Blog Reflection – Hyperlinked Communities

I loved the readings for this module, along with the excellent lecture ending with finger guns caused by iced tea consumption.  Truly incredible, and the humor made it all the more engaging.

I’d like to talk about my own personal experiences with hyperlinked communities in the library.  A couple years ago I used to volunteer regularly (once or twice a week, every week) at the local public library.  I live in Oakland, California, so as you can imagine in a large city, there’s several libraries.  At the main branch I assisted in planting, watering, maintaining and cleaning the container gardens outside the children’s room.  I truly enjoyed this experience, as I love gardening, but when I started volunteering at the Cesar Chavez library branch in the Fruitvale district, I noticed some significant differences.  For one, the Fruitvale branch has a much higher population of latinx folks than the rest of Oakland, and the library reflects that.  They’re the only Oakland Public Library branch to have a seed library in the building!

I would come in weekly to maintain the seed library (a card-catalog re-purposed to hold seeds of culturally appropriate foods for the community), replenish the flyers, water the container gardens, harvest some tomatoes, beans, peppers, and basil.  It was great.  But what I noticed at this library was the community engagement surrounding it.  On every Wednesday, a group of mothers, grandmothers, and women would come in, sit near the children’s play area, and make crafts together.  Sometimes it was sewing, other times it was making puppets for Dios de la Muerte, and other times it was crafts.  Every week I came, regardless of it there were children there or not, those women were there, sitting together, talking with one another, and building things together.  It’s obviously stuck with me because it was one of the first times I really recognized the library as a community meeting spot, as a place where those that live in the community come to gather, share stories, and participate.  The library felt more alive than the other branches to me, as I was seeing a hyperlinked community in action, and to me it became a real and essential part of the library’s identity.

Bonus photo from their facebook page:

https://scontent.fsnc1-1.fna.fbcdn.net/v/t1.0-9/10702225_842578769107297_6439376469438545729_n.jpg?oh=8f86b9706b40fec6b9339144b726fe8a&oe=5A586245


The early future of the Web – Context Book Review

Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture tells the story of how the ideals of the counterculture movement of the 60s informed the development of what we now know as cyberculture today. Turner begins his story describing how society-at-large viewed the computer in the late 1960s, “…tools and emblems of the…unfeeling industrial-era social machine…” (Turner, 2006). Yet in the 1990s, a utopian vision of computers, and the internet, swept through the public consciousness and academics alike as “politics, economics, the nature of the self – all seemed to teeter on the edge of transformation” (2006). In telling the story of this transformation, the author focuses his narrative by providing a biography of Stewart Brand, an artist and entrepreneur responsible for founding the Whole Earth Catalog in the late 1960s, the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL) in 1985, and the Global Business Network (GBN) in 1987.

Brand and his colleagues, argues Turner, by living in the counterculture movement in the 1960s, were able to envision personal computers enabling individual freedom. This view was shaped by the philosophies of Brand and others, such as the mathematician Norbert Wiener, who viewed humans and machines as interacting elements of an information system. The global connectivity brought on by the internet deepened the flow of information between human and machine, particularly the computer. The idea that individuals “needed to gain control over information and information systems” (2006) was a concept carried by Brand and his cohorts into their work with leveraging computers and internet for the individual, not the military or corporation.

In 1985 Brand and business partner Larry Brilliant created, according to Wired magazine, “one of most influential computer networks in the world” (qtd well.com). The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link (WELL) was a very early teleconferencing system from the era of early dial-up modems and bulletin boards. The WELL enabled subscribers to share messages with one another, chat in real-time, and its “membership and governance…carried forward a set of ideas, management strategies, and interpersonal networks first formulated in and around the Whole Earth Catalog” (2006). Many of the communal ideals that profoundly influenced Brand and his early catalog was now a part of the WELL information community, a major resource for engineers, programmers, and hackers in the early days of Silicon Valley.

The combination of computer technologists and utopian counterculture dogma effectively shaped the information sharing explosion that started in the 1990s, a combination of collaborative work combined with the scientific research styles that directly countered the “…closed [information] system for purposes of military control and command” (2006) that the internet was initially created for. The new vision of the internet as entrepreneurial and collaborative, because Brand and his colleagues were entrepreneurial and collaborative, spread throughout the technology field and directly influenced the internet we are familiar with today.

For information scientists, navigators, browsers, and professionals, From Counterculture to Cyberculture provides a detailed and timely account of the birth of internet as a closed and cold loop among technologists and the military, and its transformation into an open platform for information sharing that many of us take for granted today. Information professionals will value a knowledge of the history behind the internet, as it informs the historical importance of protecting free speech, free inquiry, and accessibility for everyone.

 

References

Turner, F. (2006). From counterculture to cyberculture. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.


Reflection on Foundational Readings

Both Buckland and Mathews have some great insights into evolving library services to continually meet the needs of its patrons and embracing technological changes along the way. Buckland’s paper is pretty incredible in terms of him describing the changes that will occur in librarianship decades before his vision is fully realized. His descriptions would be prescient if not for how he fully details his thinking process behind each conclusion as a matter of simple logic.

Buckland describes the central purpose of libraries as service: access to information. And the librarians concern, “rather than being with knowledge itself, is usually with representations of knowledge.” I think these two simple definitions are profound and just as relevant today. Libraries that are on the cutting edge, experimenting with 3D printers, seed libraries, tool lending libraries, multi-media rooms, and more still fit comfortably within this definition, as they are facilitating sharing and providing access to knowledge that goes beyond just texts and images. Buckland’s breakdown of the three libraries, Paper, Automated, and Electronic provide different frameworks to examine the library: from its procedures, storage, retrieval, and use. His section on coping with complexity “when the user’s expertise is inadequate for the task” through user education, advice, simplification, mediation, and delegation can be applied to the attempts in innovation and services today in the library. As Buckland predicted, the transformation from a library-centered world to a user-centered world has already happened, and Mathews provides some great advice in how redesigning library services is about new processes, not adding new features.

Following the Startup model, Mathews calls out the emphasis in assessment such as library metrics on pleasing our users rather than focusing on anticipating their unarticulated needs. He wants libraries support 21st century readers by becoming innovative organizations by infusing “the entrepreneurial spirit into our local efforts and into our profession conversations.” My favorite suggestion made by Mathews is his request for investment into R&D. He states that “library administrators should serve as venture capitalists investing in creative concepts that show promise.” I desperately wish libraries and their administrators would do just that. Working as a part-timer at an academic library that struggles to meet their budget…well, it’s hard for me to imagine a library that would fund any R&D into innovation in their library.  But I do think we should strive for it.

These two papers pair well together. Buckland’s adage, “we adapt to what we adopt” slightly tempers the wild excitement in innovation and exploration that Mathews encourages, reminding the reader that a bottom-up approach to what our patrons are actually using and an eye on current technological trends goes further than jumping onto the cutting edge just for the sake of it. I also noticed that both authors are dissatisfied with state of strategic planning often failing to be actually strategic.

Perhaps the public perception of libraries is still behind where libraries are actually at, and where they’re headed. As public perception shifts, and as libraries continually reinvent themselves, I hope for a renaissance of library services through funded innovation and experimentation.

 


Introduction

Ahoy, classmates!

This in my introductory blog post.

Most of the previous classes I’ve taken through SJSU’s iSchool program focused on special collections, archives, preservation, and history of the book.  I was aiming to focus on special collections, as I work at such a library in a University setting.  This year, I changed my mind.  I was initially signing up for more classes on manuscripts, codicology, and digital archives but I stopped myself in order to gain some experience with more public-oriented services and programs.

I don’t know what kind of librarian I’ll be, though I suspect it will have to be wherever I can find a job, as the Bay Area is a bit over-saturated with MLIS graduates and it’s a tough market out there.

It’s public libraries I fell in love with in the first place, that inspired me to become a librarian before I even started my undergraduate studies.  So I’m looking to reignite that passion for public libraries, and learn about new tools and ways to connect and bring people together.

I’m looking forward to working with you all!

 


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