Reflecting on the Hyperlinked Library – The Space Between Us

The readings for the the Hyperlinked Library seemed daunting to me, at first. I struggled with the possibilities of a hyperlinked library. I’m sometimes complimented for being practical and being a pragmatist (I make a great “get a grip” friend), but I think that side of my brain struggles with these concepts that seem abstract at first. I kept saying to myself as I was reading the materials, “how does a hyperlinked library actually work?”

It wasn’t until I read the chapter in the Cluetrain Manifesto (Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger, 2001) that things started to click into place. And by the time I got to the excellent video of the Library of the future in plain English, I was smiling at the many parallels  in the readings found in Module 3. Levine et al. (2001) opine that we live and work in “forts” where we are confined to the job that we are hired to do, and look upon the org chart of a company as a way to add hierarchies and create a divide in our communication. Booth, McDonald and Tiffen (2010) further this idea by mentioning the divide that is created by the library org chart. Why are they going on and on about org charts? Because structured org charts are the opposite of what a hyperlinked library represents. Stephens (2001) presents us with an alternative viewpoint from the silo’d organization. He elucidates that “Creating connections and community for library users is paramount in the Hyperlinked Library model” (2001). Levine et al. (2001) further this concept by postulating that “Org charts are written by the victors. But hyperlinks are created by people finding other people they trust, enjoy, and, yes, in some ways love.”

So, as a pragmatist, I wondered if I was seeing real-world examples of this type of library. I see it in my library, where I work in technical services, every day. If someone has an idea for the library, even if it’s the Dean of the library, we email each other, or mention it during a meeting to make sure we get input from each other. We include our colleagues, and the idea becomes better and better because we are transparent, cohesive, and believe in communication. The org charge dissolves when the librarian is also a reference librarian, instructional librarian, and a subject selector. In ways that I never stopped to consider, my library is unhindered by processes and silos and bureaucracy. Does this mean that we still aren’t beholden to the bureaucracy that exists in our larger world? No, but I think that once we’ve latched on to the hyperlinked model, these ideas become contagious. As Booth et al. (2010) mention in their video, trust has to be a factor in changing the library to fit this dynamic landscape. Once we’ve established trust with our patrons and library administrators, we will all be speaking the hyperlinked language.



Booth, M., McDonald, S., & Tiffen, B. (2010, February 7). Library of the future in plain English [Video file]. Retrieved from

Levine, R., Locke, C., Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. (2011). The cluetrain manifesto. Basic books.

Stephens, M. (2011). The hyperlinked library. Retrieved from

4 Thoughts.

  1. Hi Swetta,

    Those readings also caused me to reflect on how organizations “really” do their work and idea development. In my library, I see the same things you do – librarians and library staff discuss ideas, implementation, issues with changes with one another and figure things out long before it gets discussed with anyone up the chain. It would be great if employees could be given more trust and autonomy in improving work and services. Hopefully, this will be a trend we start to see.

    • Hi Dana! I always thought that getting real change to happen in a company or library setting required us to wait around for the higher ups to give approval. But I’ve realized that people are busy, and have a million priorities, and that sometimes taking on a project or increasing communication within a small department or a group of colleagues can lead to a bigger changes in the chain of command. Like pebbles in a pond, I say! 🙂

  2. I think being the “get a grip” friend is a good thing to be. And in light of these explorations of staff culture and organizational change, sometimes it’s good to remember to get a grip. My supervisor back in the day at the public library used to stop the tech folk from spinning out by reminding us it wasn’t the Pentagon and we were not doing brain surgery. 🙂

    • Michael, that reminds me of a manager of mine, who, when I was freaking out about some cataloging standard reminded me that there’s no such thing as a cataloging emergency (I still say there is, but I’m passionate about the topic). 🙂

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