First of all, a brief word about being an ADHD librarian in a hyperlinked world.
But of course, also Hell! Because one must, eventually, and usually on deadline, stop acquiring information and begin content creation. One has deliverables to… well… deliver! We must close the chapter on research, and begin the chapter on writing. This is exceedingly difficult when the materials at hand are as fascinating as what we are studying here. The fact that all these materials are hyperlinked to one another, to other sources and resources, to your content and comments, and to this blog is extraordinary and mind-boggling. I read our recommended articles, the lecture slides, your blogs and comments, and watch many of the video materials on my cellphone, on my Kindle Fire, on my tablet, and sometimes on a laptop (remember those?). I read more than I respond, because I am still “old-school” and prefer not to type using my phone.
My favorite slide of the past two weeks said, “Hyperlinks are people too.” Why on earth is such a simple thing so easy to forget?
Here in my community, when I speak to others about the hyperlinked library their eyes glaze over, in much the same way as when I mention that I am a genealogist. To most people here, the term ‘hyperlinked’ is exclusively about the digital world. As implied by West (2014), this is a world where they do not play, and they become uncomfortable when faced with the idea that the future of libraries is all “technological.” This simple thought, “hyperlinks are people too,” will help me begin to guide people toward exploring new ways of sharing information.
First, Find Out What They Want
Sure. That’s easy. As professionals, we know what they should have, or what they need, so we design a survey that will sell them on that transition. Right? Well, no. We need to ask open-ended questions. Of course. However, “giving people a blank piece of paper and asking them to create new library services is unrealistic and unfair. Asking our communities the question, “What do you want from your library?” shifts the burden of design onto them. Creating meaningful and convenient library service shouldn’t be their responsibility. That’s our job.” (Schmidt, 2016).
If we can’t soft sell our own idea of what is right; and if we can’t just pointblank ask the community to make the decisions for us, how do we lunge together toward becoming a hyperlinked community? Schmidt suggests that we ask people specific questions about what they already do, how they already spend their time and/or money. Ask people to share ideas about what is missing in the community, and use that information to develop new concepts and ideas about library services and programs.
“Don’t wait for [people] to come to you with ideas; solicit them. Make sure there is an easy way… to submit feedback or suggestions. An administrator or director may not see herself as intimidating, but must still be sure to provide an open, welcoming way for [people] to provide input.” (Casey & Savastinuk, p 49). I substituted the word people for the word staff. We must provide ways for all people to engage with us. This includes staff, but also volunteers, current library patrons, instructors, visitors, and other guests. Providing open access to communication (at the library, online, and at remote locations) is probably the first major task in creating a hyperlinked library community.
Second, Give Them What They Ask For
Neiburger points out that if people need items to make their lives easier (tools, sewing machines, chainsaws), why not create a system that allows users to borrow these items. Neiburger also encourages us by suggesting other ways to engage ‘the long tail’ of people who don’t use libraries. Make sure the library is “the place with something to do… without commercials.” Make 21st century literacy fun for all ages using games and gamification. As an example, the Idea Box [Oakland] was a wonderful way to give people something they might not KNOW that they want. Freedom to express and create in a fun, stress-free, zone. Building community trust by making the library a fun destination with creative solutions to the problems people shared with us is the second major task in creating a hyperlinked library community.
Third, Find Out What They Already Know
“Technology extends human reach but participation requires engaged participants who feel welcome, comfortable, and valued…. How will we open the door and invite everyone inside to participate?” (Stephens, 2016, loc 1682). At our library, we have already begun to talk about the wealth of information that people in our community hold inside their heads and hearts. This concept, that a library is also a ‘collection of local knowledge’ or a ‘collection of people who know things’ is gaining ground here. Why? Most folks apparently enjoy being asked to share information about topics of interest to them. Rather than force-feeding information we feel people in the community should have or know, we have turned the tables. We ask questions. We find out what people know about, what people are excited about, what subjects they are ‘experts’ in, and we invite them to talk with other people who are also interested. Finding out what they know already is a third major task in creating a hyperlinked library community.
Fourth, Bring the People Together
Godin postulates that people need a leader to bring them together, to make them feel wanted, to connect people to one another. “Create a movement around something that matters,” he tells us. Leading the library toward becoming a hyperlinked community is essentially the same as leading a tribe. Decisions are made for the good of the people. The leader must have an eye for what has not worked, but must ask the tribe WHY that has not worked. The leader must know when to shake the status quo, but must ask the tribe HOW to shake things up. The library leader must understand which people in the tribe are interested in the same types of information, but must know this because members of the tribe have shared this information. Never assume. Never presume. Always put the issues in front of the tribe and allow them to make decisions with you. Bringing people together to form natural affinity groups is the fourth major task in creating a hyperlinked library community.
Fifth, Upload the Hyperlinked Community
Bringing tech-reluctant people to the library so they can become digitally literate will not work. For one thing, our volunteers range from tech-phobic, through tech-averse, to tech-savvy. No matter how excited the tech-savvy instructors become, they cannot compel people to come for workshops. Furthermore, West points out that “Digital natives are being taught by… digital tourists and this is creating some weird etiquette schisms.” Indeed! On a day-to-day basis, I watch tech-phobic volunteers fumble when asked by a guest about how to print using their own device, or how to log on to the internet when it hasn’t happened automatically. Absolute panic!
How to gently lead the reluctant toward tech appreciation? It begins with consistent demonstrations of what is available. Public showings of online content. One-on-one workshops to help people connect with other people online. Playing with applications to help them resolve problems they might encounter (introducing Goodreads as a website for helpful reader advisory, for example). Tech training is much like training a horse. Start with an exercise that makes them comfortable, lead them forward step by step, stop when they balk, start again only when they are relaxed and ready. Realizing that people in our hyperlinked communities will leap toward technological hyperlinking only when they are ready [and recognizing that some people may never be ready for this step] is the final task in creating a hyperlinked library community.
Allan County Public Library. (24 Jan 2012). Conversation Series: Eli Neiburger. [Youtube video in three parts]. Accessed 20 September 2017 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3MO_zbBgAI
Bergholz, K. (2012). IdeaBox. [Youtube video]. Accessed 21 September 2017 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kltuaRTgjAE
Casey, M.E., and Savastinuk, L.C. (2007). Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.
Schmidt, A. (4 May 2016). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Accessed 20 September 2017 at: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/05/opinion/aaron-schmidt/asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience/#_
Stephens, M. (2016). The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.
TED. (2009 11 May). Seth Godin: The tribes we lead. [YouTube video]. Accessed 23 September 2017 at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQGYr9bnktw
West, J. (2014). 21st Century Digital Divide. Accessed 23 September 2017 at: http://www.librarian.net/talks/rlc14/