I wasn’t really sure what to expect from INFO 287, Seminar in Information Science. There were so many possible topics! I knew of and was passionate about some of them: Scratch, STEM in libraries, and Makerspaces. And I was intrigued about the other topics. What was a hyperlinked library? What was participatory practice? One of my required classes had used Professor Stephens’ lectures before. I don’t remember what class that was, but I liked those lectures and knew I would learn a lot from him in this class–whatever it was.
What I discovered was the Hyperlinked Library.
Merriam-Webster defines hyperlink as “an electronic link providing direct access from one distinctively marked place in a hypertext or hypermedia document to another in the same or a different document” (2020). In effect, you are creating a pathway for easy discoverability. So that is what the hyperlinked library is. It is interconnected and offers discoverability. This can be achieved a number of ways.
You can achieve it through technology, such as a library website that offers two-way communication channels (such as chat, social media, the ability to respond to blogs, YouTube comments, tagging, challenges, memes, etcetera). This allows users to easily engage and offer their own ideas and suggestions. User feedback allows the library to more effectively meet real community needs.
Another way you can achieve a hyperlinked library is by offering users the ability to create their own content, instead of being passive consumers of information. Makerspaces, civic engagement programs, book publishing, zine making, and other participatory services contribute to creating a hyperlinked library, as well. While it can be high-tech, it doesn’t have to be. There are endless ways to get people playing and creating.
Why is this important? When you are meeting community needs, engaging the community and inviting them to participate in ownership of the library, they are more likely to value and use the library. They are more likely to tell their friends, who will tell their friends, and so on and so forth.
In his book Tribes, Seth Godin says, “Great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate” (Godin, 2008, p. 23). The library serves the public, and every member of the public has a story. Why not feature some of those stories on our website? Why not weave the public into the fabric of the library? Why not give them a voice?
In a time when libraries’ relevance is being called into question, it is important for the community to know what a library is and what it can do for them. Is it just a place to get books? Amazon is a tough competitor. Is it a place to get information? Google is the competition. And unfortunately, Facebook is the competition.
Is it the place to get quality information? An emphatic yes. Is it the place to get books for free? Yes, it still very much is. And while that is wonderful and important, we need to give Google and Amazon a run for their money. The internet has put these services at people’s fingertips. So, we need to provide something that they cannot. We need to look closely at our communities for what is missing in their lives and how we can help meet that need.
Libraries as centers of community engagement is just the thing that Google and Amazon cannot provide. It is something that is missing in our towns and cities. It is something that is missing on social media. Librarians as information services professionals are perfectly equipped to be facilitators of all forms of cultural literacy, from reading, to civic engagement, to digital literacy. In addition, the library space is the perfect place to make social connections.
People become the hyperlinks. Librarians are not connecting people to the library; the focus is not about us. Librarians are connecting users to information that answers their questions, they are connecting them to each other, and they are empowering them to create something from these intersections. It is about them, and we are the mediators of those connections.
Godin, S. (2008). Tribes: We need you to lead us. New York, NY: Porfolio.
Merriam-Webster. (2020). Hypertext. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hyperlink