The Hyperlinked Library and Librarian: Information Superheroes

Just another #hyperlib Community Sites site

September 25, 2017
by Steve Macaris

Build Communication, Tear Down Walls

In Michael Stephen’s piece and reading from the Library Journal, “The Age of Participation,” he poses the question “What walls could become windows into the operation of the library?” while discussing participatory services. I am intrigued by the topic of participatory service and transparency because it makes so much sense, include the users in decisions and changes that have an impact on them, open two-way conversations, create environments that encourage this communication, build trust by demonstrating and practicing this in our actions. Strikingly, I continue to encounter arenas where the walls are up and fortified, even when they appear to be open.

A few years ago San Francisco State University opened their new university library, which contains many wonderful features of a modern and forward looking library: open spaces, areas for students to congregate to work on classes together, white boards to scribble on, private rooms to meet and collaborate, computer labs, LED flat screen information signage, comfortable seating, and plenty of light. However, when you walk into the main area of the library, after passing a great coffee kiosk, the barriers and walls surprisingly go up.

The circulation desk is staffed by student assistants who do not look up when someone walks by or comes to their counter, even though this area takes up half of the space of the main floor; this is a missed opportunity for building community, connection, and a link between the library and the user. The moment a student, patron, or user walks in you want them to feel welcome and acclimated. Similarly, the reference librarian is situated across from the circulation desk, near the front and usually does not make eye contact (they appear to rotate between librarians, so sometimes someone will nervously look up). I have actually used the reference desk on occasion and they are quite nice and well informed. But a nervous Freshmen, who is intimidated to talk to an adult and write their first research paper is unlikely to feel that the library welcomes them with the formidable wood barrier enclosure of the reference desk and circulation areas. Furniture is a main barrier between communication here. Consciously or not, this sends a message of do not bother us, do not ask questions unless you have a good idea where to go on you own.

Thinking about this in terms of participatory service, it seems to me that the SFSU Library looks great, incorporates some good ideas but is failing at removing barriers (tearing down walls) between itself and its primary patrons, opening up conversations with ease, and welcoming newcomers with a potential thirst for knowledge and inquiry – engaging all. University libraries are important centers for young people to create and learn.  A. Schmidt discusses the importance of making a connection in the article on “Services Before Content,” writing, It’s not do-or-die quite yet, and there’s still time to shift our efforts toward an unparalleled user experience.” Schmidt underscores the importance in participatory service to provide open, two-way access foremost, even if you cannot provide all the latest bells and whistles as a significant service of a library and librarian. Envisioning ways to engage users and open communication is key to changing dynamics and strengthening participatory services within the library.


Schmidt, A. (2010). Services before content.

Stephens, M. (2012). The age of participation.

September 17, 2017
by Steve Macaris

Context Book Review: Biblio Tech – Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google

John Palfrey ponders the future of libraries and sees them as key players within contemporary society across America in his relevant and must-read book, Biblio Tech: Why Libraries Matter More than Ever in the Age of Google. According to Palfrey, as institutions, libraries are in an enviable position to connect specific segments of society, improve children’s lives, and provide immigrants and incoming populations with resources to citizenship. The digital divide between those who have money and access to technology frames many conversations within the book. Teachers are stretched to capacity and Palfrey suggests an opening for librarians in filling the continual need for digital literacy and digital education, pointing out that “since schoolchildren are already coming to libraries in large numbers to use free Wi-Fi (and check out the occasional book), librarians have an important chance to help” (p. 56-57). Librarians can provide guidance and research skills or just basic information to begin thinking on a subject as a service, and assist young people in succinctly navigating through the myriad of information pathways.

Libraries provide a physical space within communities but have competition. Starbucks and McDonalds also offer free Wi-Fi, which provide incentive for young people to walk-in and use, (along with consuming caloric and in some cases expensive beverages) in place of libraries. Libraries are increasingly under budget constraints and cuts, and as a result, not always open at convenient hours, or as prevalent as these ubiquitous institutions. Palfrey contends that libraries face significant competition from profit driven companies that have an abundance of money and resources for innovation. Amazon, Apple, and Google are poised to provide access to all digital information in the form of recordings, video, movies, and books. Moreover, these companies are often the gateways that many people (especially young) begin an inquiry for information and discovery. By aggressively and successfully innovating and targeting digital information, these companies are making large profits and potentially eclipsing libraries.

Palfrey counters this warning with an urgent plea for the future of libraries – to consider as he terms, the “public option.” Whereas the for-profit companies offer a model for libraries to follow that is customer focused and impressive with new ideas, the underlying mission of these companies is to make money off of people. Once again, libraries offer a bridge to provide the public and those economically and socially disadvantaged, with information and knowledge that is free to all and easily accessible. Palfrey posits that libraries and librarians must glean ideas from these smart technological advancements, pioneered and demonstrated through these big companies of the 21st century. Palfrey implores that libraries model these new methods for the public good and as the public option. The public options that Palfrey suggests involves modeling the Cloud Computing option that is popular and widely used across all age groups and to incorporate them into libraries through partnerships and new collaborations.  (pp. 88-95)

Google has risen to the top of its field for its Search engine, and Amazon is widely used and admired for its suggestions on books based on previous purchases and reading history. While demonstrating ingenuity through technology, these companies are also narrowing the options of what we read and how we obtain information. The public is getting less. Libraries, through their diverse and skilled librarians and vast systems that span across the country, offer a wider array of information and knowledge that needs to be harnessed to compete in this current time and in future environments. Libraries have the potential to offer more.

Palfrey writes that libraries need to move away from the old model of being the physical storehouse for information, to one that is a platform for information and knowledge. Palfrey concedes that this shift in thinking moves away from the traditional model that libraries house physical objects to be retrieved for future use, to one that relies on collaboration and partnerships with other libraries and businesses. However, Palfrey feels that libraries and their users will greatly benefit with this future model, that is already in practice across the country with the use of iPhones, iPads, Apple watches, and laptops that retrieve and store information in the Cloud. By leveraging the most current technology and looking towards emerging technology to serve the public, libraries can meet their stakeholders’ needs and remain relevant for the next century. Finally, Palfrey ends the book with a focus on copyright and privacy laws for citizens and the need for librarians to actively lead and join the conversation, with a warning to not cede this area to corporations or, to depend on a slow-acting and moving Congress.

The author, John Palfrey in his own words on YouTube:


Palfrey, J. (2015). BiblioTech: Why libraries matter more than ever in the age of Google.
New York: Basic Books.

September 10, 2017
by Steve Macaris

Reflection Blog – The Hyperlinked library: Tear Down the Walls

User input is a central feature in the Hyperlinked Library Model and continues the paradigm shift away from telling people and users what they need or want, but rather includes them in the decision making process. New approaches to looking at the library in varied ways, not as a problem but as a learning opportunity seems to fit the Hyperlinked Library Model. In contemplating ideas that are present and integral for the Hyperlinked Library, I kept recalling the poet, William Blake’s famous lines in a new way, and specifically reimagined for the Hyperlinked Library:

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.” (William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

Outdated libraries and librarians may cling to practices that no longer work, such as building up walls and other barriers instead of bridges, and seeing everything solely from their point of view. In planning ahead for the future, the Hyperlinked Library has to continue to alter its “perception” and perspectives or lens, to continue to incorporate new ideas and outlooks for its future.

In “Do We Still Need Libraries,” Steve Denning discusses the future of the modern library by pointing out changes in society as a whole. Many corporations have had to re-tool and adjust to a fast-moving mobile environment, or go out of business, think Radio Shack. Denning appropriately locates the shift from this top down flow or from big businesses to consumer mentality. That model has flipped and is a key factor to the flat structure of the Hyperlinked Library rather than a hierarchal model. Denning highlights this as he writes that technology has “shifted the balance of power in the marketplace from the seller to the buyer.” Analogous to this approach are the changes seen in libraries that actively encourage patron input. Placing Research Librarians in open, free-standing kiosks, as seen in @michael’s video on the Hyperlinked Library Model, demonstrates a move away from older practices and standards to one that actively “invite” community members to engage with them, equally and on the same level.

The Hyperlinked Library has more in common with the emerging, horizontally structured (think flat) Creative Economy, examples such as Lyft, Uber, and Apple versus the economic modes of the 20th century business models and traditional libraries in which a vertical structure is in play, and hierarchies flourish. Importantly, Denning directs us to look at the Creative Economy and successful libraries that enable users/consumers (stakeholders), that empower them, and incorporate them into the decision making process. The walls of separation are no longer present, and as a result, more communication and interaction may occur.


Blake, William.

Denning, S. (2015). Do We Need Libraries?

Stephens, Michael. View lecture

August 30, 2017
by Steve Macaris


I am really excited to be enrolled in the INFO 287: The Hyperlinked Library class. I have heard so many good reviews from other LIS students about this course and Professor Michael Stephens. I could not wait until I was done with my mandatory classes as well as the Research Methods course to finally be in the position to choose electives of particular interest.

The Hyperlinked Library class holds interest for me because it appears to look ahead to the future of Library Science, the trends, tools, and infrastructure, while holding firm to the intrinsic goals of librarians and information professionals: serving and providing materials, information, and knowledge to all. The mode and method may change – which is exciting and provides openings for growth and learning. I am also interested in the collaborative nature of the class and its willingness to try new things and new technology in an effort to test-out and explore, but also to share these experiences and ideas with one another as additional learning components.

This fall marks my fourth semester in the LIS program, I am slowly taking 2 classes each semester while working. I am originally from Massachusetts and moved to San Francisco with my husband, somehow managing to stay for several years while the city exploded in growth and population around us. The MLIS degree is a mid-career change for me, I currently work at a State College but have always wished to pursue Information / Library Science as a profession.

I look forward to this semester and learning from one another.

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