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.

References

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 https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/28/do-we-need-libraries/

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