Wow, I couldn’t help but feel completely enamored by this week’s content. Dr. Stephen’s enthusiasm and passion for participatory service and transparency was absolutely contagious. Just being able to see the ways that different libraries have been innovating and truly responding to the evolving needs of their users is inspiring. As I’ve never worked in a library before, in an unexpected way, this week’s content also provided me a lot of insight into the current internal climate of libraries – especially as it relates to an apparent tendency for library administration to be stuck in their ways and unwilling to embrace change.
This move towards openness and participation has led me to think about what impact it may have not only upon library services, but also on the internal structure of libraries. Last week, we learned about how many libraries have a top-down organizational structure with the important decisions being made at the top while little input is asked for from “below.” When members of the staff, regardless of their ranking, and members of the public are encouraged to become involved in the decision making process, it seems that a more shallow organizational structure would eventually follow. This would definitely seem to be an essential step towards the wholly transparent and participatory library that is currently being strived for.
It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
This book provided a spectacular look into the online lives and behaviors of young people in the new generation. The members of my immediate family are older than me, so I’m very often not around young people. This reading has given me a renewed appreciation for the complex social landscapes that teenagers have to navigate within – especially as it relates to the difficulties in balancing schoolwork, part time jobs, self-discovery, social lives, and a desire for independence while also being in the awkward stage between childhood (restrictions) and adulthood (freedom).
Reading through Boyd’s recounting of her encounters with teens, it’s surprising to hear that the same parental conflicts that emerged when I was a 13-year-old begging my parents to allow me to create Myspace, Xanga, or AIM accounts seem to have lingered over a decade later. I remember not understanding why adults were so suspicious of the internet. At one point, I even began blaming those cantankerous old geezers on the news for unfairly influencing adults’ perceptions about the web. Boyd saw a need to directly confront parents’ most pressing suspicions about the internet and tackles them according to seven major areas – identity, privacy, addiction, danger, bullying, inequality, and literacy.
This content seems to align well with our course content, especially as it relates to participatory service. Of course, it’s our goal to engage all library users including young people and to encourage them to participate within our evolving libraries (Stephens). Naturally, each type of patron will have varying needs and desires, so to better serve communities of young people in particular, an important first step would be to understand how they actually use new technologies. Equipped with this knowledge, we may more effectively involve them in our participatory services.
As an example, if we understand that young people tend to conceptualize privacy as relief from relentless, prying parents/guardians rather than as an effort to protect themselves from government surveillance (Boyd, 2014), as many parents and adults do, we can begin to understand the value that providing specialized youth spaces might have for them. We can further engage them by requesting, for example, feedback and suggestions from them about the quality and features of the space(s) provided to them – as shown in some examples in the Module 4 lecture.
Another way to engage this population would be to consider using some of the tools suggested in several of our reading assignments for Module 4 – by utilizing service designs like crowdsourcing (Mack, 2013) or by taking better advantage of current social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to engage our young users rather than just making one-sided announcements to them (Casey, 2011). Taking a more user-centered approach to services can greatly impact the way that library staff interact with youth, the way that young users perceive modern library services, and the way that both staff and youth communicate with each other.
Take a look at this lovely TED Talk by Pam Smith. Apart from discussing the how libraries of the 21st century are creating new and innovative ways to encourage users to participate in library services, she discusses how important it is for us to respond to young users’ needs openly rather than shutting them down as a reflex. This point was echoed in another one of our readings this week: Dr. Stephens along with Michael Casey mentioned that this type of negative attitude is decreasing “as libraries begin to listen to their users, come to learn about new technological tools, and see that a ‘yes but quietly’ is so much better than a big ‘NO’” (Casey & Stephens, 2007).
Overall, while a lot of the issues discussed in in Boyd’s book could double as a fantastic resource for parents of teenagers, it can provide those of us who are librarians with incredibly nuanced information about how young people engage with the diverse, dynamic technologies of today. Additionally, it can equip us with the knowledge necessary to encourage them to share their invaluable input about the library services that affect them the most.
Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.
Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting Participatory Service in Trying Times. Retrieved from
Casey, M. & Stephens, M. (2007). A Road Map to Transparency. Retrieved from
These were such stimulating reads! It was fascinating to consider the suggestions that Matthews made regarding how libraries can better support learners of the 21st century, especially in the face of the shifting status of higher education. Emulating startups seems like a very reasonable model for libraries to follow. I also found it really interesting that our goal shouldn’t be to pursue a perfect, finished service, but to constantly put it under evaluation and evolution – as Casey also advocates in Library 2.0. In this light, I was intrigued when Matthews went on to describe his suspicions of traditional assessment procedures. While I think there are some very innovative things happening in the realm of user-centered evaluation, I hadn’t really thought much about whether or not the questions currently being asked are actually helpful, meaningful, or propelling us forward.
I also really loved the simplicity in Buckland’s description of libraries – they are essentially institutions that provide access to information. In this light, his suggestions for redesigning library services are absolutely justifiable and very much in tune with the sort of innovation and forward-thinking that Matthews and Casey proposed as necessary characteristics to the future of our profession. It’s very exciting realize that we don’t have to be bound by traditional means of performing services. His take on the future of the library that contrasts sharply with several works I’ve read that take remarkably bleaker and more sorrowful perspectives.
Overall, the foundational readings as a whole provided very honestly critiques about the current state of our profession and advocated for very sensible changes and innovations in librarianship that are primarily based on our ability to prepare for and embrace constant change. In general, I really appreciate the recognition that services and experiences that occur via the virtual world are still a form of reality. Those suspicious of technology and of how people engage with it today, in my experience, say things like “Get off the internet and become a part of the real world!” But the digital world is a part of the “real” world and it seems that Library 2.0 respects this and seeks to engage users through technologies that are familiar to them.
((Sorry for the previous confusion! I’ve fixed it. My name is Bree, for the record. 🙂 ))
I’ve been looking forward to taking a class with Dr. Stephens since my first semester when he acted as a guest lecturer in INFO 200. He was so kind, engaging, and really seemed to have a lot of knowledge about more technological aspects of the field that I’ve become increasingly drawn to. I’m really excited to get started with the course content and delve into the mechanics of this vibrant, interconnected, and digital library world.
This is my final semester in the program and I don’t think I’ve quite figured out exactly where my interests lie within LIS. My background and undergraduate education are in classical piano performance, so music librarianship has definitely appealed to me – particularly orchestra or opera librarianship. I’m also very interested in music history (I actually intended to go straight into musicology after undergrad, but this program came into my sights first!). I even worked very briefly as an orchestra librarian for my city’s symphony orchestra, but that was so different from any typical sort of library job that even after leaving, I still was very much inexperienced. It’s a bit difficult in part because I haven’t really had much previous library experience (apart from my brief, nonstandard job) and I’m still very new to the field. Additionally, I’ve been housebound for quite some time now and I worry that my need to work from home will negatively impact any prospective job opportunities that may come my way. This, in addition to my concern for equitable information access, has led to my involvement in transcription services. I’m very interested by the prospect of incorporating my transcription work with any future LIS work that may come along – haven’t exactly figured out how they might come together, though.
In any case, I’m hoping to acquire a bit more clarity and direction this semester so that I can really have a plan of action once I graduate at the end of the year. Wish me luck, I suppose!