Foundations: Participation and Iteration

Back in my first term of the program, I was enrolled in Professor Liu’s Digital Libraries seminar.  Truthfully, the course was my third and last choice.  The idea was to take a light, early start course to ease into the program.  Instead, I wound up taking a survey course with nearly zero background in librarianship.  How glad I am that things worked out that way because the course served as a bridge between a rapidly evolving aspect of librarianship that I, as a patron have only just begun to witness and participate in, and that I now realize is foundational to the understanding of current trends in information pedagogy and professions.  It also illustrated the sea change that occurred as libraries began to adopt digital strategies with a closer eye to emerging technologies.

Two of the main themes from that course were iteration and the power of participatory library services, both of which form a pillar of the Hyperlinked library.

Iteration occurs in information currency in terms of repetition and versioning—incremental modification of knowledge, be it documents, software or apps, policy, even in terms of the physical editions of books.  Information is constantly evolving and although Library 1.0 made fine work of the task of collection and knowledge development tied to physical assets, that model is perhaps most closely tied to format rather than process.  All three of our foundational readings emphasize the need for both short and long term thinking and made cases for effecting incremental change within library organizations so as not to cause a shock to the system.

Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk’s Library 2.0 describes a new model of the library based on the iterative in which the information organization engages in a “continual process of reviewing and updating services” (2007, p. 13) and a successful information organization “builds cycles of change into their organization structure” (2007, p. 38).

Michael Buckland describes a similar, ongoing process of updates to the information organization based on three assumptions: (1) the value of near-medium term strategic planning (2) one hand on existing technology with another stretched toward emerging technologies and; (3) the value of consulting and utilizing experience (1992, p. 8).  Those assumptions can be distilled into the notion of tempered change.  Change WILL occur but growing pains can be mitigated through a process of circumspect, gradual, and constant reevaluation and implementation.

The second major theme, the participatory library, is particularly relevant not just to our readings, but to the format of this course.  This very blog entry is an exercise in the participatory.  We contribute our individual learnings to a communal source of information.  Similarly, Library 2.0, Think Like a Startup, and Redesigning Library Services contain observations and projections about the trend toward the participatory.  Buckland frequently refers to the transition from closed to open stacks—the self-service model and its effect on contemporary library services.  Casey and Savastinuk base their definition of Library 2.0 on a user-centric library model, achieved in large part by soliciting and promoting user participation.

We create information.  Experts.  Lay people.  Fans.  Naysayers.  The creation and dissemination of information is not solely the purview of experts.  Every day people create information and are increasingly empowered to do so through technology and constant innovation.  This requires participation.  Further, it requires iteration.  We suggest, edit, rewrite and contemplate.  That is iteration and it is perhaps best served by maximum participation.  Thus, with an eye toward iteration and participation, library services are becoming increasingly flexible through incremental change and by expanding participation at all levels.


Buckland, M. K., Gorman, M., & Gorman, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto American library association Chicago, IL.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service Information Today, Inc.

Mathews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism.


Filed under Uncategorized

3 Responses to Foundations: Participation and Iteration

  1. @katygo What fascinating ideas in this essay about iteration and our foundations. How interesting, too, that you found yourself in the class you did during your first term. Your point about growing pains is well taken…and the phrase resonates: do we fear the “growing pains” and stay stagnate in some cases?

    • Profile photo of Katy Go

      @michael I wonder about that because so much of the course material advocates innovation without abandon and there’s certainly a case for that because it’s easy to be stifled by fear. But I keep coming back to a point that was made in the digital libraries course about what happens when an information organization fails to adapt to technological (or any other kind) of change in real time. I’ve worked in various settings where employers refused to upgrade to new versions of software or invest in more powerful computing tools only to have everything fail at once and come to the realization that all of our records are trapped in obsolete formats. It’s a little bit different when we’re speaking in terms of something like a library acquiring a 3-D printer but even so, that can be done incrementally. Send forth a staff volunteer to get acquainted with the technology and roll it out to everyone else rather than thrusting it upon the organization willy nilly. But I agree, you can’t allow trepidation to cause stagnation.

      • @katygo I am all for incremental growth!

        A memory from a previous job: IT for the campus did not want to offer any other browser but IE. My coding students could not text their HTML work in other browsers on university machines.

        Another: IT decided not to upgrade the LMS but we all knew the older version would soon not work in newer browsers. I actually had to say in a meeting:” So you are willing to let the students use a broken system that will continue to break?” We got the upgrade….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *