Reflections On Foundational Readings in Our Current Times

Continuous improvement and reflection on the library service model were a core understanding I pulled from the foundational reading this week.  As mentioned, living in Denver, this library model is in full swing among public libraries due to the innovative Anythink Libraries in Adams county.  The history of public libraries in the Denver metro area is one for the textbooks.  We have seen the loss of significant funding causing multiple branches and whole library districts to collapse and from those ashes, we have watched a robust public library culture emerge.  I landed my first paid library position six months before entering this program. My learning curve for an innovative library model has been steep and I think it’s sufficient to say that sometimes my memory fails me on whether I learned something through a work training or via an SJSU class.  What really struck me about the foundational readings was that they added incredible context to my workplace ethos and expectations I work inside of.  I appreciated learning the impetus for creating the technology guild, inclusivity guild, and feedback ticket option.  These guilds seem to be directly inspired by Casey & Savastinuk’s (2007) three branches of the change model laid out in the Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service.  In my district, it is just as easy to put in a ticket for maintenance issues as it is to submit an idea for a service or improvement.  I have watched in amazement at how fast an idea from either a patron or coworker can go from a sentence or two on a screen to an actuality. This is the embodiment of the Creative marketplace model: “values are enablement, self-organization and continuous improvement to add value to the user or customer (Denning, 2015)

So here we are in this time of Covid.  I feel that this semester as we discuss the hyperlinked library and a model for ongoing change and improvement we should not and could not operate in a vacuum.  This is a time when innovation is kicked into high gear.  As pointed out in the Heart of Librarianship “Our students need grounding in concepts like decision-making, advocacy, human resources, administration, and management of nonprofits.” (Stephens, p.4, 2016).  This statement is even more powerful now.  Being a good leader is vital right now and the decision skills required are put to the test as we weigh out the safety of the public and staff along with our need to be advocates for our relevance during a time of economic strife and extensive change to the public school model.  A noticeable theme in the readings that I saw emerge was the importance of seeing tech as an opportunity to answer new questions.

 “The initial question may be: How could library services be advantageously automated? This is a matter of doing the same things better. The longer term, more interesting question is: How could library service be re-designed with a change in technology? This is a matter of how to do better, different things.” (Buckland, 1992, p.64).  

This concept is reiterated in stating technology “is not a primary element” in the Library 2.0 model, but instead an “excellent tool” (Casey & Savastinuk, p.6, 2007).  I think this is a hard-learned lesson that we are in the thick of right now.  We are now in the process of answering new questions we had not predicted, and technology is being used in new ways.  With each week that passes during the reopening phases and I am watching as we try out new things to see what works.  A big issue we are having is providing computer assistance to our patrons on the other side of the digital divide.  Patrons who are already tech hesitant are not interested in a tech chatbox as a replacement to the one on one in-person assistance they leaned on in the past.  The working solution we have found is an iPad on a stand that immediately can dial into a remote tech specialist using Facetime.  It feels so much like the below clip for the Big Bang Theory. 

This innovation still has issues as the patron navigates flipping the camera and talking to a perceived stranger, but I know this will not be the last iteration as we search to meet needs and keep individuals safe.

The point is, we are already set up for ongoing change thanks to the Library 2.0 Model that focuses on innovation and serving the needs of the user and not just on lending books. As we navigate a crisis we are not confronting a completely new terrain, but instead an accelerated one.


Buckland, M. K. (1992). Redesigning library services: a manifesto. Chicago: American Library Association.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Information Today.

Denning, S. (n.d.). Do We Need Libraries? Forbes. Retrieved August 26, 2020, from

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: attentive, positive, and purposeful change. American Library Association.

7 thoughts on “Reflections On Foundational Readings in Our Current Times

  1. @amberbales I love your comparison to Sheldon’s virtual bot. I can see where that would become frustrating. I’m thankful that we use LibAnswers, which now has a screen share option that we can use to talk users through their problems. I do think that sometimes having a face to put with the answer they are getting can be helpful.

  2. Like @jrblibrarian, I think having a face to put with the assistance library users get is helpful, especially in a public library setting. University students are likely more used to using (and feeling comfortable with) the IM chat boxes that pop up when accessing academic libraries. However, as the general public does considerable online shopping, those “Can I help you with anything?” pop-ups are getting to be par for the course.

    @amberbales, I’m curious if your library has used Zoom to communicate remotely with library users, and if so, has anyone used the feature whereby you can take control of a participant’s desktop? There could be liability issues, of course, but this is a way to show someone exactly what you’re doing on their device. Also, I just wanted to ask for clarification about the iPad used for Facetiming with a tech specialist–is that for use by library users who physically come to a library facility? Thanks for your thoughtful post, Amber, and that Big Bang Theory clip is spot-on.

    • Hi Kay, Thank you for taking the time to read my post! To answer your question about zoom and remote access- we explored that and the liability is the concern. We technically have the set up if a patron is on board, but we are not pushing it on the floor because there is paperwork to be signed and it really is exhausting. Most of our patron base speak English as their second language so all the extra steps are really inefficient, especially since reservations for computers are only 45 minutes right now. In regards to the clarification on the iPad- YES, as of early July we opened for computer reservations only. Starting in a few weeks our library will be fully open(with lots of precautions), which means browsing adults and children are back. This summer has solidified the statement that libraries are about people not books.
      Working in a building without the life brought in with children and browsing adults, my workdays have been incredibly depressing.

  3. Thanks for the clarifications, @amberbales. I’m so sorry to hear that workdays have been depressing, but that’s what my former coworkers tell me about our public library as well. Here in California, or at least my county, libraries are only doing curbside and plans for any opening seem pretty far off in the future. I sure hope things go well for your library’s full opening.

  4. @amberbales Our library uses Zoom for all of our virtual programming minus a few teen programs that use Discord and have found that some patrons find it frustrating–quite the learning curve, especially for our ELL and senior populations. We created some Quick Guides and videos to help them navigate using Zoom which has been super helpful. I wonder if this would be something that would benefit your patrons. We are even in the process of translating the guides and related materials into Spanish.

  5. COVID has made me realize that the two libraries I work for weren’t as “hyperlinked” as I originally thought when I first started working for them. The public library I work for is pretty much out of commission because they don’t have any virtual services that users can take advantage of during COVID. They are in the talks of getting a Zoom account to offer live online storytimes but so for the request for Zoom has been denied. We at least started offering curbside pickup recently so that is one service we can offer. The university library I work for immediately got access to LibAnswers when we closed to the public in order to offer better service online (I was surprised we did not have LibAnswers before though however). The pandemic is horrible, but it is good that it is pushing libraries to become more innovative when it comes to thinking of way to better serve their users. I’m looking forward to seeing how both of the libraries I work for grow and adapt during this time.

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