Our doors are always open – A reflective practices blog

Today I got three comments about our doors. They won’t close. They are literally always open when the library is open now. Well, they aren’t completely open, they kind of shutter and pretend to close before some invisible person triggers the motion sensor and they slam open again. However, patrons seemed so worried about it that I decided to let them know that it was all a metaphor, letting people know that our doors are always open, a way to remove the last barrier between the public and the precious knowledge stored inside our building.

Figure 1 – The doors of the library in the rare, closed position.

Working at the busiest branch in our system doesn’t allow for a lot of time for reflection while at work, so I used to be quite fond of heading towards the hills and practicing mindfulness while hiking. I definitely notice that after a nice hike I will be more thoughtful about how I approach things, and usually more patient with patrons. Mindfulness training has really helped me in customer service. If I take an hour or so a day to really reflect on what I did, what I thought went well and what didn’t go as well, I can head into the next day without anxiety that I will make the same mistakes.

When I first watched Dr. Stephens lecture on reflective practice I was shocked that library staff initialed their social media posts so that the public knew a person was behind each post. I contribute to my library’s Facebook page and it seemed like the public should think that the posts just spring into being from the void. However, the more I think about it, the more I like the idea that people can know who is responsible for what. It adds to the voice of each staff member.

Thank you Dr. Stephens for a great class. I am excited to have some free time again so that I can tackle the parks after work and practice reflecting on my day!

Digital Literacy Services – Director’s Brief

The ALA Digital Inclusion Survey highlighted several groups who are lacking digital literacy skills and these groups correspond with other under-served populations. I think it is important for the library to help under-served populations in as many ways as possible. Most libraries are already helping with providing information services, so providing digital literacy services isn’t much of a stretch.

You can see the full brief here Digital Literacy Directors Brief

Where do we go from here? An infinite learning reflection blog

Toby Greenwalt wrote that none of the suddenly popular trends of today emerged overnight. They all took time, and some of them, like SXSW, have been cultivating and growing their audience for decades. Libraries have been around for a long time, and a recent Pew survey finds that nearly 3/4 of the population is engaged with their local library. I think this means that the doomsayers can be put aside for now and we can focus not on merely surviving, but finding the path to the library of the future.

I see that path taking us to a place that doesn’t look very different from the library of today. Many libraries already have maker spaces, thing-lending programs, information/digital literacy programs, and participatory services. The big change will be that each of these things will get more space and staff time. The motto for my library system is “Bringing people and ideas together”, and it translates just as well for each of the services I mentioned above as it does with a book lending service.

The space that I am most interested in seeing expanded at my library is the maker space. Places like YOUmedia in Chicago set a trend that I think will eventually be common place in most libraries in our country. People should be able to come to a library and create content using resources that might be too expensive or too complicated for a casual user. At the library they will also find experienced staff to help them and a community of people with similar interests to support them.

The library can be the hub of the maker revolution, as Doctorow writes, if they can bring in people with interests in learning new technologies and give them the freedom to experiment and even fail. Currently, libraries are great places for people who are information literate and love teaching others. Those same skills that make a person information literate will translate to digital literacy and the maker movement well.


  • Doctorow, C. (2013). Libraries and makerspaces: a match made in heaven.
  • Greenwalt, R. T. (2013). Embracing the long game.
  • Springen, K. (2011). What’s right with this picture?
  • Digital Promise. (2016). Chicago Public Library: The Library as a Gateway to 21st Century Skills.

The library card as a connected object – New Horizons

While talking with my manager recently we touched base on a routine issue. How do we know who is coming to our programs, and how do we get their feedback? The standard answers, which we find unsatisfactory, are to count the number of heads at any program and to do a survey of some kind. The problems with these methods are that a staff of 5 can’t possibly keep up with the logistics of these tasks in any meaningful way. What we manage to do now is know the number of people who come to a program and get feedback from those people who love the library.

The information that we are interested in is how many first time attendees do we have, how did they hear about our program, and why or why won’t they be coming to another one. For instance, our Friday morning storytime regularly gets upwards of 200 attendees, and we know from all of the “where is storytime?” questions we get every week that a substantial number of these people are first-timers or first-time-in-a-long-timers. Presently, we can’t answer the questions we have with the staff and technology available, but I can see a future where the library makes use of the Internet of Things (IoT) to allow library patrons to opt in to library tracking features.

That may sound rather ominous, and we can change the name of it later, but all we need is to add RFID technology to library cards, place some RFID sensors around the library, and have tons of transparency so that patrons know exactly what they are signing up for. In “NextSpace: the OCLC newsletter” they mention that many libraries are familiar with RFID technology. They go on to say that libraries can take the lead on transparency and privacy issues with all of the data collection that goes along with IoT.

Specifically, I think that with an appropriate opt in tracking system, patrons would understand that when they carry their library card on them their position will be tracked inside the library. This will allow us to link the identity of each patron going to our program and the information about that patron’s personal information. There are so many opportunities for this type of technology:

  • Being able to identify underserved populations by knowing exactly who is attending programs. By linking attendees to their address we can see if there a specific area in the community that is underrepresented and we can focus our attention there.
  • The ability to more easily get feedback. If a patron was at a storytime for the first time in 6 months we can see that and possibly have an automated survey asking for their feedback.
  • The ability to really tie together programming content and resources. For example, if we have a rating system for programs and a patron rates a storytime highly the library can then suggest titles of books similar to the ones used during that storytime.
  • Similarly, for maker programs, all attendees could get recommendations of books that would allow them to further explore the topic.
  • Recently, one of our ongoing patron-led programs fizzled out because the leader was unable to continue leading. With this new technology all patrons who have recently attended the program could be contacted to see if they would be willing to lead and the program could have been saved.

As Borowicz (2014) says, it isn’t really about the objects, its about the data that can be collected and used for the benefit of the user. In this case the library will be better able to serve the community without huge increases in staffing.

Other service models could also be created with a connected library card. Some libraries have already created extended hours where staff aren’t manning the front desk. Imagine a system where trusted patrons could gain greatly extended access to the library. They use their library card to get in outside of normal business hours. Most of the lights are off to conserve energy, but when a patron searches for a book that they want that section will light up if the book is available. (Johannsen, 2017).


Borowicz, W. (2014). Why the internet of things narrative has to change.

Johannsen, C.G. (2017). Staff-less libraries: Innovative staffing design.

OCLC. (2015) Libraries and the internet of things.

Participatory making in the library – Emerging Services Planning



My favorite part of my current position is our monthly event called Maker Monday. For this event staff think of an idea, use library resources, and create an activity that most people will be able to finish in 30 – 60 minutes. Some recent examples have been Super Slime Lab, Build a Book/Zine Workshop, and Terrific Tiny Terrariums. This model has worked incredibly well for us and it has engaged thousands of participants from the community. I would like to take this one step further and invite members and groups from the community to lead maker events at the library. There are precedents for this in our library system and in other libraries. Last June we partnered with the Ruth Bancroft Gardens to teach people how to make their own succulent terrariums. The staff from the Ruth Bancroft Gardens provided plants and expertise, the library provided funds, and over 200 people showed up to create their own terrarium.

The Bubbler is a makerspace at the Madison Public Library in Wisconsin and they have very successfully worked with community partners to bring in art programs, STEM programs for teens, and many other programs.

Recently my library system had an All Staff Training Day where they invited Nina Simone from the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History (MAH). She took the MAH from a failing traditional museum to a thriving community center by partnering with local groups to create dynamic exhibitions and encourage residents to not just look at and read about art and history but to participate in it.

Many libraries have created Maker in Residence programs like the Pike Peak Public Library which has artists and makers serve 6 week terms. They get to work on a project of their own choosing and at the end display their work at the library. They also teach classes to interested members of their community during that time.


Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

The vision statement for our library is “Bringing people and ideas together” Traditionally, that has meant bringing people and books together, but more and more this can mean something radically different. I want to bring people together and have them share their knowledge with each other using the library as a workshop/laboratory. My objectives for this service would be:

  1. To enhance the feeling of community and engage with people who don’t traditionally use libraries.
  2. To get people to make something that they have never made before.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

The community around our library is split pretty evenly between middle class suburbs and lower income areas. There is a strong maker movement in the community with many people who come from trade or tech backgrounds.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince patrons that by attending a maker event they will make something amazing (or at least have fun) which will increase their sense of community because when people get together and enjoy themselves they feel like a community.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Baltimore County Public Library artist/maker in residence application. Available at http://www.bcpl.info/sites/default/files/images/services-policies/pdf/services-policies-artist-maker-in-residence-application-2017-03-NEW-LOGO.pdf

The Bubbler: Participatory community learning. (2013). Madison Public Library. Available at https://www.urbanlibraries.org/the-bubbler–participatory-community-learning-innovation-804.php?page_id=175

Maker/Artist in residence. (2017). Pikes Peak Public Library. Available at https://ppld.org/c3/maker-in-residence

Maker in residence program at the Idea Factory. (2017) Pueblo City-County Library. Available at http://www.pueblolibrary.org/ideafactory_makerinresidenceprogram

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

Since this is building upon a program that we already offer many of the policies and guidelines are already in place. However, considerations may have to be made if a program includes using any power tools or other piece of equipment that may lead to injuries. For any considerations that come up there are many libraries that have created similar programs including nearby SFPL which has liability forms already created for use of their makerspace called “The Mix”.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

Currently, all programming is funded by the Friends of the Library. Their fundraising has been increasing in the last few years and they should be able to provide about $200 a month for this activity. Additional funding or supplies could be found through grants, donations, and fundraisers like gofundme.

This program would take considerable staff time to find potential partners, work with them to develop the workshop curriculum, apply for grants, attend workshops, and evaluate the workshops. When the new library is built the city is anticipated to fund more staff.

Action Steps & Timeline:

I think that our current model for Maker Monday would be an appropriate prototype for this program. The most important step is making connections with community partners who have skills that they would like to teach others. The most realistic scenario would be for this new program to take place in 3 years once the new library is built. The new library will have more appropriate space for this program and the library will likely have more staff to assist with it. The branch manager has the final say on whether this program could happen and in all likelihood, he would say yes. In case he does say no the idea would have to be reworked until he approved it.

Training for this Technology or Service:

Any training that would be needed would be done on an ongoing basis. For example, if a new tool is acquired then the staff who are responsible for this program would set aside time to become familiar with it. Right now, I think that the Adult Services Librarian and the Adult Services Library Assistant would be the staff who will be in charge of this program.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

Our library has a robust marketing strategy that includes a column in the community paper, social media, a direct to parents of local school children flyer distribution system, and an inhouse quarterly program flyer.


To evaluate this type of program we would need to go beyond just counting the number of heads in the room. So while that would be part of the evaluation, I would like to interview some of the participants and ask them how much value they got out of the program. Was this the first time they ever did such-and-such, have they gained a new skill, will they use this skill in the future.

One metric that I would like to use to evaluate this program is whether we can prove that the library is accomplishing its vision statement, “Bringing people and ideas together”. I think that as long as people are learning new things there will be value in this type of program.

I think that another useful metric would be the interest in hosting a workshop. If we can prove that interest in sharing ideas is on the rise then that will be a strong indicator of whether the library is fostering community.


The Bubbler: Participatory community learning. (2013). Madison Public Library. Available at https://www.urbanlibraries.org/the-bubbler–participatory-community-learning-innovation-804.php?page_id=175

Maker/Artist in residence. (2017). Pikes Peak Public Library. Available at https://ppld.org/c3/maker-in-residence

Simone, Nina. (2017). Keynote address. Contra Costa County Library

On the road to a new library

In the Hyperlinked Public Library there were a lot of mentions of the the Pew Poll that found that there are 9 different attitudes towards libraries in America (see image), and the majority of people like libraries (Rainie, 2014; Zickuhr, 2014; and Zickhuhr, 2014). One of my take-aways from the readings was that it isn’t just old people that like libraries, but people from all walks of life including tech savvy types, those without internet in their own homes, students, families and more. And they all come to the library for different reasons.

This presents a challenge when building a new library because we need to be able to meet the needs of our patrons. Zickhur (2014) states that libraries are becoming houses of access, allowing patrons access to the internet, printing services, and a wide variety of other services that they don’t have at home. One thing we have talked about in relation to this is getting laptop “vending machines” to open up all the space taken up by desktop computers. This would allow for more flexibility in how our spaces can be used as well as allow for more computers since a single laptop vending machine can hold 12 laptops and take up the same amount of space as a single desktop workstation.

Our city and my manager are stressing points that are coming up in the readings, that the library is a community. The design phase for the new library is going to take nearly 18 months because they want an iterative process where the community provides input, the architects create a design and explain their choices, the community provides feedback, the architects incorporate the feedback and again explain their choices, and then the community has one last chance to give feedback before the architects solidify the design of the new library. It is a lot of work, but as my manager says, “It is worth taking a few extra months to get it right since we will be living with this building for 50+ years.”

Getting a new library – Participatory Service and Transparency

The readings from module 4 really reminded me of everything we are doing to get ready for a new library. Several years ago our manager introduced the “Idea Box” an interactive tool that let library patrons submit ideas for programs and services that they wanted to see at the library. Patrons would write their ideas on a piece of paper and put them in a ball that would go through a Rube Goldberg-esque machine before finally landing in a box where the librarian could then collect the ideas.

For the new library he is back at it with a new idea box that he hopes will be easy to put together and made entirely from parts that you can get at any hardware store. The idea behind this is that he can then make the plans freely available and any library that wants to can make one and have their community participate and share ideas for programs and services. This is exactly what Casey (2011) meant when describing the participatory library.  The idea box engages the community and includes them in the brainstorming process.

Our current library isn’t ideal for the kinds of activities that the participatory library will be made for, and it shows in the ways we have to mold our programs around the spaces we have. Our storytime overflowed the kids area so now it takes place in the central rotunda, the largest open space in the library. We have to find spaces on walls that weren’t meant to hang art and show off the creations of the after school crowd. To borrow a line from the Free Range Librarian, “The user is the sun” (Schneider, 2006). It’s a little out of context, but we are trying to build our spaces around the ways our patrons want to use our current library.

Right now, the plan for the new library is to build spaces that are able to adapt to any situation. That way we can create a huge open area during large community gatherings such as our Maker Mondays, or we can just as easily partition off spaces so that the after school crowd has their own space to socialize, create, or do homework in a noisy environment while other patrons who prefer quiet can have a silent space to work or read. The details have yet to be determined, but our architect has been selected and over the next several months they will be working with the community to get input about what they feel is important for a library space. I don’t know how the architects and city will be working with the community, but it would be nice if they got as much choice as the teens did when TeenHQ was developed for the King Library at SJSU (Chant, 2016).

Quiet: The power of the library, but not that way.

Kid shushing in library

Susan Cain’s book left me feeling vindicated for all of the things that I have been feeling about group work and the way that extroversion is valued in our culture. My Myers Briggs personality is INTJ, and I value getting time to recharge and work alone. I also dread group work and various social gathering. According to Cain, I am not alone in these feeling. That is because many introverts are highly reactive. This trait along with others that are common in introverts can have pretty big impacts on how they function at work and the ways they behave. Taking Cain’s ideas into account in the hyperlinked library could have positive effects that would not only help the introverts that make up the majority of library workers, but also extroverts as well.

George Soete (2000) stated that in personality studies he conducted on library staff around 66% were introverts, which is in contrast to overall population of the US which Cain states is between 33 – 50% introverts. Being able to work in a team is something that is valued in America, but Cain believes that it is being overemphasized because of the extrovert ideal. From my experience working in the library field there seems to be an overemphasis on teamwork in job descriptions and here in the iSchool. Also, rather than trying to mold the people to the job, it might be preferable to mold the job to the people who are likely to work there. Quiet seems to suggest that the emphasis should be shifted from 100% “working as a team” to a mix where people are free to work on their own and really express their creativity and then use the team to make sure that nothing has been missed.

The library of the future will have a much flatter management structure where leaders will be tasked with bringing out the best in their employees rather than keeping them in line. Cain points out another interesting study that shows that groups of introverts perform better when they have an extrovert leading them. Extroverts were also shown to perform better when they were led by an introvert. Given the highly introverted nature of library workers it would make sense to try and hire extroverts for management.

Casey (2011) points out the ability of libraries to include their users in what he calls participatory service. Taking the ideas presented in Quiet into account the library may want to have two different categories of participatory services; high stimulation services and low stimulation services. High stimulation services would be great for extroverts and might include group meetups at the library for a night of activities and engaging users to get their opinions. Low stimulation services would either be online in format or be more lowkey and about having conversations with individual users. One idea that struck me was that of user reviews of books. Instead of just having library staff promoting books why not have the user write reviews. Kenney (2014) writes that the library catalog is not living up to the expectations of users because they want to see cover art, get reviews, and suggestions for what to read. The online reviews and suggested reads could be one such low stimulation form of participatory service. Libraries could also host review parties where the public gets to choose a book to review and place on a face out shelf for a high stimulation form of this service.

Susan Cain states that both introverts and extroverts are necessary for our species to succeed, but the extrovert ideal has taken a commanding role in American culture. Quiet does a great job of showing how introverts not only add value to any enterprise they are part of but that they are necessary to counterbalance some of the behaviors of extroverts. As an introvert, I found this book to be very interesting and it was easy to relate many of the ideas in it back to our class.


Cain, S. (2013). Quiet: The power of introverts in world that can’t stop talking. Random House. New York, NY.

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/

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

Soete, G.S. (2000). The Library meeting survival guide. Tulane Street Publications. San Diego, CA.

Library as civic square – Hyperlinked Libraries

While doing the readings for this week I was reminded of an idea that came up in a previous class. The Library as the Civic Square came from reading the Aspen Institute hosted a leadership roundtable on library innovation which you can read here. The idea being that libraries can offer a space for people to gather and do activities other than read or study. If libraries want to stay relevant they need to adapt to the fast pace of change that has been brought about by the computer age and Denning (2015) agrees that libraries need to innovate and find new ways to delight patrons. While not going into specifics Denning lays out a 5 question framework for how to spur innovation in the library.

Visser (2011) described the Amsterdam library which seems to be very innovative. They have embraced current technology and looked at the needs of their community to create a space for sharing information from a variety of different types of media. Apparently, in Holland they are banning people from working on their laptops while at a cafe, so the library has introduced cafes to appeal to that crowd. Currently, my library system has three libraries with Cafes inside them and another being built now. It makes sense that if the library wants people to spend their time studying or working in them then they can extend the amount of time people are able to stay by providing cafes.

In my library system the traditional parts of library service are becoming more automated allowing staff more time to engage patrons. Weinberger (2001) described the hyperlinked organization like the web, and I looked at my library system to see how hyperlinked we have become. The interlibrary loan service that we use allows fairly quick and easy loaning of materials from a few dozen library systems, multiple online databases and an electronic catalog allows several library services to be available 24/7, and I often find myself communicating with employees from other branches to get their ideas for library programs. These services correspond to several characteristics of the web that Weinberger mentioned; being decentralized (patrons can get items brought to their branch or even access some services at home), allowing open and direct access (patrons can use the library website to access all library services without going through a staff member), and being borderless (being able to use Link+ to order books from libraries all across the state).

In conclusion: cute cat picture

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

Garmer, A. (2016). Libraries in the exponential age. The Aspen Institute.

Visser, J. (2011). DOK Delft, inspirational library concepts. Buildings, Inspiration, Thoughts About Museums.

Weinberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. Chapter five from The Cluetrain Manifesto.