change is constant, but it is very hard to accept constant change.  Stability is greatly needed in our library right now after a long period of staffing changes, retirements, and vacancies.  I have already shared the idea of the Three Branches of Change model in Chapter 4 – A Framework for Change with my fellow management team members and started to discuss what components we could potentially implement in our library.  We’re reviewing committees in our library right now, and finding that many exist without charges, membership definitions, and chairs that have any type of formal authority.  Without these structures in place, how could we expect committees to implement change that is relevant to the mission?  Exploring the idea of an investigative team is extremely interesting to us, and one we will most likely modify and employ in the next year.  If we don’t change, we will keep experiencing the same challenges.

One final takeaway from Casey and Savastinuk’s (2007) work was regarding technology.  I felt that Chapter 6, Incorporating Technology, was definitely a place in time chapter, which really, any one who writes about implementing technology will face since it evolves so quickly.  However, a takeaway for me when I removed the software names and suggestions was a extremely significant advance in sharing technology since 2007, which I believe we can use as a takeaway.  That takeaway is what technology are we investing our resources (financial and people) in that will be obsolete or free in the near future.  The example of Sharepoint (pg. 77) led me to this takeaway.  How expensive was Microsoft’s Sharepoint, and how long was it in use in many institutions?  Are there software that we are investing in now, that in 10 years will be replaced by a more user friendly and price friendly option?  Shouldn’t we be evaluating the assumed lifespan of a product before we invest financial and people resources heavily?  It may be that we don’t know and our only option is to heavily invest, but it should be part of the investigative process, and this chapter was a great reminder of that!


Buckland, M. K., Gorman, M., & Gorman, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. Chicago, IL: American Library Association. Retrieved from

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