Participatory Service and Transparency

In reading the course material for participatory service and transparency, I wish I had been recording my facial expressions. As I viewed a slide for Stephens’ lecture (Stephens, 2017) that read “We designed our libraries for people, not books,” I’m pretty sure my eyes widened, my eyebrows shot up, and I sat up straighter in my chair at Starbucks. What a wonderful idea to add to the discussion on participatory service, and transparency.

In the participatory service angle, the article that interested me the most was “Making Libraries Visible on the Web” (Fons, 2016). The author, Ted Fons, is a friend and former colleague, and all-around genuinely awesome person. He discusses in this article one of my favorite library subjects: linked data. As part of participatory service, he asks us to think of our metadata as it relates to findability and making this data attainable from sources other than our silo’d library catalogs. He emphasizes that, “Making libraries more visible on the web has two benefits: improving the service for the ones who are already committed to the library—they use search engines, too—and giving libraries the opportunity to reach those who never—or only sometimes—think about the library.” If you’re interested in learning more about linked data and the BibFrame project (and want to geek out like I do anytime someone mentions anything new about metadata), here’s a video that I found very useful when I was trying to learn more about this subject:

On the library transparency side, Kenney (2015) writes in “Lessons from Seattle’s Failed Bid to Rebrand its Public Library” about the corporate culture infiltrating a public library, and how the two are not quite a match made in heaven. Seattle Public Library (SPL) was set to spend around $2 million dollars on their rebranding effort, an effort that was roundly criticized. SPL surveyed their patrons, which is commendable, but the resounding answer from those constituents was that this rebranding effort was a waste of money. There is a dichotomy between the corporate, buzzword world that we are accustomed to and the public library. When I worked in a library software company, I very much felt that our mission was in line with libraries, and that helping people and the community was paramount. However, when the company was purchased by a private equity firm, I felt that the heavy corporate culture began to clash heavily with the library world and librarians in general. At one conference, the new CEO got up to speak and was introduced to the audience of librarians via flashing lights and rock music. I sat in the audience, mortified, unsure if this was an Apple iPhone launch or an introduction to some software updates for the library discovery layer. It was so clear that these two worlds were opposites. The library has its own culture that is unique, special, and powerful. A culture that puts patrons first. As Kenney (2015) writes, “whatever it is we are proposing, it has to be about creating a better library for the public.”


Billey, A. (2015, December 2). Essential BIBFRAME. Retrieved from

Fons, T. (2016). Making libraries visible on the web. Library Journal. Retrieved from

Kenney, B. (2015). Lessons from Seattle’s failed bid to rebrand its public library. Publishers Weekly. Retrieved from

11 Thoughts.

  1. I love your emphasis on making library websites more findable and visible on the web, especially by making the library website attainable on other sources, such as Google. I know the library system I work for, no one really goes onto the library webpage. Many people don’t know that they can access their account at home, place holds, and renew items. Some of this is due to staff not telling patrons when they open cards or renew materials at the desk, but some of this could be assuaged by making the site easily finable on big search engines such as Google. The library should be for the user, including the website. Great post!

  2. Thanks Brianna! I really find this concept to be powerful…that for so long our library catalogs are so far removed from the rest of the web. I sat in on a Zepheira and LC presentation at ALA of how they were making the catalog linked and searchable via the web, and it was pretty exciting!

  3. Hi Swetta,
    The linked data reading really stuck out from the others we read in the module. Thanks for posting the video. This topic can be hard to grasp as MARC is so beloved. I agree with you and Fons that we need to think beyond the findability within our chosen catalogs. Meeting users and potential users out on the web is our next frontier.
    The Kenney reading was also a great reminder of how libraries need to keep in line with our chosen missions. Although we often need to “brand” ourselves like the corporate world, we need to begin with some grass roots opinion collection on what our users need so we do not waste our resources. Thanks for sharing your personal experience. It helped illustrate the corporate/library disconnect.

    • Hi Kristi,
      Thanks for the comment! I know, the linked data concept seems so important. I also think it’s moving frustratingly slow. I want all libraries to be participating in this framework so we can make our data visible. 🙂

  4. @swetta Hurrah for watching the lecture at Starbucks. 🙂

    I have attended library conferences where there was a discordant feeling of library folk versus the big corporate vendors who sponsor the tote bags, coffee breaks, and get to promote their products from the ballroom stage. It always felt a little off to me. On the flip side, I spoke at a user group meeting for a library software company years ago that was just so HUMAN and fun. I think that company was eventually bought up though… 🙁

  5. Swetta, thanks for highlighting the linked data essay and for sharing the video. I am doing a conference presentation on linked data in November, and my approach is how we can use linked data with the user (not just behind the scenes to make our materials more accessible). I’ve spent hours (seems like decades) reading about linked data because I find it so freaking fascinating and with such potential. But I just read that W3C the Tim Berner’s Lee web consortium (if you haven’t spend every moment of your free time reading about linked data, you may not know that Tim Berner’s lee is the father of it), sided with the “corporate big boys” in adopting DRM technology as a standard, despite many arguments against it ( The pressure on companies (and libraries) to respond to those with money must be enormous!
    And, just FYI, Berners-Lee will be speaking in SF (well, Burlingame) in November if anyone wants to hear the father of linked data!

    • Thanks for the comment, Mary, and thank for the information on all the things that the father of the internet has been up to related to DRM and HTML. Ooh, he’ll be in the Bay in November? Are you going to this event?

  6. @swetta I always love hearing your perspective coming from the vendor to the library side. And I love that you geek out on metadata!
    The only time I want to see a rockstar at a library conference is when it’s an actual rockstar, like when Henry Rollins was the keynote at ACRL in 2012…and Henry is a huge library and personal privacy fan so it was appropriate.

    • Thanks Cheryl! I also loved it when Amy Dickinson (from the Ask Amy column and NPR) spoke at a conference.She was so warm and related her life to libraries so well. Those are the types of speakers are memorable.

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