Home » Uncategorized » Reflection Blog #2- Transparency and Participatory Services

Reflection Blog #2- Transparency and Participatory Services

Concerning participatory services, I was struck by the words of Karen Schneider in her 2006 blog post entitled “The User Is Not Broken: A Meme Masquerading as a Manifesto.” The thought provoking statements of the changed mindset in today’s library invites the reader to “challenge,change, add to, subtract from, edit, tussle with, and share these thoughts.” This is a turnabout from when library policy is written without input from anyone except the library board, putting it in a binder and never considering how it affects the patrons. Schneider calls this type of librarianship, gate keeping, in which the library is held in a static holding pattern of “unchange”. She notes that the old mindset fears loss of control, whereas the reality is that libraries exist to serve their users as many different ways as possible or necessary. The advancement of literacy and knowledge in any format makes a library ever relevant to the people it serves. As the hyperlinked library model is user centered, the concept of evolving services through continual evaluation can promote a new mindset for libraries to be more inclusive of their users; it can break the static model of “unchange.” Examples of libraries becoming a hub for public services in a crisis, as in Stolls article, “The Healing Power of Libraries,”  fits with the model as well by being flexible and taking action to provide for users needs at that time.

In an article that revisits “The User Is Not Broken,” appropriately titled, “The User Is (Still) Not Broken” Brian Kenney explains how libraries have invested themselves in formats instead of services. The section of his article, “The OPAC Is Not the Sun” is a perfect example of how the old mindset of librarians needs to change; it needs to stop being obsessed with having a perfect database of library records, but rather to incorporate online reading sites that are inclusive of the user in allowing them to review, comment, and tag items.

Concerning transparency, it seems that the prevalence of digital communication brings public attention to transparency in many ways, especially where public service entities are concerned. The clandestine motives of those in power make common folk uncomfortable and wary of institutions. The same goes for libraries, people want to know that their library has their best interest at heart and offer what they need in this modern world. In Denning’s article, “Do We Need Libraries?’, he relates that we (librarians) need new eyes to see the future that has already unfolded. By building change into the library plan and including users in the conversations about change and improvement libraries can move toward greater transparency. The readings for this module have offered me valuable information about how to proceed as a librarian in the 21st Century with the responsibility of creating users and learners for the future.

Casey, M., &  Stephens, M. (2007). “A Road Map to Transparency.

Denning, Steve. (2015) “Do We Need Libraries?” Forbes.

Kenney, Bryan.(2014) “The User Is (Still) Not Broken”, Publisher’s Weekly.

Schneider, K.G. “The User Is Not Broken” retrieved, February 2017.

Stolls, Amy. (2015) “The Healing Power of Libraries” National Endowment for the Arts.






  1. @mssanchez Your reflection brought back memories of the main library on campus where I did my undergrad. It was a cold building, made of concrete, with dark aisles and no windows. The staff were equally cold, glared at you as you approached the reference desk and made you feel dumb for asking a question (as if we were broken!). I was terrified of approaching a librarian and asking a question, so I didn’t. Such a shame, because I probably could have conducted better research and ultimately handed in better papers, if I had just approached them. I realize now that it was the librarians attempt to hold on to the old ways, ‘unchange’ and ‘fear of loss of control’.

  2. @mssanchez Thank you for your post. RE: “The clandestine motives of those in power make common folk uncomfortable and wary of institutions.” When I think of transparency in libraries and the clandestine motives of others I am reminded of the complexity of public library administration. Our Boards are comprised of volunteers–some of the members motivated politically, but others being fresh faces hoping to contribute something of value to their community. Then there are our City Administrators. Sometimes they feel chaffed because library boards manage library directors and library happenings, yet the CA is responsible for the staff and costs of operations. I don’t think it is often the case that our Board intends to be clandestine, nor that library directors do. (I sometimes wonder about the other stakeholders). But I do think it is super important for all of us to be aware that our actions may seem sneaky or confusing to those who are not a regular part of our meetings. This is a great opportunity for us to pull up the shades and invite the public to actively attend library planning and Board meetings.

  3. Schneider’s work left a mark on me. This seems like many years ago but the sentiments still hold up when we think about users and how they use information and our services. Amen to losing the OPAC mindset.

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