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

Kenney, B. (2014). The user is (still) not broken. Retrieved from

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.