Personality & Learning Types in the Library as Classroom

One of the things I find most exciting about libraries is not any one technology or innovation, but that our libraries provide the settings, tools, and opportunities for patrons to interact at a level/with approaches they are most comfortable with. I’ve reflected on this before in previous posts about library space and the library as an environment for introverts and extroverts, so I was interested to read more about this from the educational perspective in the Library as Classroom module in relation to how personality types, learning types, and libraries all fit together.

I don’t think I could describe the experiences I had in the classroom throughout my own K-12 (and to a lesser extent, undergraduate) education in the same way. I recall having to do the exact same assignments in the exact same way as my classmates, regardless of learning style, with the expectation of all students learning/understanding the concepts being taught, in the teaching style chosen by the instructor. I was both pleased and slightly envious of current and future generations of school children who will benefit from educational models such as “The Elements of the Creative Classroom Research Model” discussed by Michael Stephens, in “Library as Classroom” which focuses overall on themes of “innovation management; learning by play/exploration/creation; emotional intelligence; meaningful activities; and networking with the real world.”  Even just the seemingly simple idea of the allowing a student to choose their own projects–learning through exploration and creation is a wonderful opportunity for students to figure out how they can best accomplish their goals. Joshua Block’s “Embracing messy learning,” emphasizes the importance of choice in student projects, which can lead to interesting roadblocks that students must navigate and learn from. Block says, “If I don’t allow learning to be messy, I eliminate authentic experiences for students as thinkers and creators. … frustration leads to insights and … learning is not necessarily the equivalent of mastery.”

I appreciate the “choose your own adventure” style of learning that libraries have embraced as we’ve grown alongside developing learning concepts/theories and adopted new technologies. As an educational resource, we are the “classroom” our patrons freely choose to visit and we can provide the “classroom” that nurtures their pursuits, personalities, and preferred learning styles, that not everyone had the opportunity to benefit from in school. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s “How your personality determines how you learn” discusses learning styles, reporting on the personality types of Strategic Learners, Deep Learners and Surface Learners. How do we serve these varied learning styles? We help Strategic and Surface Learners through, for example, instruction sessions, reference, and access to resources. Deep Learners can take time to explore more subjects in depth through alternative educational experiences in library-sponsored discussion groups, book clubs, tinkering in makerspaces, in addition to the traditional services libraries offer. This is not to put personality types in another box, however. In my own experience, the intricacies of personality types can be pretty fluid/flexible–my Myers Briggs type has fluctuated between ISFJ and INFJ several times. Sometimes I feel that I’m more of a Strategic Learner while in other areas I think I’m more of a Deep Learner. I think the main point here is that the library as classroom provides the opportunities for patrons to decide how they’ll explore new subjects, receive the information they need, or how they will participate in the library community.

Beacons!

This week, I wanted to write about the personal reactions I had to a few of the articles in this module on Mobile Information Environments. It wasn’t until a little while after reading that I realized I was looking at, and having entirely different reactions to, the same issue from my perspective as library employee and from that of a user.

Matt Enis’s 2014 article on the use of beacon technology and library apps was my first introduction to this concept/invention and I was a bit wary until the point at which the ability to opt-in or opt-out of the messaging/alert service was discussed. “I don’t know about this,” I thought to myself. Would patrons really use it? Would it be annoying? Would it eventually feel a little similar to being harassed with pop-ups? Would it be as alarming as the Amber Alert notifications that get sent out via mobile?  Of course, those concerns were addressed as soon as Richard Loomis began discussing these very issues. I was relieved to discover that patrons at libraries using these apps (CapiraMobile and the BluuBeam) could exercise more control over what types of messages would be sent to them and that the user experience was under scrutiny. This is all well and good, but I also wondered, is this any better than email notifications? Enis writes, “In a library environment, a beacon could send a notification about upcoming events for kids as a parent walks into a branch’s children’s area, for example. Messages about upcoming computer courses could be sent via a separate beacon to patrons who enter a library’s computer area.” Maybe making the connection for a patron between physical location and calendar events really hammers home/serves as a more memorable reminder than, say, a newsletter emailed once a month? But, what happens to the notifications once they’ve been delivered? If not saved, will people forget what the beacon has sent them as soon as they leave the premises?

Sue Considine of the Fayetteville Free Library explains that they really like the beacon technology because they “get constant feedback from patrons saying, ‘I didn’t know about that.’ Or, ‘I didn’t hear about that,’” despite the library’s outreach efforts via newsletters, social media, its website, and other means.”

I don’t want to come across as resistant to change or closed off to trying out new ideas; offering new ways to deliver information to patrons can’t be a bad thing! We have to test things out to see what sticks! But, at the same time, factors must come into play for this technology to be useful for both libraries and their patrons. They need to be informed about the new service, they have to download the app, they have to opt in AND most importantly, visit the library. Visit the library regularly. I am really curious how many patrons use this service at FFL when the population of the village is approximately 4373 as of 2010. From the glass-half full perspective: a wonderful little addition to library outreach. From the glass half-empty perspective: is this really making a big difference?

What I thought was particularly interesting was Enis’s explanation that libraries could also use the beacons to *their* benefit. “An array of beacons in a library could do things like generate anonymized foot traffic maps that illustrate how patrons and their devices tend to move through a building, and where they tend to linger.” This is what I thought was the most useful application of the beacons–gathering data about library usage! But again, if they’re tracking the app users then the library will still need patrons to be informed about the new service, they have to download the app, they have to opt in AND most importantly, visit the library. Visit the library regularly.

Enis mentions that the beacon technology has already been used to good effect in MLB ballparks. Curious, I searched for information on them and found some answers from an article from American Marketing Association. If folks at baseball stadiums have the app downloaded, “When fans pass by an iBeacon, it senses their location and delivers coupons for stadium food or apparel, team information and video highlights to their iPhone.” Important to note here that this marketing article emphasizes “success stories” of the beacons’ usage due to incentives. “Fans checking in to [New York Mets’] Citi Field might reward their fans one way, and fans checking in to [San Francisco Giants’] AT&T Park might get other incentives.”

Would more people be encouraged to utilize the beacon’s app at participating libraries if there were more incentives beyond information? We love information, but we also love free stuff…even though libraries are full of free stuff, people still like extra free stuff. Not exactly an eloquent thought, but I do wonder if any long-tailers could be incentivized to use the app and visit the library in exchange for library swag, local coupons, etc.

I’d like to abruptly switch gears and conclude my thoughts on beacon-style apps by saying that after I read this article, I downloaded the Field Trip app. For free. Hyperlocalized information about cool stuff near you. Can we send you notifications? Heck yes you can. This is everything I’ve ever wanted and wished a map could also be. I’m so excited about the possibilities it will bring when I’m out and about!

I felt a bit hypocritical downloading and being so excited by this application that follows my every move…while first being so skeptical of the beacon technology and what it can bring to libraries and users. My experience with Field Trip today helped me see beacon technology through the eyes of a patron. If I think getting a notification on my phone about passing by a famous film location is neat, i’m sure I’d be equally as pleased with a notification about new titles added to the collection as I walk into the fiction section of my local library. While I have reservations about the practicality of the technology, I definitely think users would appreciate it!

Participatory Service Plan: Implementing Google Forms

As a lifelong resident of San Mateo County in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have also been a lifelong patron of the libraries of the Peninsula Library System. One of the benefits of being a member of the Peninsula Library System is that residents have access to 35 libraries in the county. Unfortunately, individual libraries within the consortium are of varying size, age, and overall quality. This means that your local library could be quite run down and sparse in terms of community services but the library two towns further south could be modern and spacious, with a full calendar of events. Each library maintains its own website and social media accounts, some offer feedback forms to fill out and some even have customer satisfaction surveys.  While community members can reach out with feedback via these avenues, I feel that this is not enough. What the libraries all have in common is that their central hub is the Peninsula Library System website–this is what we visit when we want to search the entire system catalog, find out about events, and more. Feedback outlets are buried in this website: their contact information, ways to request book purchases, and more, are tricky to find.  For this project, I have chosen to plan for the adoption of a system-wide and uniform feedback method via Google Forms, with the intention of it being featured on the PLS home page and potentially shared on individual library websites and social media accounts. Results gathered by the Peninsula Library System staff will be distributed to all member libraries for evaluation and consideration in their planning meetings.

This seeds of this plan were planted during my examination of Hyperlinked Communities and inspired by Aaron Schmidt’s (2016) article, Asking the right questions: The user experience. To summarize Schmidt’s main points, asking our communities for suggestions and generic survey questions about their library experience will likely only produce generic answers that tell us very little. As a counter to bland surveys, Schmidt says, “Instead of asking people about libraries, we need to ask people about their lives.” By asking questions with more depth, “the rich results will expose patterns and help your library learn about the lives of the people it serves. Only with this information can you then brainstorm and prototype relevant and meaningful new library services.”

GOAL & OBJECTIVES

  • Goal: To adopt the usage of Google Forms on the Peninsula Library System website, in a highly visible front page location, as a way to continuously ask thoughtful questions of our community members, solicit feedback on specific topics, and further open up the flow of communication between libraries within the consortium and the people they serve.

    • Objectives:
      1. Ask thoughtful and/or specific questions to understand more about:
        1. Community interests
          • Information about age and home library in addition to interests would help individual libraries fine tune programming for various age groups, develop new displays, add to our collections, and consider new uses for our existing spaces.
        2. Public perception of specific library services
          • To better understand which services appeal most to our patron groups
          • To better understand what services are not working as well as they could.
          • To refocus some staff efforts on events and services that our patrons express interest in, instead of events and services we think will interest them.
      2. Find inspiration in community suggestions:
        1. Consider changes that can be addressed/implemented immediately.
        2. Plan for changes that can be developed over time/in the future.

COMMUNITY DESCRIPTION

The Peninsula Library System is a consortium of 35 public and community college libraries serving residents of San Mateo County in California. This plan is intended to engage all users of the Peninsula Library System within the cities of San Mateo County. For more information about San Mateo County residents, see the infographs below:

ACTION BRIEF STATEMENT

Convince Peninsula Library System leadership that by adopting Google Forms to get regular feedback on a variety of topics from community members they will have access to greater insight into the lives and opinions of their patrons which will help member libraries develop and fine tune current/future services, and remain relevant to their users because it will offer a fresh perspective on specific library services and provide information about their patrons that member libraries may not have considered before.

EVIDENCE

Feedback and Participatory Service

Michael Casey and Laura Sevastinuk (2007) explain in their book, Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Service, that, “user participation in the creation and maintenance of services” is a large component of library service in the Library 2.0 model (p. 12). For this model to be effective, Casey and Sevastinuk (2007) believe, “we must build mechanisms into our structures through which both users and nonusers can participate in the service creation process” (p. 62). In Meaghan Edelstein’s (2010) Mashable post on evaluating social media plans, she emphasizes to the reader the importance of giving your supporters (patrons) a voice. “Make sure to ask questions and listen to opinions. When appropriate, implement and share your community’s ideas. This can result in not only great content but even stronger brand loyalty. Popular brands do this regularly and with much success.”  Although this plan is not about social media, it does involve providing our patrons additional opportunities to speak their minds and connect with their libraries.

To achieve this, libraries can always turn to the reliable old comment card, but more and more, libraries are moving beyond that format and instead asking users and nonusers alike just what it is they want from their local library (Casey & Sevastinuk, 2007, p. 62). To go above and beyond, Aaron Schmidt (2016) believes WE should be the ones to answer that particular question for our patrons, after learning as much about them as we can. “[Let’s] answer the question of what people want in their libraries, but let’s go about it in this more oblique way. When we can then successfully answer this question, we can create library services that people had no idea they needed. Anticipating people’s needs will surprise them, delight them, and make them feel welcome” (Schmidt, 2016). Learning more about our patrons involves, according to Schmidt, asking more unique questions that will incite thoughtful feedback from users and, in turn, give libraries new data to evaluate.

Real world examples of the importance and impact of feedback:

  • Google Forms: A Real-Time Formative Feedback Process for Adaptive Learning
    • Details the process and success of adopting continuous feedback via Google Forms in a college course to support an adaptive, learner-centric classroom. Though the college environment is different that a public library, the principle is still applicable in that it is important to hear what works and does not work for the people you’re aiming to serve.
  • Using student feedback to re-shape library services
    • 2014 interview with Nicholas Lewis of the University of East Anglia (UK) in which he discusses the positive impact that student feedback had on the implementation of new operating hours and improvements and additions to digital literacy skills training in the library.
    •  “While the quantitative data is helpful in identifying trends and priorities year on year, the qualitative data articulates the ‘student voice’ more clearly.”
  • Crowdsourced design: Why Los Angeles is asking the public to create the library of the future.
    • Candice Mack (2013), Teen Services & Outreach Librarian at the Richard J. Riordan Central Library in Los Angeles, speaks to the importance of community feedback in her write up discussing future development at the Los Angeles Public Library. Mack (2013) explains that they “need to know whether people still want quiet areas, study rooms, meeting rooms, multipurpose rooms and performance spaces. How should the services and information in the library be organized? Would you charge late fines or offer a fine-free amnesty period? Do people still want cafés at the library?” Their plea to their patrons exclaimed, “There are so many exciting possibilities—we are full of ideas—but we need your help honing our focus. We can’t design the library of the future without your help—no city can. Answer our brief 2-minute survey and tell us your vision” (Mack, 2013). Asking patrons for their help and input shows users that the library exists to be useful to their patrons, that the library values their opinions and needs (and wants) to hear from them.
  • Lesson’s From Seattle’s Failed Bid to Rebrand its Public Library.
    • Brian Kenney (2015) reports on what can go wrong when feedback/enough feedback isn’t solicited from the public or isn’t considered carefully enough. In this case, Seattle Public Library lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on a failed rebranding effort. Kenney (2015) explains, “SPL administrators did not invest nearly enough time in communicating the need for its rebranding, and the public was not given much of a say in the yearlong process until the very end, when the survey [on the proposed rebranding] went out.” At that point, the public learned about the large amount of money spent on the effort and were outraged. The most important lesson from this case, Kenney (2015) says, is that “librarians must always keep in mind that whatever it is we are proposing, it has to be about creating a better library for the public. When patrons learn about a new library initiative, they’re not interested in how our work is changing, or how libraries are transforming. They are looking to see their needs, hopes, and dreams reflected back to them.”

RESOURCES

MISSION, POLICY, & GUIDELINES

Mission:

The mission of the Peninsula Library System is as follows: “The Peninsula Library System strengthens local libraries through cooperation, enabling them to provide better service to their diverse communities” (“About PLS,” n.d.). Taking this mission into consideration, I also would like to highlight the first article of the American Library Association’s (1996) “Library Bill of Rights,” which states, “Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.” Further discussion of this article is found in the ALA’s interpretation “Library-initiated programs as a resource,” which affirms, “Library staff select topics, speakers and resource materials for library-initiated programs based on the interests and information needs of the community” (American Library Association, 2000).

If topics, speakers, and resource materials for library-initiated programs are to be based on the interests and information needs of the community, the use of surveys and feedback analysis will provide greater insight into the particular interests and information needs of the diverse communities that the Peninsula Library System serves.

Taking this into account, the overall mission of the adoption of Google Forms as a feedback system for the libraries within the PLS is to discover what engages our users and to find inspiration for our current and future services and resources through their voices.

Policy:

  • PLS home staff assigned to monitor and respond to feedback will be responsible for composing a monthly survey in Google Forms. For the development of questions:
    • Reach out to staff, librarians, and volunteers at member libraries via email.
      • Solicit questions from member libraries — What would they like to discover about their patrons?
        • Request indication if they would like a question featured ASAP.
        • Accept suggestions on a rolling basis
        • Keep a record of all questions suggested.
      • Member libraries must assign a contact person to whom survey results can be distributed to.
  • All member libraries will receive all survey results, regardless of the user’s indication of home library location.
    • Member libraries may filter results based on library location once feedback is received.
  • Publish the survey on the 1st of each month.
  • Export all data into Google Sheets and distribute to member libraries on the last day of the month.
  • Regularly monitor all feedback for issues needing immediate attention; forward to appropriate contacts.
  • Google Form survey content must always include:
    • Question that requires users to indicate their home library branch (for later sorting purposes).
    • Questions that allow users to submit feedback on general concerns (but do not require users to answer)
    • Opportunities for users to indicate if they wish to be contacted about concerns and a place to submit contact information.
    • 3-6 Unique questions each month.
  • Survey questions must be written and used in accordance with the PLS Privacy Policy.

Guidelines:

  • PLS may choose to publish/promote surveys on social media accounts.
  • PLS may ask member libraries to promote the PLS surveys on their individual websites and social media accounts.
  • Member libraries may also choose to create and promote their own surveys using Google Forms.
  • Questions selected from the master list may be chosen at random, gathered in themes, or prioritized if specifically requested/indicated as urgent.
  • Member libraries are not required to participate in question submission or review of survey results, but all member libraries will receive the results.

FUNDING & STAFF CONSIDERATIONS

Google Forms is a free tool available for anyone to use, so the only costs to consider will be related to staff time.

This undertaking will require PLS staff time for question development and gathering, form creation, regular feedback review, and monthly distribution of results. It will also require time and attention from contacts at member libraries that normally review and respond to feedback.

Because PLS and member libraries review feedback normally, the additional time that this service requires is minimal. The biggest impact of time would be on the point person at PLS that normally monitors and responds to patron messages. This employee would need to find time to contact member libraries asking for questions and compiling question lists, compose the monthly Google Form survey, and export the results for member libraries to review. For the PLS, this would replace current feedback review procedures. Additional time would also be required of those employees at member libraries who are in charge of managing patron feedback, as they will be receiving additional information to review. This information, however, could be reviewed and assessed when time permits. Immediate concerns will be forwarded on a rolling basis.

ACTION STEPS & TIMELINE

This service is simple to develop and roll out, but we desire cooperation from all member libraries. The libraries of the PLS will see the biggest benefit from the survey feedback if all member libraries are active participants and open to reviewing additional feedback through our survey results. However, if some libraries do not want to participate and prefer to receive their own feedback via their own methods, it will not disrupt this process.  

A trial survey can be composed in a short amount of time and be placed immediately on the Peninsula Library System home page. I composed a brief survey to serve as an example, which can be found here.

Action Steps:

Initial trial period: One month.

  1. Develop survey prototype using the policies outlined. [First day of the month]
  2. Contact all member libraries with trial survey announcement and distribute survey prototype.[First day of the month]
    • Ask for question suggestions.
      • [Ongoing. Send bi-monthly reminder emails]
    • Request member libraries assign a contact person to receive the monthly data.
      • [Send on Day 1. Allow 1 week for responses – Send 1 reminder email]
  3. Publish survey to PLS homepage on the 1st of the month.
  4. Ask member libraries to share Google Forms survey on all social media accounts and on their websites.
    • [Once per week throughout the month.]
  5. Monitor results throughout the span of the month
    • [recommended minimum: twice weekly]
    • Take action on any immediate concerns submitted.
  6. Export all data received into Google Sheets (another free tool, connected to Forms) and distribute to member library contacts.
    • [Last day of the month]
  7. Time for assessment: One week.
    • Contact all member libraries post feedback distribution
    • [Last day of the month]
    • Ask libraries to share any comments, questions, concerns about the Google Form survey and the distribution process.
      • Via email or via a Google Forms survey
      • [Ask for responses within the following week]
  8. If member libraries’ response to this undertaking is not positive, we can scale back certain efforts. For example, requesting that the link be shared just on social media accounts instead of also on their websites, or vice versa. Or, scaling back on the number of times the link is shared on social media accounts.
  9. If this effort is unsuccessful (not valued by member libraries, few responses) PLS can refocus its feedback efforts on just the PLS homepage using Google Forms to ask users about PLS features, resources and the catalog, and incorporate purchase recommendations.

TRAINING

Tutorials on the use of Google Forms and the exporting of collected data into Google Sheets are widely available as short write ups and video resources. Some have been included above in the Resources section. 

PROMOTION & MARKETING

  • Survey links can be shared on all member library websites and social media accounts.
  • Member libraries can create and display posters/flyers to inform patrons about the surveys.
  • If computer stations, laptops, or tablets are available, they can be set up as in-library feedback stations.

EVALUATION

In creating and sharing Google Forms feedback surveys, the goal is to hear more frequently from our users. We can evaluate the performance of this service by comparing the number of responses to the surveys to the number of “Contact Us” emails that the member libraries and PLS in general has received in an average month. If our number of responses to the to the forms are higher than our general customer comment emails, we can justify the amount of additional time spent working on these surveys.

This service could be expanded upon by individual libraries seeking more specific feedback from their communities. Once they see how simple Google Forms is to use and the interesting facts they can learn about their patrons, they could be motivated to eliminate the old “Contact Us” sections on their websites in favor of a feedback form that offers additional opportunities to hear from the public on various topics.

 

References:

About PLS. (n.d.). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://www.plsinfo.org/About-PLS

American Library Association. (1996). Library bill of rights. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

American Library Association. (2000). Library initiated programs as a resource. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/libraryinitiated

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2009). Library 2.0: a guide to participatory library service. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

County of San Mateo 2015 – 2017 Profile. ([2014]). Retrieved March 19, 2017, from https://www.smcgov.org/sites/smcgov.org/files/documents/files/County_Profile_2015_17.pdf

Edelstein, M. (2010). HOW TO: Evaluate your social media plan. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://mashable.com/2010/06/25/evaluate-social-media-plan/#x..QI7Lx75qo

Haddad, R. J., & Kalaani, Y. (2015, July 02). Google forms: A real-time formative feedback process for adaptive learning. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from https://peer.asee.org/google-forms-a-real-time-formative-feedback-process-for-adaptive-learning

Kenney, B. (2015). Lessons from Seattle’s failed bid to rebrand its public library. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/68666-brand-awareness-lessons-from-seattle-s-failed-bid-to-rebrand-its-public-library.html

Lewis, N. (2014). Using student feedback to re-shape library services. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/using-student-feedback-to-re-shape-library-services-06-mar-2014

Mack, C. (2015). Crowdsourced design: Why Los Angeles is asking the public to create the library of the future. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from https://www.good.is/articles/crowdsourced-design-why-los-angeles-is-asking-the-public-to-create-the-library-of-the-future

Schmidt, A. (2016). Asking the right questions | The user experience. Retrieved March 19, 2017, from http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/05/opinion/aaron-schmidt/asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience/#_

 

Hyperlinked Environments: Academic Libraries and Flexible Space

I journeyed along the academic library path in this week’s choose your own adventure and I lived to tell the tale. In fact, for me, it was much more exciting than I had anticipated! I had an unexpected “Whoa!” moment that really changed my thinking about the concepts of space in the academic library, how space is defined, and who that space is for. The moment occurred while reading Brian Mathews’ (2015) The Evolving & Expanding Service Landscape Across Academic Libraries.  Mathews prefaces his discussion by saying that while reference transactions are in decline, libraries are still quite busy. Over the years, more and more niche centers/rooms/spaces have popped up (GIS labs, makerspaces, etc) and that is all well and good, but the spaces that are perhaps the most exciting are the ones that have the flexibility to be anything we want them to be. Blank canvas spaces. Mathews (2015) explains,”There seems to be another type of service layer emerging. I think of it as pop-up boutiques or highly specialized services that appear temporary to offer very personalized help. . . . Basically bringing in services from around campus and giving them a temporary outpost.”

My “Whoa!” moment was this: Despite working in an academic library with several areas of common/collaborative space, I’ve never considered the actual space we provide our patrons to be part of the SERVICES we offer. I had put spaces like learning commons into a figurative box labeled “For Students Only.” But, clearly I’ve been missing the bigger picture and did not make the connection that flexible spaces are for us all. The flexible nature of the space is a service, just as our reference desk offers reference services.

Having flexible spaces and tools for student collaboration is wonderful, but it never occurred to me that we could also use that space to develop and offer new services. In this respect, the possibilities are limitless and so exciting. A blank canvas space in the hands of librarians, other educators, or even other professionals offering their guidance, as Mathews mentions, is a powerful customer service and community outreach tool customizable to what our patrons need at that time. The idea of pop-up services themselves are compelling but what really interests me are the opportunities flexible spaces provide for librarians/library staff to exercise creativity, experiment, and try out new ideas. In this sense, as Mathews explains, “we can greatly expand how the library enables people to interact and the questions they can ask.” Being able to make that space into whatever we need it to be for our students opens new doors for both parties, creating an environment where we can help in ways we weren’t able to before because of space limitations. While on campus, academic library space is one of the major elements that strengthens the hyperlink between librarians and our students; flexible learning environments make this link even stronger.

Hyperlinked Communities Reflection

The module readings on Hyperlinked Communities this week made me want to share something about my local public library system that I absolutely love. Over the past few years a couple of the branches have held Pub Trivia nights for the 21 and over crowd. It’s completely free, they serve snacks and beer and wine (not unlimited but still FREE), there are small prizes, and the nights are themed. I just attended a movie/television/music themed event in early February. In October, they held a trivia night with a costume contest for Halloween. I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in a few years so I took the opportunity to really have fun and went as Barb from Stranger Things. I won the second place prize (a giant Toblerone)! First went to a really elaborate and amazing Edward Scissorhands.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the trivia nights is meeting all kinds of people from the community. I’ve been on teams of people that included lawyers, retired radio broadcasters, a zoologist, and a nurse. The strongest trivia teams are groups of people of all different ages and interests so my friends and I are always excited by the opportunity to join forces with new people!

In any case, I bring this up because it was triggered by my reading of Sally Pewhairangi’s (2014) A Beautiful Obsession and Aaron Schmidt’s (2016) Asking the Right Questions. Schmidt, in his discussion of library users and the surveys/questions we ask them, says that “instead of asking people about libraries, we need to ask people about their lives.” In a similar vein, Pewhairangi says that after learning more about your “most valuable members,” take that data and “turn these insights into products and services that will capture their attention, surprise them and delight them.”

For me, this Pub Trivia event is a beautiful example of a library thinking beyond its usual service/events offerings of children/family events, and remembered that a large portion of their community are adults (singles, parents, retirees, etc). The library system has created an event that piques the interest of a broad range of people of different ages and backgrounds, bringing them together in a safe, warm, supportive environment. While a trivia night in general is a wonderful way to offer an event that appeals to many, this particular event fills a huge need for my community. I live on the “Peninsula” sandwiched between San Francisco and San Jose where there’s not a lot going on in the evening if you don’t want to shop, go to the movies, or head into SF or SJ. This event is a little oasis in a desert of suburban sprawl. Like many others,I don’t really like going out late at night, I like free stuff, I love trivia. It’s a perfect event for me and for the 50+ people that also show up. I’m sure if this was held on a monthly basis instead of quarterly, I’m certain they’d get the same amount of people attending each month. But, this is an event that also requires staff time for preparation and question writing, funds for food and drink, and funds for prizes. So, while unfortunate, the 4 events a year limit is understandable.

At the end of the events, the organizers pass out something very important: the ever useful feedback/comment card. The questions are something along the lines:

  • “Would you come to another trivia event?”
  • “What did you think about the snacks?”
  • “Did you think the trivia was challenging enough?”
  • “Do you have any suggestions for us?”
  • “Would you like us to add you to our events list?”

This is where I feel improvement could be made and thanks to Aaron Schmidt, who warns against generic questions, I’ll come prepared with my suggestions for the next event. More specific questions could really help shape future events. 

  • “What would you say your trivia subject specialties are?”
  • “What is your occupation?”
  • “What were you favorite subject and least favorite in school?”
  •  “Where did you grow up and where do you live now?”

The above, more specific questions could all be a huge help for the organizers when it comes to choosing trivia next time around. This would provide them with information about how far away people are coming for the event and what their trivia strengths and weaknesses might be. Asking something else like “What games do you like to play?” could even help the library create more community game nights.

The Pub Trivia nights are a step in the right direction and with the help of community feedback, I hope that more will be done to make these nights a bigger success!

Context Book Report: Quiet

I thought this Bjork song was a great audio representation of the merging of communal and quiet spaces in libraries today. It’s also a little representative of how different I feel when I’m around new folks compared to friends and family. …it’s also just a fun little song.


Susan Cain’s (2012) book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, was a revelation for me, an introvert that has never read up on the subject. Things I’ve always considered to be strange personality quirks were validated several times over by Cain.

Here are a few things I’m not alone in doing:

  • Having a fake extrovert version of myself that takes over in uncomfortable and exhausting social situations.
  • Hiding in bathroom stalls just to have a few minutes alone to recharge my batteries.
  • Walked in a different direction to avoid having to speak to an acquaintance.
  • Love my job that is away from the public eye.
  • And, most obscurely, I have to turn down my car radio when I’m driving in an unfamiliar area because loud noises and my sense of direction are incompatible.

These are all introvert behaviors Cain describes in her book and the more I read, the more it felt like someone had been observing me for the majority of my life.

Cain’s acknowledgement of these “common” introvert tendencies normalizes these behaviors to readers, helping us understand that being an introvert isn’t solved by merely coming out of one’s “shell.” It’s who we are. We make up approximately one third to one half of Americans, or as Cain (2012) emphasizes, “one out of every two or three people you know” (p. 4). But we are “one third to one half” of the population of a country where “we’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable.” (Cain, 2012, p. 3). This is not really part of the introvert M. O., but one that introverts are forced to contend with and adapt to. One of Cain’s biggest questions for debate is how exactly to navigate life as an introvert within the American extrovert norm.  “Should we attempt to manipulate our behavior within the range available to us, or should we simply be true to ourselves? At what point does controlling our behavior become futile, or exhausting” (Cain, 2012, p. 207)? How do you work effectively in an open-plan, wall-free office? What are your strategies for preparing for meetings or speaking engagements? Do you have an escape plan for when the party you’re attending starts feeling overwhelming?

Earlier I mentioned that I’ll occasionally hide away in a bathroom stall (or an empty corridor, or leave for some fresh air) if I’m somewhere feeling overwhelmed and can easily get away. Cain interviewed former Harvard University Professor, Brian Little, who elaborated on this behavior. A “restorative niche” is the term Professor Little uses “for the place you go when you want to return to your true self. It can be a physical place . . . or a temporal one, like the quiet breaks you plan between sales calls. It can mean canceling your social plans” or choosing to shut your office door, selecting a specific seat at the table, or choosing to email someone instead of using the phone or meeting in person (Cain, 2012, p. 219).

It was the concept of the “restorative niche” that got me thinking about introverts in the context of libraries. As we are redefining and re-imagining the roles and services of libraries, so, too, have we expanded upon the idea of the library as a restorative niche. What was once a quiet haven is now also a place for collaboration, engagement, and excitement. Extroverts, Cain (2012) reminds readers, need restorative niches too; their niches may instead be found in opportunities to talk, travel, and meet new people (p. 219). The library environment is not drifting away from being a restorative niche for introverts, it is instead embracing itself as a restorative niche for everyone. Our libraries in Library 2.0, as Michael Stephens (2006) explains, embrace the principle that “‘the library is human’ because it makes the library a social and emotionally engaging center for learning and experience” (para. 1). If, ” [the] user is the sun. The user is the magic element that transforms librarianship from a gatekeeping trade to a services profession,” then the library needs to be a space flexible enough to keep both our quiet and our animated patrons happy (Schneider, 2006).

A good example of this balance is found at the Hunt Library at North Carolina State University, Raleigh, designed, to “create spaces that encourage collaboration, reflection, creativity, and awe” and “to be a place not of the past but of the future” (Schwartz, 2013, para. 2). It was “engineered for solo work, to many kinds and sizes of collaborative projects up through mass events. … Library spaces are spacious but never cavernous, with plenty of intriguing nooks and little livable touches that make the patron experience seamless” (Schwartz, 2013, para. 27). Cain, I think, would agree that a space such as the Hunt, is a harmonious gathering place for introverts and extroverts alike. It meets her call for “settings in which people are free to articulate in a shifting kaleidoscope of interactions, and to disappear into their private workspaces when they want to focus or simply be alone” (Cain, 2012, p. 93-94).

While the Hunt Library reminds us that places for quiet reflection are not lost amidst the re-conceptualizing of library spaces, we need to maintain and strengthen that hyperlink between libraries and their introverted patrons and really, anyone seeking a private space to read and work.  Is a quiet reading room with communal tables enough? A few study rooms available for booking? Just as Learning Commons spaces are supplied with impressive technology and new group classes are offered, so too should we also be thinking about ‘upgrading’ our private spaces and event offerings. Some suggestions:

  • Private study/meeting rooms could feature some of the same tools available in communal space.
  • Replace open backed carrels with desk pods.
  • Or simply, rethink your current furniture layout. For example, separate carrel desks into a long row instead of side by side.
  • Offer events/classes with smaller attendance caps.

Much of what libraries are already doing in terms of services and opportunities align with the needs of introverted community members, as long as libraries continue to allow users to decide how they interact. Collectively, libraries have some combination of in person reference services, texting, tweeting and other social media, chat boxes, and the telephone. The easier it is for a community member to have their information needs met, the more likely it will be they come back again.

I chose Quiet initially because I felt it was something I could relate to but also because I was interested in thinking about the place of introversion in Library 2.0. Having read about libraries like the Hunt and hearing the call at my own library for more spaces for collaboration and interaction, I had wondered if perhaps one of the last vestiges of public quiet space was slowly being forgotten about in favor of an environment that exclusively embraces our extrovert culture. But, my (somewhat alarmist) concerns were tempered by the voices of the Library 2.0 community; as Schneider (2006)  reminds us, “The user is the sun.” The library is for everyone.

As an addition to this reflection, I decided to take a walk around my library early in the morning to take a few photos of the variety of our physical “restorative niches” available to our students and campus community. Here is a slideshow of what I found. Note: early in the morning also explains why no one is in the photos.

 

References

Cain, S. (2012). Quiet:The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking. New York: Crown.

Schneider, K (2006). The User is Not Broken.

Schwartz, M. (2013). Tomorrow, visualized.

Stephens, M. (2006). Into a new world of librarianship.

Three Decades of Change – Foundational Readings Reflection

What would do more for users, for the development of library service and for rapport with users than providing assistance that keeps pace with [change]” (Buckland, 1992, p. [11])? This (slightly modified) rhetorical question from Michael Buckland’s article, “Redesigning library service,” stuck with me as I went on to read Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk’s, Library 2.0 and Brian Mathews’ article, “Think like a startup.” Everything we do to meet our patrons’ needs, to try to stay relevant in the face of great challenges, to maintain our relationships with our communities is framed by this eternal charge. Buckland (1992) asks us to consider how the “circumstances of library users are changing” (p.11). In turn, our own circumstances must change, in the face of  “monetary, staffing, or bureaucratic issues” (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. 22). Published over three decades, each piece of the foundational readings reflects the attitudes and debates of the time but the overarching theme that persists is the need to adapt in a rapidly changing environment for the sake of our patrons and for the sake of our libraries.

In the 1990’s, this challenge was answered by the transition from all “Paper” libraries, to “Automated libraries” with online catalogs, and to “Electronic libraries” with many digitized documents available for patrons to access on the web, as explained by Buckland (1992). Reading Buckland’s article was a bit like listening to a coworker who is not thrilled about the new version of Windows IT installed on their computer (“there was nothing wrong with the old one”). . Maybe this was just me reading too much into tone that is difficult to determine, but Buckland acknowledges that users will appreciate the availability of electronic records, though it does not seem to be a service he has any interest in accessing himself. “Electronic documents are becoming increasingly important and arrangements to provide access to them–the Electronic Library–must be developed and is best viewed as additive. The world is changing and this additional form of library service appears to be not only desirable for library users but also inevitable” (Buckland, 1992, p.42). Despite however he may personally feel, Buckland’s article demonstrates the acknowledgement that keeping pace with a changing technological environment for the benefit of our patrons is essential.

Fifteen years after Buckland’s article, Casey & Savastinuk’s (2007) book, Library 2.0 demonstrates a willingness and eagerness to embrace change and suggests new ways to implement changes to improve library services. In the 2000’s, keeping pace with our users had to be a priority but things were changing so quickly that it was a struggle to keep up and a struggle to keep patrons’ excited and engaged with library services. Casey & Savastinuk (2007) are frank when discussing why meeting patron needs is paramount, plainly stating that our users are losing interest, we don’t offer the services they want, many of us are resistant to changing “traditional” or “fundamental” services, and that we are no longer the first place people go for information (p.xxiv). Library 2.0 is the response to this state of affairs, emphasizing continual evaluation and updating of library services and encouraging community participation via feedback, book reviews, and catalog tags (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, p. 6). Library 2.0 felt very familiar to me, because much of the changes my library has made in the past decade have been based on assessments and on listening to feedback from our community.

Five years after Library 2.0 and a year into the 2010s, Brian Mathews’ (2012) article, “Think like a startup,” addresses Buckland’s (rhetorical) question by suggesting that to keep pace with our users and meet their needs, we need to spend less time looking inward and more time looking out. Quite different than the approach of Library 2.0. No longer being the primary source for information as Casey & Savastinuk mentioned, Mathews (2012) reminds us that libraries are vulnerable and nothing “says in stone that [our services] must remain under our domain” (p. 2) Mathews feels we need to dramatically rethink our methods and to work more like startups to keep ourselves current. He paraphrases Guy Kawasaki’s discussion of microscopes and telescopes, using it to illustrate the direction he feels libraries should be taking.

“Microscopes magnify every detail, line item, expenditure, and demand full-blown forecasts. … Telescopes bring the future closer. They dream up “the next big thing” and seek to change the world. … The reality is that you need both perspectives. We can’t focus exclusively on traveling to the future scholarly universe. And at the same time we can’t remain static” (Mathews, 2012, p. 11).

More specifically, Mathews (2012) feels libraries should spend less time on assessment (microscopes). “As we think about the direction libraries are heading, the focus can’t remain on how well we’re doing right now, but on where we should be heading. It’s not about making our services incrementally better, but about developing completely new services and service models” (p. 8) While Mathews spends much time pointing out all the things that should be done in order to keep up with our patrons needs and remain relevant, I must say that I had a hard time relating or agreeing with his suggestions because so many were not based in the reality of economic and bureaucratic constraints that we must contend with. He throws out suggestions but does not temper them with a dose of practicality. That being said, his article still serves as a helpful guide that a library could draw from on the road to further progress.

My own library is still figuring out its identity within Library 2.0 and in 2017 we are not quite at the level that Mathews thinks we ought to be attempting…we are still trying to get a Learning Commons built. We use assessments and different feedback methods to engage with our campus community and we develop new services that are within our means such as converting to a 24 hour schedule, adding a cafe, and connecting with many academic departments to develop specific programming for our students. There are many more things we would love to accomplish were it not for budget constraints, but I can definitely say that to the best of our ability, we are providing our students assistance that keeps pace with change.

 

References

Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. American Library Association.

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

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

My first post!

Hi everyone! I’m Erin! I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve worked as a cataloger in an academic library for ten years and I’m starting my third (and final, I hope) year in the program.  Hooray!

My BA is in History and I was totally clueless as to what to do with it. I relied on my experience as a cataloging student assistant to get my foot in the door at the library I currently work in. I love the environment and after many years of indecision, finally realized that I wanted a MLIS.

For fun, I love taking day trips around the Bay Area with my husband, playing with our cats, Archie and Gus, and having game nights with friends and family. My current obsession has been listening to the audio book recordings of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, making my commute way more interesting! I also had quite a long break in between the semesters (2 intensives last semester! 3 months off school!!) and got sucked back into spending hours playing Skyrim.

I’m looking forward to spending this semester with you all!

Gus is on the left (he now has 3 legs instead of 4!). Archie is on the right. They are frenemies and I can rarely get them together in the same photo.