Reflection #5: Thoughts on Infinite Learning, Libraries as Classrooms, & Librarians as Teachers

I.

in infancy we are

fearless learning machines

playful

fluid

learning minds

ever curious

ever seeking

ever growing

 

with fertile ground

and nurturing

we grow and thrive

 

in hard-packed soil

with hard-boiled souls

we learn to survive

 

in either case

as we age, we slow

‘til we assume we know

all there is to know

begin to stagnate

resting on invisible laurels

 

 

librarians know

if discovery never ends,

playful, new learning

keeps minds fluid and young

 

II.

librarians are learning now

what educators already know

that deep learning

that true learning

is solutions-based

 

when people gather

To Think Big

to collaborate

to identify common problems

to brainstorm and theorize

to collectively observe

to document what they find

to reflect as a group

to experiment with creation

to develop a solution/product

to test

to think and rethink

to repeat the cycle, start again…

 

 

playfulness

invention

content-creation

are all critical to the process

 

most importantly

thinking together about what we have thought

looking together at what we have seen

reviewing together what we have done

identifying together what we still need to do

 

III.

only shared knowledge is power-filled.

 

 

the book-liberated informarian knows

library collections are intended to further human knowledge

through content creation

 

the first librarians

the first archivists

the first curators

held the keys to human knowledge

opened doors for researchers

alchemists

scientists

philosophers

to facilitate their learning

to facilitate their content notation

to facilitate their content creation

to help build the foundations of future knowledge

 

IV.

somewhere

somewhen

we

librarians

became lost in order

mesmerized by organization

confusing conservation with consecration

prioritizing protection

preservation over presentation

knowledge keepers

power mongers

instead of fierce advocates for findability and usability

at last we are opening our doors again

daring each other to step out

daring others to step in

encouraging experimentation

playfully

thoughtfully

creatively

opening opportunities

MakerSpaceHackerSpaceTinkerSpace

MemoryGeniusAudioVideoDigitalLab

EconomicDevelopmentCenterEntrepreneurshipIncubator

we are active, not passive

we move in spirals, not lines

our learning spaces are messy, not neatly contained

 

V.

tribal people,

librarians gather in clans

across borders

knowing what tribal peoples know

powerful learning is omni-generational

powerful learning is community driven

powerful learning is collaborative

powerful learning is heart-centered

 

we define

OurTeamsOurClansOurFamiliesOurTribes

by affinities

through conversations

we do not choose to fit in

pre-selected

pre-segregated

groupings

we defy trends which sort us

byTypebyAgebyClassbyRacebyAbilitybyReligionbyGender

all learning

all teaching

all thinking

differently

together

 

VI.

keep it lively

keep it moving

keep it fascinating

be prepared

teach the people leaning toward you

light the world on fire

with enthusiasm

Tom Sawyer convinced playmates

whitewashing was easy and fun

librarians can do no less

 

 

VII.

remember our infant selves

insatiably curious explorers

playful

inventive

creative

always thinking

always learning and relearning

conquer fears

[our own]

urge others to engage

 

 

set the example

invite others to teach us

nine-year-olds are trusted experts

gently encourage everyone

to begin where they are

 

set the example

reflect upon lessons learned

identify successes

embrace failures

reflect upon new opportunities

create again

 

set the example

learn about learning

lead others toward learning

 

set the example

make connections

to people

to information

to community resources

 

set the example

share what we know

facilitate conversations

collaborate face-to-face

collaborate online

create new knowledge, new art

share creations with the world

 

wherever we are

wherever we go

wherever we want to be

we are fearless learning machines

 

References [Always on My Mind]:

 

Bookey, J.L. (2015, April 29). 8 awesome ways libraries are making learning fun. Accessed 11/10/2017 at:  https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-lloyd-bookey/8-awesome-ways-libraries-_b_7157462.html

 

Cool Tools for School. [website]. Accessed 11/10/2017 at:  https://cooltoolsforschool.net/

 

Digital Promise. (2016, January 28). The library as a gateway to 21st century skills. Accessed 10 November 2017 at:  http://digitalpromise.org/2016/01/28/chicago-public-library-the-library-as-a-gateway-to-21st-century-skills/

 

Jarche, H.  (2014, February 10). The Seek>Sense>Share Framework. Harold Jarche: work is learning & learning is work [website]. Accessed 11/11/17 at:  http://jarche.com/2014/02/the-seek-sense-share-framework/

 

Keating, L.A., Heslin, P.A., & Ashford, S.A. (2017, August 10). Good leaders are good learners. Harvard Business Review [online]. Accessed 11/11/17 at: https://hbr.org/2017/08/good-leaders-are-good-learners

 

Koechlin, C. & Zwaan, S. [n.d.] The Big Think: Reflecting, reacting, and realizing improved learning. Accessed 11/01/2017 at:  http://tmcanada.pbworks.com/f/TLarticle%20BigThink.pdf

 

Vangelova, L. (2014, June 8). What does the next generation school library look like? Accessed 11/01/17 at:  https://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/06/18/what-does-the-next-generation-school-library-look-like/

 

All photos courtesy of F. Lane and the Dorcas Library.

Reflection #4: Embracing Techno-Reality in Rural Libraries

Introduction

Stephens (2004; 2008), vividly describes the need for ‘techno-planning’, in order to avoid the pitfalls of ‘techno-stress,’ ‘techno-lusting,’ ‘techno-divorcing,’ ‘techno-shame,’ and ‘techno-phobia.’

The key is to develop open and transparent, user-centric, emerging technology committees who can begin to sift past the emotional responses elicited by the thought of new technologies, and begin to answer the questions: “What are we ready for? What can we wait to do?  How do we teach, build, teach more, build more incrementally?”

In 2015, Stephens noted that:

In a report by Wells (2014), industry analysts predict that by 2020 more than 50 billion mobile devices will be connected worldwide. In the next few years, the world will be using mobile services and devices we cannot imagine today. The library that builds value and thrives will be fluid enough to anticipate and quickly respond to new technologies and user expectations…. Exploring the hyperlinked library model as a mobile platform for discovery, interaction, and participation is just one facet of the rich and varied possibilities for our future. Delivering easy-to-use, unique, and just-in-time services to the palm of a user’s hand, however, may be one of the most important goals we take on as information professionals.

Techno-planning in an urban community is generally supported by a strong technology infrastructure. Users have exposure to, and generally ubiquitous access to, a multitude of services (broadband, cellular, satellite, wi-fi) and a multitude of devices and apps to harness them.

What are the specific challenges facing rural librarians as they seek to increase access to emerging technologies in their spaces?

Pushing Past Techno-Lust and FOMO

Rural librarians share that lust for new technology that is experienced by many tech-geek librarians, staff, and patrons world-wide. As a new technology emerges, we are instantly afraid that if we don’t grab it right away, we will never have another opportunity. However, in a small-budget library, in a digitally-divided landscape, we can’t leap in to be a beta user simply because we have a fear of missing out.  We wait, impatiently, for local infrastructures to expand. We wait, impatiently, for the bugs to be tested out. We wait, impatiently, for larger libraries to develop the relevant uses for the technology, to write the protocols and the policies for the new technology. We wait, impatiently, to see if the technology even survives! Goodbye, Google glass and QR codes! We never had an opportunity to play.

So much of techno-planning entails thinking about an emerging technology in terms of what people in our community really need. Do we really need virtual reality at this time? Are other technologies more important?

Google Glass, for example, was a technology that no one in my rural community actually needed, nor did we have the consistent wireless infrastructure to support it outside the library walls. As Oremus states: “Glass’ problem is that the technology today simply doesn’t offer anything that average people really want, let alone need, in their everyday lives. At some point in the future, it might. But not anytime soon…. Project Glass was an attempt to answer the question: What might a consumer augmented-reality device look like, and how would one use it? It was, in short, an experiment. And, as often happens with experiments, the results forced the researchers to modify their hypotheses.” (Oremus, 2014).

Some of the 23 Things we are using or exploring at my library are:

  • Facebook & Instagram: our following is growing slowly
  • Twitter: We have a presence, but only one follower who actually prefers FB. In the future, we may see our Twitter feed grow, but for now, it is silent.
  • Online presence: Too much duplication of effort. Shall we send an email newsletter? Write a blog on our website? Or continually post in FB? Which is more useful? Is the combination useful? How much time is required to sustain our online efforts?
  • We have a great website. Sadly, too few people visit or use our website, or explore the links provided there. How can we lead users to the website with as little techno-chaos or techno-duplication as possible? How can we guide users through passive exploration and toward….
  • Library virtual spaces? Dreamed of, but not yet built. I envision online spaces for uneasy newcomers to play with social media communications with relative privacy. A space where they can set up virtual book discussions; collaborate on local solutions; learn collectively using MOOCs, webinars, and podcasts; share feedback on library programs and activities; and participate in “gamified” reading programs.
  • 3-D printer? No established maker space at the moment. The library has been dedicated to housing collections, with programming and people as a distinct afterthought. We have entered a phase of ‘imagineering’ for a much-needed facility update.
  • Scanners? Just added in 2016!
  • Digital Studio? On the wish list.
  • Smart tables, Promethean walls? Wish list.

Differentiating Between Techno-Phobia and Techno-Failure

Lu (2017) reports that older people use smart phones and tablets but prefer to read on computers, why? For our patrons, the answer comes down to usability. Simple things like the screen size for video is too small on a phone or tablet; the font size is too small in most phone apps; the inability to change screen glare under changing light conditions [not that the technology is unavailable, but that no one has taught the user how to change the device settings]; too many choices of apps, with not enough instruction about how to use each one productively; not enough storage space in less expensive phones. Forcing people who have never played with technology to adopt new technologies scares the pants off them [Will I erase all my data? Will my data be private? Is social media safe?]

For more tech savvy, but perhaps justifiably tech-resistant patrons, huge advances in AI and data collection threaten their privacy. Just because we CAN create a technology does not imply that we SHOULD.

Kastanis (2015) describes a future that is intriguing but also nightmarish to any person who is a Star Trek or Philip K. Dick fan. “In the future, I believe these brain-computer interfaces will be universal. Rather than say, “Hey, Siri,” you’ll think, “Hey, Siri….  Some of the most promising players in this area right now include Emotiv, a bioinformatics company using EEG technology to develop brain-computer interfaces, and BrainGate, a research team that’s created a wireless transmitter for paralyzed patients.”

The implication here, is that one day the library and the user will occupy one virtual space. There will be no separation between the patron and the collection.

Recognizing Techno-Gaps & the Evolution of the Digital Divide

 

(Kovach, 2014).

The reality is that mobile tech is with us everywhere, even in digitally divided regions. As Holmquist (2013) stated, smartphones and tablets put information in peoples’ pockets. He also cautioned that before we can use technology meaningfully, we must understand its reach and its implications.

In New England, as in many rural areas in the United States, true broadband is limited to larger business and to public libraries. Generally, home internet providers do not have the infrastructure to provide high-speed broadband services in private homes. We do not have consistent mobile services. Libraries are heroes here, because that is where the wi-fi lives!

Jessamyn West, a librarian from Vermont, describes how people, rather than infrastructure, are also now the cause of the digital divide:

This, to me, is the real digital divide in 2016. [People] have to pay someone for help, they don’t have the money, the​y​ don’t have options because their communities do not have this level of free tech knowledge available. They are vulnerable to people trying to sell them things. ​They are vulnerable to relying on “closed” communities like​​ facebook to do everything online. ​ Media only heightens this anxiety​ and makes them feel at risk,​ and phishing and other scams increasingly targeted towards them amplify this issue. (West, August 2016).

In my community, there are:

  • people who have never needed computer technology for work or life and who are unhappy that tasks in their lives can now ONLY be done online [government, financial, insurance, medical];
  • people who have used technology (or even built technologies for IBM, Wang, and other pioneering companies), who feel they have earned the right to ‘retire from technology’. They share the feelings of the group above, and in some cases, are even MORE resistant to mandatory technologies;
  • people who have grown up in an analog world, but evolved with computer and telephone technology changes, and who are comfortable playing around with software, applications, cloud-based sharing, and other digital technologies;
  • people who have never lived in a world that was not digital, and who are fluent in a variety of technologies before they attend school;
  • people whose parents/grandparents believe they should be limited in their exposure to technology until they attend school (or sometimes, even longer).

How do we provide guidance and instruction for so many types of technological experience? We begin the conversation person by person, and we build individual confidence step-by-step. “People are not just needing technology to find a book to read or a form for the IRS, they are using it to manage their LIVES. And that becomes the latest thing for us to manage. Help people live, because living in 2016 includes technology.” (West, November 2016).

Embracing Techno-Reality

In our tech-planning processes, our Emerging Technologies Committee must evaluate current trends in library technology [Maker Spaces; Competency-Based Education; Virtual Reality; Data Analytics and Machine Learning; Accessibility; Mobile First; Wearables; Video; Wireless Infrastructure (Kelly, 2016)]. Are these technologies relevant in our communities? Will they become relevant in the near future? Are they supported by infrastructure [regional, local, or facilities]? Who needs or will need this technology in our community? How do we reach these users?

Step by step, person by person, app by app, we need to find or create individual solutions for individual realities. There are reciprocal benefits implied…. If we want to increase our library Facebook presence, we need to introduce new users to Facebook. If we want users to participate in virtual spaces, we need to create those spaces and teach people how to participate there.

We are their coaches and online guides. We need to mentor their online presence, answer their concerns about privacy and data collection. We need to teach technologies that help people sustain and enrich their lives. We need to begin instruction where they already live and participate [Luddite, minimalist, participant, or enthusiast]. Technology is not one-size-fits-all. We need to focus on giving techno-encouragement, providing techno-enrichment, and building techno-empowerment.

Words courtesy of Tod Colegrove, 2013 TEDx Talks.

 

 

References

Colegrove, T. (2013, 10 June). Libraries of the Future. TEDx Talks, Reno, Nevada. Accessed 20 October 2017 at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvE0gHhK3ss

Cummings, S.X. (2011, October 16).  Why the QR code is failing. IMedia.com [website]. Accessed 26 October 2017 @ http://www.imediaconnection.com/articles/ported-articles/red-dot-articles/2011/oct/why-the-qr-code-is-failing/

Da Silva, M. (2017, 12 April). Proximity marketing: How to attract more shoppers with beacon technology. Shopify POS [website]. Accessed 28 October 2017 at:  https://www.shopify.com/retail/the-ultimate-guide-to-using-beacon-technology-for-retail-stores

Higgins, A.J. (2017, 17 September). Verizon Wireless terminating service for 2,000 cellphone customers in Washington County [Maine]. Bangor Daily News [online]. Accessed 28 October 2017 at:  https://bangordailynews.com/2017/09/12/business/verizon-wireless-terminating-service-for-2000-cellphone-customers-in-washington-county/

Holmquist, J. (2013, 24 August). MOOC [Mobile Library]. Accessed 25 October 2017 at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGZ9V8wnV4g&list=PLJFU8Vb2i7KwdDjZwceGOhRlb6LuuYMQV&index=1

Kastanis, D. (2015, 15 November). What technology will look like in five years. TechCrunch [website]. Accessed 22 October 2017 at:  https://techcrunch.com/2015/11/15/what-technology-will-look-like-in-five-years/?ncid=rss&sr_share=facebook#.duec3yb:tVV

Kelly, R. (2016, 13 January). 9 Ed Tech trends to watch in 2016. Accessed 29 September 2017 at:  https://campustechnology.com/articles/2016/01/13/9-ed-tech-trends-to-watch-in-2016.aspx

Kovach, S. (2014, 13 January). Google’s multibillion purchase of Nest is just the beginning of ‘The Internet of Things’. Accessed 28 Oct 2017 at:  http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-of-things-billions-of-connected-devices-2014-1

Lu, K.. (2017, 12 June). Growth in mobile news use driven by older adults. Pew Research Center. Accessed 25 October 2017 at: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/06/12/growth-in-mobile-news-use-driven-by-older-adults/

Oremus, W. (2014, 19 November). The moonshot that missed: Google Glass was a grand experiment, but it’s time for Google to move on. Slate: Technology. Accessed 25 October 2017 at:  http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2014/11/google_glass_why_it_s_time_for_google_to_walk_away_from_its_much_hyped_moonshot.html

Stephens, M. (2004, 1 November). Technoplans vs. technolust. Tame The Web [blog].  Accessed 29 September 2017 at:  http://tametheweb.com/2004/11/01/technoplans-vs-technolust/

Stephens M. (2008). Taming technolust: Ten steps for planning in a 2.0 world. Reference and User Service Quarterly 47:4, 314-317.  Accessed 1 October 2017 at:  http://tametheweb.com/2012/05/30/taming-technolust-ten-steps-for-planning-in-a-2-0-world-full-text/

Stephens, M. (2015). Serving the user when and where they are: Hyperlinked libraries. Accessed 27 October 2017 at: http://tametheweb.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Stephens_ServingtheUser_HyperlinkedLibraries.pdf

Stephens, M. (2017). Lecture, Module 8, INFO 287, San Jose State University. Accessed online at:  https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=b3a2bd49-7d59-4c89-afca-9a6ee1ac541b

West, J. (2016, 11 August). There are multiple digital divides, still. Librarian.net [blog]. Accessed online 27 October 2017 at:  http://www.librarian.net/stax/4636/there-are-multiple-digital-divides-still/

West, J. (2016, 3 November). Solve the digital divide with one neat trick! 2016 FHLA Fall Conference & Business Meeting, Hooksett, Massachusetts. Accessed 28 October 2017 at: http://www.librarian.net/talks/nhla16/

 

 

 

Emerging Technology Plan: Gouldsboro READS!

Gouldsboro READS! A Community Challenge 

  • Read
  • Enjoy
  • Analyze
  • Discuss
  • Share

Action Brief Statement:

Convince adult family and community members that by demonstrating habitual reading skills and reading enjoyment, through the active application of 21st century skills [critical thinking, conversation, communication, collaboration, creativity], they will actively improve the reading ability and reading enjoyment of our community’s children. This will increase every child’s chance of success in our community because curiosity is born and nurtured through the love of reading and learning. Curiosity can change the world!

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

  1. Re-invigorate reading together as a year-round family activity in our community;
  2. Introduce more families to our library programs and services;
  3. Discuss the importance of developing 21st Century Skills as a community;
  4. Initiate Online Chat Groups for ‘connected’ community members to share conversations or blogs about what they are reading, how the family is doing in the challenge, what are the difficulties, what are the pleasures of reading and learning as a family;
  5. Provide gamification badges for meeting reading goals as a family;
  6. Provide printed reading challenges, games, and badges for people who do not have internet access at home;
  7. Provide off-site or off-hours meetings and book discussions for families and individuals who cannot get to the library routinely;
  8. Establish Little Free Libraries in locations around the township to make free books for all more widely available;
  9. Challenge the entire town to read 3,000 books during 2018, beginning in January. [NOTE: This is approximately 2 books per person in our town.] Documentation of reading will be provided to the library, and a large visible exterior display at the center of town [similar to the image of a thermostat that measures funds raised in a campaign] will spark interest in the challenge. Prizes will be awarded throughout the year at community events (both at the library and off-site).

Description of Community you wish to engage:

We have already engaged with the youngest children [K-3] at Peninsula School in monthly events and the Summer School Visit; we have a Tuesday/Thursday STEAM program afterschool and a summer reading STEAM Camp at the library for ages 11+; we have developed a story time for families with infants and toddlers.

To demonstrate to children that reading and learning are of real value in our community, we will begin Gouldsboro READS! This will be a multi-phased program that we hope will engage nearly everyone in town.

Our hope is that by asking parents, relatives, and other care providers to read to, read with, model reading, and talk about reading at home, others in the community will also find ways to demonstrate and share their love of reading [volunteers on classroom visits, increased support of workshops for families, etc.]

Additionally, the library will provide access to 21st Century Learning tools and skills training that adult members of the community may not yet have experienced. This inspires families to learn these much-needed skills together, and perhaps motivates others in the community to try learning new things in new ways. The goal is to create a seamless reading/learning experience, where 21st skills such as online collaboration, communication, and critical thinking are practiced while fulfilling the basic reading challenges.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

This program will be designed and administered by the Library Director with the direct input and assistance of the Gouldsboro town manager, the Adult Education program coordinator, the Peninsula School librarian, the Sumner High School librarian, librarians from adjoining towns, the remedial reading teacher, the READ Therapy Dog handler, a local Family Services Counselor, the library board and volunteers, and interested parents and kids.

Policies for reading programs held at the library already exist, and may be adapted for this purpose. The computer use agreement may be modified to include expected behaviors in online library chatrooms and gaming areas. Students at the Peninsula School and Sumner High School will be invited to write ‘policies’ or ‘manifestos’ regarding how they would like to be treated by one another and by adults in the community, and how they prefer to engage in conversations with other members of the community who are participating in these programs.

Technology systems will resemble [and may actually duplicate] those used in the Great Reading Adventure, Maricopa County Library District (2015).

A Dorcas Library platform will be built using WordPress and Commons In A Box allowing community members to share conversations such as we have been doing in SJSU INFO 287-01.

Little Free Libraries will be built from donated materials by volunteers, and stocked by library volunteers.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

Staff Time [Library Director]
100 hours to set up
60 hours to administer
60 hours to evaluate

Volunteer Time [Approximately 5 volunteers]

Infant & Toddler Story Time                        10 hours/month
Edge Program Visits                                       10 hours/month
Afterschool Programs [films, challenges]  20 hours/month
Marketing [sign; press releases]                     2 hours/month
Little Free Libraries                                           2 hours/month

In-Kind Contributions
Snacks   $250/year
Prizes   $250/year
Giveaway Books  $500/year

Other expenses will be covered by private donations.

Action Steps & Timeline: 

Consenting Parties:  The library director will present this program to the library board for approval. There is unlikely to be any dissenting voice.  DEADLINE: Nov 4

Timeline:          Many analog aspects of this program can be in place within one month of commitment. Digital platforms and content will certainly be ready within NLT JAN 31.

Technology: The technology is available for this project almost immediately. Building the games and badges will take some time, using help from IT volunteers and 5-8th grade volunteers in the STEAM Afterschool program.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

This is a service that requires significant planning and preparation up front, but not an enormous increase in volunteer time or hours once the challenge is publicized. Additional volunteers to support the program will be recruited in the marketing materials that discuss the program and its intended goals. These individuals will serve as facilitators for programs in the library during off hours or for programs held off-site. We expect that our STEAM Team members and their parents will be more than willing to help with many of these tasks.

Participants who use the cloud services might require technical help from time to time. The badges will automatically be assigned when the target is met. Print challenges and games require a bit more work from library staff: these must be collected, reviewed, and badges awarded manually. The Little Free Libraries will be monitored at least 1x monthly to ensure books do not run out. The exterior sign will be updated at least 1x monthly. Additional monthly marketing occurs during the normal programming marketing plan. Awards will be presented at events that are already scheduled in the community.

Training for this Technology or Service:

Everyone who desires to participate in the program, as a volunteer or as a ‘contestant’ will be trained to teach participants about the print and/or the digital challenges. Training will be designed into the online platforms, so that users can learn as soon as they begin. For each skillset they master in the training, they will receive badges to get them started. Training will be on-going and continuous for as long as the program is running (certainly for all of 2018). Volunteer training for specific tasks [such as filling the Little Free Libraries] will begin as soon as the libraries are installed. Initial training may be provided by the library director. Peer-to-peer training is strongly encouraged as a desired collaboration skill.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

Routine library marketing is disseminated through the town office, the school system, businesses and libraries in neighboring communities, the local newspaper, and a local radio station. A system is in place allowing short-notice programs to be advertised quickly on Facebook and on a sign in front of the library. DEADLINE: Dec 4

Putting up the community reading measurement sign [one idea might be to create large brightly colored and plastic-coated books with holes drilled in them, that are stacked on a copper pole in the front lawn… with 30 books representing 3000 titles] in the front lawn of the library will capture people’s attention. Better still would be if the Town Manager will approve installation of this artifact at the town offices or a town green space!

In our community, word of mouth is the strongest advertisement possible. By coordinating with teachers for students to receive extra credit when their families participate; by coordinating with the town manager and board of selectmen so that they are interested in challenging others [perhaps a neighboring town can also be challenged to do this?]; by repeating the message in many formats: newsletters; flyers; emails; street signs; signs with community business partners… the project will gain ‘buzz.’

Evaluation:

I have recently been trained in, although I have yet to begin using, an assessment tool called Project Outcome. This program assists libraries with creating simple surveys, collecting and analyzing data, and benchmarking library service in a way that reflects how our visitors truly use our spaces [in other words, beyond circulation statistics and door counts]. This program encourages libraries to ask visitors HOW the library programs and services have effectively changed their behaviors or their lives. It provides a resource to help us measure our own effectiveness in the community.

Regarding stories to tell, I will wait and watch and listen to people as they begin to participate. I will watch for excitement to build; watch for local ‘strangers’ to enter our spaces (whether on site or on line); watch for local leaders to give talks to young people at the library and at school about the importance of reading and learning. Then I will have tales to tell.

I will provide, as always, plenty of ways for people to leave messages for us in the library and online. I will continue to ask open-ended philosophical questions each week. I will continue to provide magnet boards and words for people to create poems or phrases which have meaning for them.

One thing on my to do list for months is to create a “suggestion box.”  I have surveys and material request forms, but no where that people can anonymously make a comment to help us improve our services.

 

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Casey, M.E., and Savastinuk, L.C. (2007). Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

Christchurch City Libraries. This is how we do it: Seven years of social media at Christchurch City Libraries. Accessed 18 October 2017 at:  http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Bibliofile/2014/Social-media.pdf and https://cclbibliofile.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/this-is-how-we-do-it-social-media-at-christchurch-city-libraries/

Commons In A Box Project. Accessed 18 October 2017 at:  http://commonsinabox.org/

Great Reading Adventure Project. Accessed 18 October 2017 at: http://greatreadingadventure.com/

Little Free Library Project. Accessed 18 October 2017 at: https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Missoula Public Library (2017). Read… More! Year-Long Reading Challenge: Can you read 50 books in 2017? Accessed 15 October 2017 at: http://www.missoulapubliclibrary.org/adult-events/512-read-more-year-long-reading-challenge

P21: Partnership for 21st Century Learning. Accessed 10 October 2017 at:  http://www.p21.org/our-work/p21-framework

Project Outcome. Accessed 18 October 2017 at: https://www.projectoutcome.org/

READ Therapy Dogs. Accessed 19 October 2017 at: http://www.therapyanimals.org/R.E.A.D.html

Twinsburg Public Library. 50 Book Challenge. Accessed 15 October 2017 at: http://twinsburglibrary.org/50-book-challenge

People at the Center: An Unofficial Reflection

What follows are thoughts I want to share with the library board as we continue to “imagineer” a new library addition with remodel. This is not an “official reflection assignment,” but a ‘first draft’ document for a presentation on Saturday morning. I will provide references for the C21 skills and the importance of librarians encouraging content creation later. Stay tuned.

Today’s learner needs much more than an ability to read and comprehend what is read.

Today’s learner needs to be able to process what is seen, heard, said by others, and what is read from a huge variety of sources (not even mostly in books). Needs resources to enable them to determine what is viable content from what is potentially manipulated or forged. Needs to be able to distinguish what is sound reasoning from what is stated opinion. Needs to be able to synthesize valid information quickly, provide an analysis quickly, and CREATE NEW CONTENT using sound resources… quickly. Needs to be able to work with a team of people who might be a world away, using collaborative technologies. Needs to be able to work with a team of people face-to-face.

Most importantly, learners of all ages need to be able to think creatively, playfully, and joyfully about learning.

Today’s library services and programming must shift from providing “content enjoyment” [books, movies, magazines, audio] and fiercely encourage “content creation.” We need to think about the best ways to curate, display, and archive visitor-created content.

This is a movement from passive participation to committed active participation. This is hugely exciting!

For those threatened by the displacement of books at the center of the library, trust me. Books will always be here. However, the future library may house an entire section of digital works that were actually born and/or created here!  In the process of content creation, our visitors will be reading, studying, analyzing, and using all the resources we can think to provide.

We need to envision a space where people are the center, with resources on the periphery.

This is NOT NEW.

Ancient libraries, such as the Library of Alexandria, were considered centers of learning and knowledge creation. The scrolls and artifacts there were not gathered together merely to be the accumulated collection of all knowledge. They were collected with the full understanding that creation of new human knowledge requires one to review previous knowledge. It was understood that scholars would be commenting on the scrolls and evolving human thought. If an archivist from the Library of Alexandria could see what is now available digitally, he would swoon in delight.

****

At my library, we are NOT early adapters. We are “adapting to catch up!” In the process of “catching up,” we need to think about what will be needed in the future. And that implies technologies that many of us are not comfortable using.

We need to playfully experiment with new technologies.

We need to casually experiment with new applications and then recommend and teach them to others.

We need to embrace the world our children and grandchildren inhabit.

We need to create a space for all of us to create, experiment, play, and learn.

Resources?  To Follow.

Most recently, Michael Stephens Adopt or Adapt: Approaches to Emerging Tech & Trends. 

Redefining Public Library Spaces in Rural Maine

Work & School Intersect. Again!

This week, I made a presentation for the library board to review as we initiate the process of remodeling and adding a dedicated programming space to our building. A remark was made that “some people in town” [unidentified] are grumbling we are moving ahead of ourselves and our community. That the library ‘has no need for meeting spaces, because there are plenty of meeting spaces in the community already.’ This is very interesting to me, since I have spent two years gathering information through informal and formal, face-to-face and heart-to-heart, conversations with everyone I meet (whatever their age), both in the library and out. I have gathered information from my instructors and colleagues at SJSU, from my colleagues in the Maine State Library and in libraries across the state of Maine, and from colleagues around the world using social media groups to have conversations about community libraries. I have read widely in the field of librarianship and information science to understand trends in library spaces and facility planning. I am happy to hear what the arguments are in opposition to library development, because this allows me to prepare my proposals with those arguments in mind.

 

First, we must embrace the world as it is, whether we like it or not. We must live in the reality that we have been given to live in, whether we yearn for ‘good old days’ or not. There are people in the town who grumble about the fact that everyone in town is old, that all the children grow up and leave, that there is not enough work or affordable housing for families here. Sometimes, these same folks will advocate to allow no changes in town. They resist modernization. They resist creating a community that is welcoming to new businesses. They even resist looking at business models which don’t fit the old ways of working. They want an old-fashioned life, but cannot understand why people leave to find work.

 

We do our children and grand-children a disservice when we stultify our towns. We do them a disservice when we relegate our library spaces merely to the antiquated function of circulation of materials. The world has moved on. Information has moved on. We must move on. And in our community, we are behind the curve, as you will see.

 

As a book repository, with very limited users, the library could function easily with volunteer coverage, and the limited space that currently exists. There simply were few people who entered the doors for any reason. And those numbers were consistently decreasing.  When the board president in 2014 decided to advocate for more programming, and for maker-space activities in the library, there was a gradual shift in the ways the library was used, and a demonstrable increase in visitation.

 

By changing the library to a place of information sharing, by creating social learning groups, by bringing people into the library who have not walked through the doors since childhood, by forging partnerships with the school system, and by providing a ‘boutique library’ experience for every visitor to our facility, we have created synergy. Sometimes, I schedule groups to visit when the library is closed, because they need the extra space. Sometimes [gasp!] more than one group wants to meet in the library at the same time! We have created the need for programming space, meeting space, quiet space, work space for people of all ages. I will discuss those needs in further detail, but first a brief history of Dorcas Library, of library trends, and a bit about the town of Gouldsboro.

 

History of Dorcas Library

1932      Dorcas Society built a two-room cottage.

1956      A children’s room was created by Louise Paine. This was relocated in 1984.

1972      Gladys Sewell created regular open hours.

1978      Mary H. Chase donated funds for the Harbor View Room.

1984      The Library and the Dorcas Society merged to become the Dorcas Library Association.

2004      Some construction and/or rearranging of interior spaces occurred at about this time.

The children’s room was moved to its current position, and a Young Adult room was created. The bathroom facilities were improved and a work room / closet was added.

2012      King Foundation grant for technology; long range planning grant from MCF for redesign.

2013      Truck Crash in November required an update of the entryway and the circulation area.

 

Important Public Library Trends

  • Affinity Groups are the ‘new’ model for social learning, but the history of affinity groups is ancient. The Dorcas Society was an affinity group in Gouldsboro in 1932, and it pleases me to bring the library back to its roots, by finding people with common informational interests, and bringing them together for conversations, knowledge sharing, reading and discussion, and learning.

 

  • Maker Spaces were first mentioned in 1995 in Berlin. These have become increasingly common in school and public libraries. They provide opportunities for people of all ages to play with technology. This includes current and emerging technologies (programming, gaming, robotics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence), but also historical technologies (tinkering with old radios and VCRs, typing on manual typewriters, figuring out how to retrieve data floppy disks). Providing a consistent space for making, coding, innovating and inventing will give people access to the skills they need for the future.

 

  • Collections Decentralized. Increasingly, academic libraries are moving collections off-site to make more room in their facilities for meeting spaces, collaborative tech spaces, and learning commons (2009 Syracuse University, 2011 Denver University). Naturally, there is resistance to this movement. But the books deserve to be stored archivally (proper temperatures, humidity levels, and air quality) if they are not being utilized; and the people certainly deserve to have space dedicated to their learning and collaboration. In the public library, this is slower to happen, but it must happen. I certainly do not advocate for removal of books, or even reduction of collection budgets. I do advocate for the storing of collections in such a way that spaces are opened for people to enjoy. The contemporary library (which I prefer to call a community learning center, and which is headed by people called ‘informarians’) is not about showing off how many items are in your collection. It is about showing off how many people are occupying your space!

 

  • User input. Participatory development of all aspects of library function, including the facilities. I know what our visitors want, because I have asked them, whatever their age or interest. I have asked people at the grocery store or in restaurants if they use the library, and if they haven’t, I ask them why. I have listened to people. I have sought clarification at times. And I have heard, and my proposals are their proposals. I will fight for their ideas!

 

From Gouldsboro Comprehensive Plan 2005

“Perhaps the major regional issue is economic development, which needs to occur on both a sub-regional (i.e., Schoodic area) and a countywide basis. This needs to be done in conjunction with addressing first-time home purchase opportunities for younger families so that the labor force is able to remain in the area.”

 

Re-Inventing the Dorcas Library

The present library facility has been pieced together over the past 85 years. The last major renovation was 40 years ago! We need to take this opportunity to create a community library for the next twenty years. We need to modernize basic systems, fix structural issues, and bring the library forward in time. We need to do all these things, and still preserve the feeling of the welcoming library in a cottage.

 

The changes I am proposing, with considerable input from many others, are neither radical nor new! These are ideas that have been in motion in many libraries, for many years already, with great success. The idea of an addition and/or renovation to Dorcas Library is also not new. This idea has been in play since 2014!

 

From the beginning of my service at this library, I asked and reflected upon these questions:

  • How can our library best serve our community? What are the needs of the community?
  • What information sharing opportunities do people in this community need right now?
  • What types of information sharing will people in this community need for the foreseeable future?
  • How do people use our spaces? Where are they uncomfortable? Where do they habitually go first? Where do they linger longest? Where do they make themselves ‘at home’. What do they ask for? What do they complain about?
  • In what ways do we need to update/modernize our facility systems (environmental footprint, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, security)?

 

Providing Space for Affinity Groups, For Making & Tinkering, For Collaboration & Content Creation

The community has several challenges which are best met by providing more of a platform for social learning. First, we are an aging community. This is a popular retirement spot. People are concerned about health and wellness issues, preventing onset of dementia and other debilitating conditions, and quality of life as they age. Forging strong social bonds and learning or mastering new challenges are two excellent ways the community learning center concept can support our community. People are also worried about social isolation in our remote, rural community. We are 30 miles from the nearest large town. People are siloed in their own homes, often alone. A rural child may not have any other children living within miles of their home. The library has become a community center for people to ‘hang out’, use the internet, play a board game, work on a puzzle, or just socialize with friends. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Secondly, we have lost jobs in the community, the region, and the state. The frustration and economic stress is palpable. The regional opioid addiction epidemic is one symptom of that frustration. Food insecurity and hunger are also directly correlated to economic hardship. A library can focus on the symptoms [providing connections to social service agencies; creating support groups for families; creating an edible landscape/community garden]. A more significant role for the library community would be to work in partnership with town leadership, the chamber of commerce, and county agencies to change the primary problem. Offer opportunities at the library for local business people to model entrepreneurship, provide space and resources to incubate new business ideas, and support innovation and product creation.

 

Thirdly, the children who do live in this community have access to some emerging technologies and basic services such as internet through the school. However, many have no internet access at home. The only 3D printers in the region are at school, safely locked up during weekends, vacations, and summer months. The collaborative skills kids use in class are also unavailable to them when school is not in session, and their families do not necessarily know how to provide access to such activities at home, even if internet access is provided. Our community learning center needs to ensure that families have access to platforms and that enhance and sustain their learning in 21st century skillsets, such as developing solutions-based thinking, participating in cloud-based collaborations, communicating via social media platforms, and researching and analyzing online content. We need provide opportunities for parents to ‘catch up’ on these skills, as they look for ways to increase family incomes. As they observe the fun, others in our community may step up and try on new technologies!

 

Provide Spaces for Community Gatherings

The library hosts at least four large community celebrations each year, and attendance at these events is increasing. Additionally, the library provides gallery space to a different local artist each month, and often we hold receptions in their honor. We could use more open space where people can congregate comfortably, more wall space where art and local history artifacts can be displayed, and a coffee and food service area that is centralized and easy to use.

 

Provide Spaces for Work & Quiet Reflection

Increasing library programming for all ages, and encouraging community gatherings and conversations in the library, has diminished our ability to provide truly quiet spaces for reading, study, and contemplation. Our spaces are, to be blunt, noisy! True, the joyful noise of learning and social bonding is welcome. But so is the silence of contemplation. We must find a way to balance these needs.

 

High-density shelving provides a way for the library to house the entire adult collection in a greatly reduced footprint, which opens spaces for meeting and gathering, and spaces for quiet activities. Glass doors between the common area and the Harbor View room; more easy chairs that allow for devices to be comfortably used and charged; bench tables for people who prefer using a desk; reading nooks with good lighting; chairs and benches from which to contemplate our glorious views; a tranquility garden with a water feature. These are all ways we can enhance our services for those who crave quiet.

 

Provide Spaces for Private Meetings

Contrary to those individuals who believe there is ‘meeting space aplenty’ in the town, the library needs to provide private meeting space inside our facility. First, library staff, the library board, library committees, and volunteers often hold meetings during open hours. A conference room would be much more appropriate for these conversations. Secondly, adult learners who are concentrating on ABE skills, sometimes prefer more privacy for their tutoring sessions. Thirdly, because librarians in rural areas are a resource for social services, it is important to have a closed-door area where a community member or local family can privately describe the information they need, or the types of assistance they are seeking. On that note, the library has already been asked to host several social support groups (AA and NA groups; caregivers’ support; veterans’ support; grief support groups). We would do so, however we lack private space that is available when library staff [me!] is on-site to manage the facility. Many volunteers work in the library during closed hours, which limits our ability to host any private and confidential support groups during those times.

 

Provide Spaces for Staff & Volunteers to Work

At present, the library has insufficient storage for supplies. We have insufficient space for cataloging and processing collection materials. We have insufficient space for large print projects, such as the annual fundraising campaign. Letters, envelopes, returned items, thank you cards… the project requires considerable workspace to be available for approximately three months. The result of working space deficits is clutter. Projects in progress are visible to the public, whether we like it or not. We need spaces to do our work unhindered and unseen.

 

Final Thoughts

Projects like this can seem daunting! People can easily become overwhelmed. Sometimes people want to go back to the beginning of the process… saying that we need to seek more public input. We need to wait for a survey result. The fact is, we have surveyed already. We have public input already. Some of us have been analyzing that information for years.

 

Because these proposed changes are new for this library, and relatively new for any library nearby, there is some resistance to such ‘progressive plans’. The fact is, these are not progressive plans. This is a project to bring us up to current library standards. These are welcome and desired changes for our local young people, who are spending more and more time at the library, and for many of our summer visitors, many of whom visit again and again.

 

I will fight for these library spaces, because I will be representing people who have trusted me with their needs and wants. On the other hand, I have no attachment to how the library is decorated [although I have forbidden mauve and puce]. I am interested purely in how people use our spaces, and the ways they will blossom and grow when we give them room to do so.

 

 

Resources Churning in My Brain as I Captured These Thoughts.

Baiocco, L. (2016). Labor of love: Opening up archival gems for community engagement. Accessed 29 September 2017 at:  http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/may16/Baiocco–Labor-of-Love–Opening-Up-Archival-Gems-for-Community-Engagement.shtml

 

Casey, M.E., and Savastinuk, L.C. (2007). Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

 

Laerkes, J.G. (2016). The four spaces of the public library. Accessed 29 September 2017 at: https://blogs.ifla.org/public-libraries/2016/03/29/the-four-spaces-of-the-public-library/

 

Norton, M.H., & Dowdall, E. (2017). Strengthening Networks, Sparking Change: Museums and libraries as community catalysts. Institute of Museum & Library Services (IMLS). Accessed 29 September 2017 at: https://www.imls.gov/sites/default/files/publications/documents/community-catalyst-report-january-2017.pdf

 

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/#_

Simon, N. (8 October 2008). The future of authority: Platform power. [Blog. Museum 2.0]. Accessed 30 September 2017 at: https://museumtwo.blogspot.com/2008/10/future-of-authority-platform-power.html

 

Stephens, M. (2016). The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

 

Zickuhr, K. (2014) Public Libraries and technology: From ‘houses of knowledge’ to ‘houses of access.’ Accessed 30 September 2017 at: http://libraries.pewinternet.org/2014/07/09/public-libraries-and-technology-from-houses-of-knowledge-to-houses-of-access/

 

 

Reflection #3: Thoughts on Hyperlinked Communities

First of all, a brief word about being an ADHD librarian in a hyperlinked world.

Heaven!

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.

 

Resources

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/

 

 

On Sideways Thinking, Messiness & Librarianship: Context Book Review

Book I  Think Sideways: a game-changing playbook for disruptive thinking

This gem of a little book teaches people how to undo years of societal training. All those things we learned in school: color inside the lines; follow directions; do what the others do; don’t show our feelings; learn to conform. Kleinberg’s premise is that those things were great for certain types of work in the past. But we have moved toward a new way of being, and those rigid boundaries of self-control are in our way, now! Let’s disrupt the social order, throw off inhibitions, dream up what we want, and take actions toward those dreams.

Section One attempts to define sideways thinking. “Life is full of sideways thinkers who have disrupted life-as-usual. You know who they are. They are usually labeled the rebels, the mavericks, the pioneers. They are all of these things and more.” (Kleinberg, loc 242). Here, she also briefly dispels some mythologies about creativity, such as funky glasses are required; or, creativity is hard work; or, creativity is about making an object of beauty for the world to see. Then, in Section Two she outlines the basic steps toward becoming a sideways thinker, which include:

  • Write a Manifesto
  • Eternal Optimism
  • Keep Your Antennas Up
  • Jump on Two
  • Don’t Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
  • Obsess
  • Follow Frustration
  • Believe You Can Defy the Odds
  • There are No Rules
  • Learn in Motion
  • Dream Crazy
  • Go in the Opposite Direction
  • Seize Change
  • Lean In
  • Create New Rules
  • Get Emotional

Finally, in Section Three she discusses why sideways thinking is important. “We’ve shifted from an information age built on sequential logic and information to a conceptual age built on empathy and emotion. People are naturally emotional. We seek to connect on an emotional level; we make decisions based on emotion.”  (Kleinberg, loc 1549). Sideways thinking, in her mind, teaches us to rely less upon logic and more upon emotion, upon intuition, upon radical insight.

She also addresses the increasingly fluid barriers surrounding ideas and intellectual property rights. Hiding ideas behind a copyright is a thing of the past. “The world has changed and the future belongs to those who embrace sharing and collaboration, not to those who hoard and hide. The New Economy of Ideas is built on a premise of abundance, not scarcity. In the old days, people felt that there weren’t enough ideas to go around. That is what led to the hoarding of ideas.” (Kleinberg, loc 2681).

I would take this one step further, perhaps. In a capitalistic society, ideas = money; which is why ideas have been protected under copyright. People attempt to copyright common words and phrases, just so they can make money from that. Unfortunately, capitalism as we have always known it, is completely unsustainable. There is a strong movement away from such rigidity of ownership, and toward a more fluid sharing of ideas and information. Increasingly, we are seeing collaboration among scholars, among business colleagues, among global communities. Truly, it takes sideways thinking to see outside the lines society has drawn around us!

 

Book II  Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform our Lives

Harford lays out for us the theory that ‘messiness is good.’ “Often, we are so seduced by the blandishments of tidiness that we fail to appreciate the virtues of the messy – the untidy, unquantified, uncoordinated, improvised, imperfect, incoherent, crude, cluttered, random, ambiguous, vague, difficult, diverse, or even dirty.” (Harford, p 4). He then systematically documents demonstrated ways that messiness has powerful and positive impact on our lives, in increased creativity, in improved collaboration, in our work productivity, in our ability to improvise, in our ability to succeed, and in our increased resilience.

In case study after case study, from artists, to scientists, to engineers, to businesses, Harford provides evidence that it is in the messy outcomes of unplanned moments that we make our greatest creative leaps. He writes about Benjamin Franklin, who craved order all his life, never succeeding, but making discovery after discovery in his chaos. “A messy desk isn’t nearly as chaotic as it at first seems. There’s a natural tendency toward a very pragmatic system of organization based simply on the fact that the useful stuff keeps on getting picked up and left on the top of the pile.” (Harford, p 236).  He writes about jazz great, Miles Davis, whose greatest recording he “kind of missed” what he was trying to do. And yet it is still acknowledged as his greatest work (Kind of Blue).

“Speed, economy, and flexibility: these three advantages should already be enough to convince us that the messy process of improvising has its advantages over tidy, scripted alternatives. But there’s something else that seems to happen during the process of improvisation, an almost magical creative spark that until recently has been elusive.” (Harford, p 98).

Spontaneity, lack of planning, leaping, can lead to great result. Scientists and sociologists have been attempting to evaluate these results in a quantifiable way. What do we find when we look at the brains of people who are improvising?  Brains scans suggest that “improvisers are suppressing their conscious control and letting go…. Improvising musicians shut down their inner critic. Improvisers stop filtering their ideas quite so assiduously, and allow the mess of new ideas to flow out.”

The takeaway?  “Real creativity, excitement, and humanity lie in the messy parts of life, not the tidy ones. And an appreciation of the virtues of mess in fulfilling our human potential is something we can encourage….”

 

 

Why These Two Books?

I must confess, I have two more books from the list already downloaded to my Kindle and added to my TBR list. But these two titles were of particular interest to me, because these titles validate my entire existence.

When I was 50 years old, I was diagnosed with ADHD. After testing, the doctor told me that, in fact, I am severely ADHD. As a person who has continually struggled to comply with rules, but failed to understand why rules are required; as a person who has struggled to do things “the normal way” or “the right way” and who has repeatedly failed; as a person who has learned to accept themselves as a failure, I was pleased to suddenly connect the flotilla of unconnected dots which are, under the umbrella term of ADHD, loosely considered to be “symptoms.”

Before my diagnosis, I felt that ADHD was a made-up disorder; that people could be taught to do things. Of course, they could! That I personally always failed in such attempts at learning seemed to me to be a personal failure. I was lazy [so untrue]. I was stubborn [probably true]. After diagnosis, I finally realized that even if I wanted to learn how to do any task “normally”, I would not be able to do it. My brain is different than 90% of the population, both in physiological configuration and in neurochemistry. Understanding this has changed my life.

Sideways Thinking is what I always do. I am practically incapable of seeing things through a so-called “normal” lens. Messy is an accurate description of the inside of my head. Thoughts, thousands of thoughts, are jumbled and piled, wiggling and squirming, demanding attention, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. There is never NOT chaos in my brain.

 

I cannot convey the depth of my gratitude and relief at no longer having to struggle to be what I am physically incapable of ever being!  And my gratitude and relief at understanding that those mundane ways of being “broken” were the cause of my flashes of insight; my wacky sense of humor; my creativity; my mad ability to solve a problem quickly; my skills at bringing people together while helping them laugh and embrace their own creative selves.

I disagree that ADH is a disorder. I certainly would not trade my messy life for the tidy world of a person who colors inside lines. I admire those folks. I have envied them. But I would not want to be that. I did not want to be that. I never actually wanted to “see straight.” I always enjoyed looking at the world sideways. Or upside down.

I was that kid who hung upside down from a tree reading a book. Who turned cameras at weird angles to take pictures; or, who took pictures from strange angles below or above the subject.

I was that kid who, tired of the conflict over a messy room, cleaned my room on the last day of school one summer, and slept in a sleeping bag on the floor so I would not have to make the bed each day. I was that kid with a secret room outdoors, where I had hidden my favorite books and journals, so my “messy junk” would not offend my tidy mother.

I was that kid who could never follow directions. But who could always tell when someone was feeling badly. When someone needed help.

And yes, I was that kid who failed. Who failed spectacularly! But, who failed with brilliant results! Who failed by producing something unique. Who believed that the result of my explorations was more important to me than the result of following directions toward someone else’s already drawn conclusions.

As a librarian, I have the opportunity to open our doors wide to people who are neurologically different. I have the ability to share a learning experience with people who were born thinking sideways and who do not fit the “normal” or “tidy” worldviews. I enjoy meeting people who are off-kilter, either by choice or by birth. These are the interesting people. The deep thinkers. The innovators.

 

Messiness, Sideways Thinking, & Librarianship

Finally, how can these books help us become better at our practice of librarianship?

Radical librarianship begins by letting go of what librarianship has traditionally been. And the traditional librarian has staunchly demanded order, perfection, tidiness, and silence. The traditional librarian valued collection over people. The traditional librarian “ssshhed” people’s feelings, and even their own feelings. The traditional librarian craved regularity, but people are irregular, always. The traditional librarian stood on a pillar of virtue, and judged everyone who failed to meet the standard. But everyone DOES fail to meet the standard.

Now we have an opportunity to look at our organizations sideways, and encourage others to do so as well. Now we have an opportunity to allow a little messiness to enter our walls, with the goal in mind of finding those flashes of collaborative creativity, community celebration, and joy.

Isn’t that worth a little mess, a little noise?

 

 

 

 

Reflection # 2 PART II: Evolving Toward a More Transparent Library

Bring Back the People

Shifting toward a fully participatory library necessitates movement toward openness and transparency. We simply cannot have one without the other. Secret board meetings, hidden politics… these do not engender trust in the organization, and trust is the key element required for increased participation. “Libraries benefit in all sorts of ways when they’re trusted institutions. Trust breeds loyalty, and loyal library users are more likely to take advantage of the library. What’s more, loyal patrons will also be more likely to sing the praises of the library to neighbors and colleagues. For libraries, thinking about trust highlights the importance of recognizing members as individuals.”  Schmidt (2013).

 

Bring Back the Fun

“Libraries—all libraries—should be fun, even in difficult times.” Casey & Stephens (2014). Increasing transparency includes making the library a more human experience. In our library, this means bringing the fun back. Encouraging volunteers to burst spontaneously into song. Bringing in the so-called “junk reading” materials. Building the collections which are ‘not books.’ Creating programming based on what people in the community find fun and funny. Inviting people to hang out at the library and feel free to ‘laugh out loud.’

“Letting librarians’ personalities show makes it easier for individuals to relate to—and therefore trust—the library…. There are plenty of opportunities for this: displays, events, contributions in newsletters, emails, and on the web, among others. Have some fun, be yourself, and ensure that your library’s brand makes it apparent that it is an organization filled with people. Remember, being fun and engaging folks doesn’t necessarily mean you’re dumbing the library down. Only people who take themselves too seriously think that way!” Schmidt (2013).

Casey & Stephens propose that “The talking library has no secrets and gathers as much input as it can. The transparent library both listens and talks. The transparent library is connected, breeding the expectation for open conversation. The transparent library establishes ways for our users to talk to us and among themselves with tools like blogs and wikis, community open houses, outreach events, and surveys.” I confess. I do more oral interviews with people than written surveys. This summer during the Build-A-Better-World campaign, I included a flip chart for people to write on, and they loved this activity!  Since then, each month I flip the chart, ask a new question, and collect their responses.  This will be a great guide for us as we schedule future programs, consider new collections, and plan the future of this facility.

I have shifted away from sending a complicated email newsletter and will be producing a monthly blog on the library website beginning this month. The email will simply notify people that the site has been updated, and direct them to our site. Our site already includes links to all sorts of information that I know our visitors and guests need (built using Symbaloo). Directing everyone’s attention to the website with a monthly blog will hopefully encourage more use of the site.

[Remind me to blog about the challenges of technology in a space where nearly everyone is tech-averse…. They want to see the data, but they want it “old school.”  I do not have time to do that work, and would like to collect and present data using technology. However, apparently  only I am willing to learn how to use such technology. Urgh. But I digress. Again.]

 There is a terrific assessment tool [Project Outcome] that I will begin to implement this fall. And I will [gently and patiently] teach our board members and volunteers how to use this tool to gather, analyze, and present information that we need to document and assess our services.

Bring Back the Funding

How is it that people in our community were unwilling to use a free service, or participate in free training, at a community library? They did not trust the organization.

Our tiny library has been a non-profit organization since its inception in 1932. The library was started and boosted by private enterprise and private donations. However, the library follows ALA standards for public libraries, and has worked hard to establish strong relationships with educators, town leadership, and local businesses. What the library board failed to do was be fully transparent in its operations. The board meetings were not traditionally open to the public. Board membership was picked from within a select pool of volunteers. The library had never asked the town for money, and so the budget and finances were kept private. Only board members were privy to this information. Much of the confusion for local, year-round residents of this community would have been resolved if this information was made public.

In 2015, at the same time the library moved to hire a director for the first time, they also asked the town to participate in funding. Board members were shocked at how the library was viewed by the voters of the town:  a private club organization; a library for the rich visitors to town; an organization already rolling in money. These were a few of the locally accepted mythologies, and my challenge was to turn that thinking around. Increasing organizational transparency, and openly advocating for the library using real data embedded in real stories is the strategy we are using to solve this dilemma.

So far, we have changed the policy for selecting board members, and have deliberately instructed the nominating committee to search for willing partners who are not currently volunteers at the library. For the first time this November, our 2018 Budget will be posted on our website, along with infographics about how our money was handled in 2017. Information about our endowment fund (which is about 1/3 what is needed to fund our staffing) has been made public, and people were shocked to discover that the organization is not hoarding cash.

Hand in hand with this, is a steady campaign to ask, ask, ask people to remember us in planned giving. Larger gifts from planned giving are what build and sustain the endowment. But if people already believe you are wealthy, they are very reluctant to leave you a gift in their will.

Building A Vision of the Future

This library is in a region where internet infrastructure is lacking. The library is one spot where people of all ages can use computers, stream information, or learn new technologies. Kids in school are learning and using computers daily, but parents cannot keep up. Seniors range from exceedingly tech savvy to absolutely tech resistant. The library is a place where they can begin to discover how much knowledge is available to them outside of books. Give a family historian one taste of Ancestry.com [the full version, not the free library edition] and they begin to ask for more tech training. Look up one article for someone who has no idea how to do an internet search. When you turn up photos and articles about their friends or family members, remind them that if they care to learn, you are available to teach.

“The average library decision about implementing new technologies takes longer than the  average life cycle for new technologies.” Schneider (2006). Our board is very interested in technology overall, but when I suggest Promethean boards that we can use during normal business as events signage, they blanche. How would that work? Isn’t that expensive? Two board members and I want 3D printers at the library. Others would rather spend the money on collections. “No one will know how to use this technology,” they say. There are three 3-D printers at the elementary school which are unavailable nights, weekends, holidays, or vacations. We have users, but no way to serve them.

“The vision for the Hunt Library is ambitious in the extreme: to “create spaces that encourage collaboration, reflection, creativity, and awe” and “to be a place not of the past but of the future.”” Schwartz (2013). For the past two years, I have been advocating for building an addition to the library. I have called this “programming space,” and created a website for one of my classes to show my vision for how this space should be used. The ideas for the types of programming in this space come directly from two years’ of open-ended conversations with volunteers, visitors, guests, and library non-users. Yes, this is an ambitious plan for our town. At the same time, are we not tasked with the need to envision and build libraries that will carry us into the future, rather than anchor us in the past? Hopefully, our renovation/remodel will both honor the past and reinvigorate the future.

Resources

All images are hyperlinked to their source.

Anderson, C. (2006). In praise of radical transparency. The Long Tail [blog]. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2006/11/in_praise_of_ra.html

Casey, M. and Stephens, M. (2014). The Transparent Library.

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Schmidt, A. (2013). Earning trust: The user experience. Library Journal [online]. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/11/opinion/aaron-schmidt/earning-trust-the-user-experience/

Schneider, K.G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto. Free Range Librarian. Blog. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/

Schwartz, M. (2013). Tomorrow, Visualized: Library by design, Fall 2013. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/09/buildings/lbd/tomorrow-visualized-library-by-design-fall-2013/

Reflection #2 PART I. Evolving Toward a Participatory Library Culture

While I had worked in libraries in the past, I entered librarianship trained as a business manager. I brought an entrepreneurial, problem-solving mindset. I brought for-profit and non-profit experience. I also arrived in this organization “in recovery” from a position in government… recovery from bureaucracy and rigid hierarchy. Because I am a genealogist, I came to this organization as a person who is naturally interested in hearing people’s stories. Here, I will share stories about my little public library as a potential template for how such shifts might be done on a larger scale. We are a microcosmic library laboratory, if you will.

So much of our conversation concerns shifting the intra-library organization toward development of a participatory culture. We must do this, certainly. The more hierarchical and rigid the organizational structure, the more difficult this culture shift will be.

However, the process of engaging with so-called “users” is not necessarily all sunshine and flowers. We need to be considering ways in which to build a participatory culture from within and from without, simultaneously. This is a rugged challenge!  As Kenney points out, we need to begin by “Meet[ing] People Where They Are—Not Where We Want Them to Be.” The thought continues: “Libraries are very good at organizing and presenting content in anticipation of users’ needs. From cataloging resources to creating booklists, to offering workshops and classes, we’re all about meeting people where we think they may be. The trouble is, not all individuals fit into our elaborate schema.” Kenney (2014) [Emphasis mine.]  Indeed, if declining “user” figures are indicative, libraries models of the past have not been meeting the needs of most people for the past decade or more. As a business model, this requires a radical shift in how we think and talk about service. And to shift perceptions and expectations of the “long tail” of people who have already been disenchanted is a gargantuan task.

The first recognition we need to make is that shifting cultures takes time. Be prepared to move slowly. When I took the position of Library Director two years ago, the library had never had any paid staff. I knew that to achieve any new vision for this library, I needed to earn the trust of ALL the volunteers, and all the patrons, and not just the library board. Many of them expected this “hot shot kid” to come in and slam them with new ideas and force them to learn entirely new ways of doing things. I surprised them.

“Genuinely friendly and helpful interactions lead people to accomplishing their goals, demonstrate respect, and tell people, “Yes, we really do care about you as a person.” Poor customer service usually diminishes even the most desirable services.” Schmidt (2013).  I spent two months in the library before I made any changes at all. Instead, I had intensive conversations with all the library volunteers. I asked them to teach me what I needed to know about their role in library operations. I asked them what was NOT working well in the library. I asked them about problems or questions that patrons brought to their attention.

I asked operational questions, certainly, but asking questions can be a slippery process. I asked many open-ended questions, then sat back to let them talk freely. These conversations were casual and completely open. There were not back-room or off-site meetings. Often, my initial questions were more about who the volunteer is and what the volunteer is interested in than how the library functions.

I knew as well, that “buy-in” for any new culture must come from the people who have been relatively happy with the library service. And so, I initiated conversation with everyone who entered the building. I asked questions about what their likes, dislikes, interests, and needs. I asked about their families, their roles in the library and in the community. I asked. I listened.

[SIDEBAR:  I really dislike the term “buy-in”.  The inference is that someone (the boss?) knows what is best for everyone in the company, and so they must spend time convincing others that this great idea was the people’s idea all along. 

No. No. No. This is upside-down thinking. This is emotional manipulation. Instead, a great organizational leader will learn what the staff needs and wants; learn what the customer needs and wants; and then, after reflection, will construct a vision which incorporates those needs and wants. No “buy-in” required.  But I digress….]

After two months, I fixed the one thing that all volunteers (and some visitors) had complained about. Slowly, volunteers and patrons began to see small shifts in operations, all of which reflected conversations we had shared early in the process. Some of the changes were operational: ensuring necessary supplies were ordered and on hand; clearing some cluttered areas; making forms and tools easier to find and use; creating a template for circulation desk operations. Some of the changes represent “catching up” on those community needs we were not meeting: a binder and online access to frequently needed social services; more access to interlibrary loan; more instruction about the digital library; adding e-readers and ensuring that those highly popular books or book discussion picks were available in multiple formats; adding more genre fiction to the collection [Seriously. This library was half literary fiction; half mystery. Practically zero romance, science fiction, fantasy! No wonder some folks never came in.]

Speaking of the folks who never came in… I also met with people off-site, and was particularly interested in meeting people who did NOT use the library. Yes. I would ask total strangers at the store, or in restaurants, if they ever used this library, and most importantly… WHY NOT?  Why not?  This had to be asked with humility rather than judgement. This had to be asked with a genuine concern for how this individual’s informational needs were not being met. This had to be asked with an understanding of the daily life challenges of local families.

In many cases, locals in the community believed the library existed mostly for visitors from away. They believed the library was about books [hello old branding!]. They had not visited the library since they were children. My job here was not to convince them they were wrong. It was to listen, and to return to the library with new ideas about how to be sure we had the information they needed, and that everyone in town would be informed (via town newsletter, via flyers sent home through the school system, via signage outside the library, and via word-of-mouth communication from all library volunteers). This was not a problem that would be solved instantly.

So. Two years in, we are fully participatory, right?  Well, no. It doesn’t work that way. But we are certainly leaning in the right direction. Because we are creating programming based upon direct feedback from guests and volunteers, our programs are well-attended. Our parking lot… and adjacent parking areas… are always full if we are open. The library is a community hub now, and more people come in who have not visited the building since they were children. They are curious about the ‘buzz.’

Part II of this blog concerns the transformation of organizations towards transparency.

 

Resources

All images are hyperlinked to their source.

Anderson, C. (2006). In praise of radical transparency. The Long Tail [blog]. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://www.longtail.com/the_long_tail/2006/11/in_praise_of_ra.html

Casey, M. and Stephens, M. (2014). The Transparent Library.

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Schmidt, A. (2013). Earning trust: The user experience. Library Journal [online]. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/11/opinion/aaron-schmidt/earning-trust-the-user-experience/

Schneider, K.G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto. Free Range Librarian. Blog. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/

Schwartz, M. (2013). Tomorrow, Visualized: Library by design, Fall 2013. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2013/09/buildings/lbd/tomorrow-visualized-library-by-design-fall-2013/

Reflection # 1 or Thoughts on Boutique Librarianship: Foundational Readings

The Library of Babel (Borges) was fascinating and recalled many fiction favorites:  The Foundation novels, by Asimov leaped immediately to mind; also, Eco’s The Name of the Rose; and finally, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Book Store, by Robin Sloan. Libraries are containers for mysteries, and librarians are mystics in pursuit of absolute knowledge. Or, perhaps of absolute classification of knowledge. Or, perhaps of infinite enjoyment of infinite unanswered mysteries which underlie all human knowledge. Either way, what bliss! Isn’t this a terrific metaphor for the hyperlinked library? One cubicle of information links us to another in endless fascination and discovery?

Buckland’s history of library evolution (paper library; automated library; electronic library) seems like a manifesto in search of a cause. In 1992, the author recognized that a hyperlinked library was probable (although the term is not used here), and that in the future most people will be able to locate information quickly by themselves. This paper reflects uncertainly about the future of libraries (book repositories) and librarianship (the keepers of the books) at the dawning of digital data accessibility.

By 2007, the shift from librarian-defined library toward a user-defined library is gaining ground. Casey & Savastinuk examine why people do NOT use libraries, and established guidelines for creating programming and/or collections to better serve those information communities. This is the beginning of moving libraries away from being “sacred institutions” and toward becoming community partners in education, social networking, and economic development. Like any savvy business person, librarians needed to think less about the “ideal” collection or program, and more about providing what the customers require.

Mathews brings entrepreneurship and librarianship face-to-face. All entrepreneurs embrace change. This is the nature of striking out on your own. Change happens every second of every day, whether or not we like it! Why not embrace that, and use that in our library operations. Evolution is natural and inevitable. Let’s divorce our thinking from the way it has always been done. Let’s hone our questioning and listening ability to hear what needs to be done and then do that!

All of these readings resonate strongly for me as a library director. Since I arrived at my little library, I have been practicing (and demonstrating for our volunteers) what I call “boutique librarianship.”  While I do written surveys (on paper and online) several times each year, I find it much more valuable to get to know our guests and make sure that the library provides what they require. For some, that is indeed great books. For many others, the library is a place for conversation, discourse, debate, and even light-hearted gossip about television shows or celebrities. For others, the library is the only reliable place to use the internet and stay connected with the people they love, or the services they require. This does not mean that we can always provide whatever they desire right away. It does mean that they leave our building knowing that their needs and wishes have been heard, and that action will be taken to fulfill those needs and wishes as resources become available. The end result of this type of service?  More resources ‘magically’ become available!

I teach our volunteers to greet everyone who enters the door as a guest. To ask if there is something in particular they would like to find or to do or to learn today. To ask questions, spark conversations, make introductions with other guests, make people feel that this is a warm and welcoming place with folks who really care.  When I go into the community, I am always advocating for the library. I always ask strangers if they use their local library, and if they do not, I ask why. When I assist someone with technology, I ask more questions. I invite them to visit again for personal instruction. I ask if they would enjoy a class or workshop on what they are investigating. I build programs around what people in the community find interesting. This is easy in our small community. Is boutique librarianship possible in large urban communities? I learned these skills working in a five-star hotel in a large urban community. Sure. It’s possible.

The thing is, you never know how any person could appreciate your personal interest. You never know how your kind interaction might come back to you and your organization in a positive way.

Beware. The inverse is also true, as all entrepreneurs know from harsh experience. Treat one person with lack of respect or with unkindness and you open the door to many recurring negative experiences. For example, I have several volunteers who are especially hung up on “how things look” or “how people look.” One day a woman entered the library. She was unkempt. She wore dirty, torn overalls and barn boots. Her hair was wild. Her manner of speaking was brusque. She entered with the loud announcement that she had often passed the library but never come in because the library was never open. My volunteer practically attacked her at the entry to the library and told her off. I was new to the library, but not to guest services. I came forward from where I was working and put myself between the volunteer and this guest. The volunteer retreated behind the circulation desk, as I invited the guest to tour the library with me, and as we walked, I asked many questions. After about 30 minutes, the guest was relaxed, impressed with our facilities, our collections, and our programming. Would she return? On that day, I did not know if my actions could overcome her first impression.

Why is all this important?  It turns out that this woman owns extensive ocean-front properties here, and in her hometown on Long Island. She is well-educated and well-connected. She also enjoys gardening.

Never, never, never judge people by the superficial. It will bite you in the ass. Every time.

And yes, she is a frequent guest in our library to this day.

 

Foundational Readings:

Borges, J.L. (1941). The library of Babel. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at: https://libraryofbabel.info/libraryofbabel.html

Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. American Library Association. Accessed via Berkeley Digital Library.

Casey, M.E., and Savastinuk, L.C. (2007). Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.

Mathews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism. Accessed 09 Sep 2017 at:  https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/18649

Skip to toolbar