The Hyperlinked Library – A Promise Not Kept (Yet)

I don’t want to be grumpy, but I feel a little grumpy.



I love the readings about participatory libraries, which promote important ideals like user focus – people are hyperlinks (Stephens), delighting our users (Denning), and connection focus – functioning as a connector (UTS Library), “the internet’s super power is connection without permission” (New Clues). Every class I’ve had emphasizes these values, but though this conversation is at least a decade old, it doesn’t seem to be reaching the intended audience. Maybe that’s unfair, but my limited experience indicates there’s a long way to go to steer this ship (US libraries) in this new direction.


My first library job was at a public branch that pretty much epitomized everything Library 2.0 is
trying to change, and the 3 “wrong answers” to the library’s future (Denning), such as using technology to computerize existing services. The staff jealously protected their domains, and while they didn’t seem unaware of the changes occurring, they didn’t exactly embrace them either.




My next job was at an academic library that provided traditional services well, but was still firmly situated in Library 1.0 – the staff were very siloed and there was little effort to engage users (or front line staff either). The director had great ideas, but was quite resigned about getting them implemented.


It makes me nervous, facing the job market when I have internalized a flatter and more dynamic model that may be hard to find IRL.






11 thoughts on “The Hyperlinked Library – A Promise Not Kept (Yet)

  1. Thanks for being so honest, Danielle! It really makes me wonder what the % breakdown is between libraries still working on a transition between 1.0 to 2.0 and those who are already there and working on going 2.0 and beyond (or doing what Mathews suggested by “Thinking like a Startup”). I’m not even quite sure where my library falls…1.5? Is that a thing? 🙂 Our silos are starting to crumble a bit and we’ve had more engagement with our community, but we’re still trying to get a learning commons going and I was a little shocked to read (again, according to Mathews, who was a bit too much for me) that LCs were a little old-timey at this point. Uh, what? News to me!

    I’d love to visit a library with a flat, dynamic model as you described them, because I haven’t encountered one IRL yet either.

  2. It was really, really interesting for me to move from a small library that – well, the leadership tried, went to all the right conferences and said all the right stuff, but just did not “get” the underlying principles of participatory organizations* to a much bigger library that had just gone through a very intentional and well-thought-out comprehensive reorganization and was still… actively processing that? Like, LOTS of CONVERSATIONS, all the time, lots of talking about feelings and expectations and “how are we doing with this?” Really interesting. And weird. All of the stuff I had been shouting into the wind about for YEARSSSSS was just, “Yep, we do that. Of course. You don’t have to fight for that, it’s already in progress. That’s a great idea, keep ’em coming. Sure. We’re on the same page.” o.0

    Maybe it’s because I’m in the Denver Metro area, where everybody in the profession had a front-row seat to Anythink’s earthshaking reorganization in 2009, and everybody wants to repeat that success, but it seems to me that most of the public libraries are, if not fully on board, at least internalizing and implementing some aspects of Library 2.0. And maybe it’s exactly because the current generation of up-and-coming professionals just expects this, and the generation that was in library school and starting out during that critical 2004-2009 period is now moving into middle and upper management and making it happen where it’s still lagging.

    *Example: We stalled on setting up a library Facebook page for THREE YEARS because the director was hung up on articulating a set of message control best practices and whose job it was to craft content. (i.e. she didn’t want to, she already hated writing the weekly newpaper column; but she didn’t trust any of us to either. All three of Denning’s Wrong Answers, in one tidy bundle, right there! ) And at every other staff meeting it was, “why don’t we have a Facebook page? Everyone else has one!” “Well, because you haven’t given us the go-ahead.” This conversation began in 2011. Three years. Yeah.

    • It’s very heartening to hear that you’ve actually encountered a 2.0 library, Beth. That means they exist. I’m interested in working at an academic library and I suspect they may be ahead of public libraries in some ways and behind in others. I took a class through the WISE program at Pitt last semester and it sounds like they have a real state of the art repository at their library, and maybe are closer to 2.0 in other ways as well (I’d love to visit). In that class we watched some video tours of academic libraries that had embraced what you might call 2.0 design principles (collaborative work spaces, in house cafes, one even had a daycare center). But there’s no way of knowing from those tours if the libraries were really using a participatory model with their patrons. I’ll be interested to see what’s out there when I start my job search in earnest.

      • JeffCo’s certainly not perfect, it’s a work in progress, but they’re really, really trying and really open to change and possibility and everyone at every level having a genuine opportunity to contribute from a place of passion, and I appreciate that so much after the last place. So yeah, they’re out there! Keep hope alive!

  3. Danielle and Beth,
    I can relate to this thread! I was laughing out loud when I was reading Library 2.0 and some of the responses they recorded in their survey. There are still people in management and administrative roles that cling to the silos and as Buckland says, “the judicial assembling of local collections” as their primary service role. There are still those professionals at conferences that commiserate and begrudge the changes they have seen over the last 10 years. I have seen this in my workplace in education, too. But, it is promising to look around our virtual classroom and see the dialog happening, knowing we are a part of the changes that will come. The one sure thing we can expect in our library futures is change- and we’re going into this career embracing that. In the meantime, we can cling to the hope you mentioned Danielle and keep chatting it up about changes, feedback, surveys, and purpose. Our voices may be small now- but hopefully our persistent voices will be seeds that take root. Good luck!

  4. Danielle,
    Last summer I visited quite a few libraries (public and academic) for my Reference class. Some of the experiences were frightening, and two were lovely. You could tell a lot about the staff and management as soon as you walked in the front door. It’s not always a matter of budget dollars either. It’s how you respond to the community.

  5. This is a great thread! I can totally relate to so many of these experiences!

    My library administration has heard the words, but they just don’t seem to understand the concepts of Library 2.0. Or maybe they get it in theory? But can’t seem to apply it to reality?

    It feels like we make some forward progress — we do like to take risks with new technology projects (studios/makerspaces/etc), but then there always seems to be a reflexive overreaction to ‘control’ the creative space — with different departments wresting for decision-making control, rather than communicating opening and collaborating.

    I think some people in leadership positions are working towards a flatter organizational structure, but right now everything is so hierarchical, it is so challenging to try to dynamically respond to what the community wants!

  6. @dmasursky I appreciate your honesty here. I am pretty optimistic about the change going on in our libraries these days – especially public libraries. I hope the rest of the modules and examples from recent years are inspiring to you. The flatter library is out there… I just heard my “you don’t need to disturb me” library has new leadership and a new model of service, putting users first and streamlining departments. Here’s to more of that!

  7. Practical piece . my business partner a few days ago used to edit pdf – It’s pretty easy to figure out and it’s useful – I saw on the website they might have a free trial ongoing

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