The Power of Surprise

Before and after beginning my MLIS journey in the SJSU program, there were two questions that I was continually asked when I told people I was pursuing librarianship:

  • But what do librarians even do?
  • Isn’t that job going extinct?

–As I am starting this post, I feel like I am writing an intro that has been written by so many MLIS students before me. (I know I probably have already written a post for another class like this). I think most of us have experienced confusion and concern from family and friends (sometimes passing acquaintances) about our career path.

But bear with me because I had a somewhat exhausted epiphany today.

When people would ask me these questions, my answer was sometimes vague and rambling. Other times, I would have a direct answer that was short and concise. Recently, I had gotten into the habit of using the phrase “information mediator,” but this would require further explanation. I came to the realization that perhaps the reason that I had never had the same answer is because there wasn’t a clear direction. Current information professionals and aspiring librarians must start choosing one. The readings in this class have given me an idea of where I would like to see libraries expand.

As I was reading the material for the hyperlinked library model, I continually harkened back to the Mathews (2012) article, Think Like a Startup. First off, I just want to say that I loved the style of this article. The analogies were fantastic and helped me grasp an integral part of the library movement happening right now in the information profession. I particularly enjoyed the part about building a strategic culture in the profession by making adaptation inherent in the profession. Innovate and iterate is the mantra that I am taking away from Mathews.

The readings for the hyperlinked library model furthered these concepts, and ultimately led me to my epiphany, which is:

Libraries need surprise.

Much like the students at the beginning of the other Mathews (2010) article, Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked, people need to be surprised and coaxed into recognizing the library. Using cell phone technology during learning activities allows students to interact with their classmates and the information they are learning. These surprising changes in the library can influence changes in the classroom.

Another way that libraries could use surprise is by surprising patrons with new, innovative library design. In the article titled DOK Delft, inspirational library concepts, five concepts about innovative libraries are enumerated. The author, Jasper Visser, describes previous experiences at a museum or a library as very quiet and hushed, but at DOK Delft the colorful design and the spacious, uncluttered environment encouraged the patrons to interact with each other. Before designing the space it is imperative to conduct user research in order to create spaces that will surprise patrons by fulfilling a need they would not associate with a library.

Finally, the article, Exploring Context: The User Experience, also encourages innovation in library design and programming. Just because an idea is unexpected or uncommon does not mean that the idea is illogical and should be completely disregarded. The example that the author, Schmidt, puts forward is the concept of a library providing showers to the public. As Schmidt explains, cultural and geographical context may provide a reason to include showers in the design of a library. While this is is unusual idea in our neck of the woods, this idea could be life-changing for patrons in a different part of the world. The heart of the article is insisting that all ideas are good ideas. Innovation occurs when creativity and practicality meet. By remaining open to all ideas, the library can continue to evolve.

Bottom line, surprise will get patrons in the door. What will keep them coming back? More surprises. More change. New and creative ways to learn and access information.

The “Val” in “LibVal”

Hello! My name is Valerie. I am the creator of this blog and writer of these posts. I usually have a lot to say, but never enough to write. That being said, I thought I would write up a little write-up of myself. I was born and raised in California, and I was able to move to my California dream destination at the age of 25. I’m incredibly lucky and honored to be a member of the best community in the best state in the best country in the world.  Now that I live where I want to live forever (fingers crossed that I live forever), I think it’s safe to say that I’m a Californian through and through. I grew up in a valley (I know, typical California valley girl), and I use vernacular such as “dude,” “stoked,” and “hella.” I do try to avoid slang in my writing, but it is definitely a part of who I am.

I went to college at Sacramento State University where I studied English and Anthropology. I decided to pursue librarianship because both of my majors continuously brought me back to the library. The library has always been a place that has brought me comfort. Then when I got into college it was the place where I could focus. In this program, I have found that libraries are more than I ever imagined. There is so much potential inherent/generated/foreseen in libraries. I cannot wait to step into the field and watch it evolve.

I have many interests, but most pertain to ingesting various media-TV, movies, YouTube videos, audiobooks, ebooks, books, graphic novels, board games, videogames, and magazines. I also like to cook and bake, but most of my creations are hit or miss. I enjoy singing and I infrequently attempt to play ukulele. I have a boyfriend and a dog, and they are, by far, the two most important men in my life; we have a lot of fun together. Anyway, that’s all I can really think to say about me today. I hope that you continue reading my blog, and you find my observations enjoyable? helpful? enlightening? You decide.

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