The Future Might Be Here, but How About Our Patrons?

The future of libraries in actively becoming more design centric, but not so much emphasis on the construction of physical spaces, but more so on the patron user’s interaction and participation with new technology. Module 9: New Horizons explores the emergent trends that are being readied and rolled out by tech corporations in the hopes to capitalize on their usefulness to the 21st century consumer in ways that will latch on to the early adopters, but also influence those who wish to be on the cutting edge of what being popularized by such influencers, corporations, and popular culture. How libraries and their associates integrate these technologies into their preexisting models and make them sustainable is still up for speculation and debate.

Reviewing the Horizon Reports presented by the New Media Consortium helps to project what kind of patrons will libraries have in the future. It is not enough to just predict the technology trends alone, but it is also important to constantly expand our understanding of these new user demographics and know how they are navigating their lives, their education, and their social behaviors through such technologies. Libraries in theory have done well to read the needs of the community when it reflects printed materials, research repositories, services, and programming. Libraries flourish and thrive when the patron populations that utilize and support the library can advocate and invest their equity (time, money) in and outside its walls. Adopting new technologies because they are in vogue, or popular to use by other institutions, is such a narrow way of viewing their adoption and utilization by and for each unique institution. If the culture of the region, the community, and its library institutions can benefit from these new tools, and acclimate fairly swiftly to their uses, then those are usually good signs for embracing new ideas. However, this is an ideal circumstance to have, and not many libraries have the fortune of having patron populations who are largely technologically literate, except say a small percentage of tech savvy youth, young adults, and adult professionals of varying ages.

Virtual assistants, blockchain technology, virtual reality, and the ever growing “internet of things”… the way we are “wired” to the information world can be astounding and overwhelming at the same time, and this weight can be multiplied if a patron is left without the means to connect and catch up. Libraries have to deal with a multitude of situations that make it hard to “catch up with the Jones’s”.

  • Training reluctant (overworked) staff on new technologies, methodologies, and services
  • Lacking in the funds to acquire new services and training
  • Lacking the talent and expertise to train, teach, and implement such services
  • Other community needs take precedence over these services
  • Patrons do not exhibit the desire to utilize such technology and services
  • Pushback by management and local government

Depending on each library community, this list can be endless, or minimal. It would be surprising if a library did not receive an obstacle or two in its efforts. This is why it is important to do the necessary research before adopting a new service, whether it is human or technology centric. Forecasting, planning, and prototyping a new service can help to minimize the confusing and pushback that may come in the wake of an ill prepared rollout. As much as we wish to play with these new tools for our own use in the library, we have to remember whom we are serving and their needs for the space and everything within it. If their trust in us wanes, so will their trust in what we are proposing, regardless of their usefulness and importance to our greater society. Patience might be a virtue, but it is also a winning strategy in the right hands and minds.

Emerging Technology Planning Assignment: RetroTech Lab – Digitization and Archiving of Analog Mediums and Specialized Programming for Professionals, Collectors, and Enthusiasts

Photo source: https://everpresent.com/

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

The nature of today’s information society emphasizes a deep cultural connection to the ways the Internet and the latest smart devices/mediums keep our citizenry informed on breaking news from across the globe, or what they might have missed last night on one of the numerous streaming platforms being utilized and binged-watched by millions. The digitization of content has helped to bring about new ways to distribute and share personal ephemera on the World Wide Web (WWW) for audience known and unknown to the content creators. In the mid-to-late 1990s emerging communal platforms like blogs, digital chat rooms, crude HTML websites, and early forms of social media helped to connect strangers across stateliness and international borders within a few mouse clicks. Through a rapidly growing dictionary of leetspeak and Internet slang communication through the WWW took on a life on its own. The digital revolution may have started in the early 1980s with the introduction of the personal computer, but the generational divide it would create would be felt for decades to come. 

Although technology companies adapted their wares early on to help segue their consumer bases towards this new digital frontier, many people were not easily swayed by the infinite promise of the Internet and crafting a life lived online. The idea of meeting people over a broadband connection sounded absurd to some, and the high cost association with the hardware and software would deter even the most optimistic supporter. This demographic of “technophobic” and “techno-illiterate” individuals continue to navigate our public spaces without buying into the latest trends and changes in how modern society communicates and conducts commerce using technology. I have found many middle-aged and elderly patrons during my library career who refuse to buy into smart technology, or create a digital presence because of any number of personal trusts issues associated with digital privacy and information theft. Even if many of these services are relatively safe and commonplace I still get pushback by certain patrons who refuse to divulge their personal data to any corporation. Even if that data is simply their name. Yet, I have found that these patrons do overwhelmingly trust the public library as an institution, and wish to utilize all the resources that are allotted to them, such as e-books and other e-resources. I feel there has to be something done that will not only assuage their worries about technology, but also build their confidence in using these tools for their own livelihood. 

The creation of this program helps to fulfill several different objectives that range from satisfying a standard technology service (digitization), to a more instructive component that helps to bridge the gaps between analog and digital education, as well as bring together different patron communities to share and learn from one another by means of meaningful participation, engagement, and collaboration. Libraries help to share and spread out the different narratives that are collected on our shelves, within the different repositories housed on and offline in our possession, as well as human narratives found in our patron population.

The goal of this technology service is to initiate the patron into conversations about the nature and methodology of the documenting (film/slide photography, reel-to-reel home movies, Hi-8 camcorder tapes, audio recording etc.), collecting (vinyl records, cassette tapes, VHS films, old fliers, posters, news clippings, postcards, etc.), preserving and sharing of their personal collection and effects. This program will be accessible to all, and of course free of charge to use.

This service can support different communities from an anthropological, sociological, historical, artistic, and archival point-of-view, helping to open up new pathways to contextual understanding often lost within the many cultural nuances contained in our national population. The preservation and sharing of information are what public libraries are known to do best, allowing us to build and amplify the best storytelling assets we have at our disposal: Our very own patrons. 

Photo source: CVLT NATION

Description of Community You Wish to Engage:

I wish to engage the creative young adult and middle-aged patron populations of the Santa Clara County Library (SCCLD) who wish to utilize these services for archival preservation, storytelling, and educational purposes.

Action Brief Statement: 

For Patrons (All-ages)

Convince our ethnic, racial, gender, and generationally diverse patron population that by obtaining these digitization resources they will be able to preserve their memories and personal effects for themselves and their inheritors. By teaching our patrons how to use these emergent technologies we are aiding in their technical competency as well as inviting them to share their personal narratives and knowledge with other patrons and our library staff, thus building stronger communal ties within the surrounding locale. 

For Staff: 

Convince our library staff, civic administrators, and library partners/supporters that by offering these technological tools to the public they will help to build a stronger, more capable citizenry around different technology. The public will view the library as an invaluable resource that helps to supplement the vanishing digitization services that are being phased out by big-box institutions around the nation. 

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service: (URLS, articles to help guide you)

Katz, B. (2017, October 25). The Boston Public Library Is Digitizing 200,000 Vintage Recordings. Retrieved from https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/boston-public-library-will-digitize-200000-vintage-recordings-180966931/.

LibGuides: Preservation: Digital Preservation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://libguides.ala.org/libpreservation/digitalpreservation.

LibGuides: Preservation: Digitization. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://libguides.ala.org/libpreservation/digitization.

Retro Tech: From the Analog Past to the Digital Future. (2019, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.sjpl.org/blog/retro-tech-analog-past-digital-future.

Tehama County Library. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.tehamacountylibrary.org/retro-technology-lab/.

Weatherly, K. (2005). Retro-Technophobia: A New View of Older Technologies. Community & Junior College Libraries, 13(4), 81-87.

Zeeb, J. (2019, April 11). Library gets grant to digitize retro media. Retrieved from https://www.redbluffdailynews.com/2019/04/10/library-gets-grant-to-digitize-retro-media/.

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

In order for the RetroTech Lab to become a successful initiative I would make sure the rationale for the program adheres to the mission and values of the SCCLD while following the privacy guidelines set by the library and the American Library Association. This also includes the equal rights for this service to be accessible to all law abiding library patrons, regardless of their social and economic standing as found in the ALA’s website under “Access to Library Resources and Services”. Since access to this service would allow patrons to create digital reproductions of original content found on analog mediums, reenforcing the rules and regulations for fair use and promotions set by the U.S. Copyright Office would be advisable, if not also contacting a local representative who is well versed in the specifics of the law. 

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

For this project to be successful procuring the necessary funding to purchase the equipment (hardware), physical and digital storage spaces for the devices, maintenance, marketing/promotions, and programming all needs to be taken into consideration. Support for the service can be done in any number of ways; this can be done mainly through the SCCLD’s annual budget, from funds granted by the SCCLD Friends of the Library foundation, outside in-kind donations by vendors/patrons/partners, awards from local and national grants, and fundraising (if necessary).

The service shall be organized and maintained through trained library staff and volunteers. Librarians and clerical staff will provide patrons with appointment based scheduling, equipment training, technical support, and all related event programming as detailed and offered by the library.

Action Steps & Timeline:

There are several different steps to take before initiating this service to the public. These guidelines and times can be adaptable and expanded based on the unique needs and means for each library institution. The points listed below can be worked on separately or at the same time based on the library institution’s staffing bandwidth. These are relaxed approximations.

  • Researching the equipment, their cost analysis, their ease of use, and the methods of adoption for the library. (1-2 months)
  • Contacting local professionals, organizations, and other library institutions currently utilizing these technologies for their own personal archival projects to gather insight, assistance, and possible demonstrations. (1-3 months)
  • Gauging the interest of this service with the local population in the area. This can be conducted through surveys (print, digital), social media, demonstrations, trial runs, and interviews from the reference desk. (1-2 months)
  • Itemizing the cost for program, drafting the proposal and presentation, and securing the support/funding for the program. (3-12 months, depending on funding acquisition and allocation).
  • Purchasing all the necessary equipment, technical hardware/software. (1-2 months)
  • Training approved staff. (1 week/month)
  • Marketing, promotions, and scheduling system in place for the new program. This also entails brainstorming ideas for specialized workshops, events, and programming to accompany the service. (1-2 months)
  • Launch service to community.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

The program can be scaled to fit the needs of the community it is serving. However, since there are limitations as to how many people can use an individual device at a time, as well as to how long each program session may last, an appointment based scheduling system should be put into place to help control the flow of requests. This service is designed so that it can be ran by one to two people, namely trained librarians and staff member. Based on the needs and demands of the community, the service can be expanded in size and scope.

The RetroTech Lab service can be integrated into a library’s weekly/monthly schedule, in one to two hour increments, becoming a signature service akin to an hour of e-resources and technical help for seniors. As long as there are trained staff members to help run program, teach new patrons about the equipment, and troubleshoot any technical issues, the hours required to keep the service afloat can come from regular desk and programming hours. If a library does not have the additional staff and volunteers required to supervise a weekly/monthly program, patrons may check out the service for “in-house” purposes only (similar to using digital scanners and microfilm readers).

Photo source: Robb Report/Shutterstock

Training for this Technology or Service:

One or more librarians should be trained to assist patrons with every aspect of the RetroTech Lab. Before rolling out this service to the public a library created guidebook should be available to aid trained staff members, trained volunteers, non-trained personnel, and patrons in the event that a trained facilitator is not available to answer any questions. But it is advisable to always have trained library staff present when a RetroTech Lab is in service, for liability reasons. Workshops on the best practices to handle different analog mediums (vinyl, cassette tape, VHS etc.) should be included within the training.

Additional training(s) can be scheduled and organized as needed by the facilitating librarian, based on any new technological acquisitions and/or upgrades procured by the library to replace any preexisting/obsolete equipment.

Recommendations include contacting and training any library personnel working in the tech/computer lab, as well as any volunteers from the staff (e.g. circulation) who may wish to learn about the service and aid in any issues if and when there is an emergency.

Image source: Buffer

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: (How can the new technology or service be promoted?  Brainstorm some ideas to promote within your organization. Brainstorm more ideas to promote outside your organization.)

  • Create print and digital assets (e.g. video, flyers) to be posted within the library space, on the library’s social media, and at related organizations within the community.
  • Create tutorial videos promoting the various services offered by the RetroTech Lab using real materials (from patrons and/or staff) to be digitized.
  • Contact affiliated organizations and interested parties who may find benefit and use for the service. Examples are: archival repositories, record stores, genealogy societies, DJs, college radio stations, retirement communities, museums, government run archives, historians, educators etc.
  • Allow library staff to access and use the service before opening it up to the public. The best advocates for the service should come from the library organization itself. If there is a lack of staff involvement utilizing the service (lack of materials to digitize) then affiliated organizations should be invited to test run the service.
  • As the service grows testimonials should be gathered from the patrons/users to help promote the value the RetroTech Lab to the library community. Release forms should be signed off if quotes/visuals are to be used in any official library marketing campaigns.
  • Periodical onsite and offsite workshops can be conducted at select locations and events to demonstrate the RetroTech Labs services and help promote the library in general. These events can be partnered with other library/community departments to help increase visibility.
  • Create specialized programming to promote audio and visual archiving. Inviting local professionals in education, the arts, photography, and amateur collectors to conduct workshops on best practices for organizing and storing your physical and digitalized memorabilia.
Image source: Totango

Evaluation:

We will base the success of the service on a number of metrics and factors: weekly patron use, the amount of patrons at each session, the amount of time it takes to train patrons on the equipment, which equipment gets used the most (popularity), how patrons and public find out about the program, the engagement received from social media, email and marketing, and how patrons feel about the service over all (as users and non-users).

It is preferable to evaluate the service over its inaugural year, appraising the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the program in monthly and quarterly reports. These reports should take into account the different identifying factors that make up the users of the service: age, race, gender, occupation, types of analog mediums brought for digitization etc. Shifting patterns of use for the service during different periods (seasons) of the year should also be noted in the report. The participation numbers before and after a marketing and promotion campaign should be documented as well.

The program should be promoted as a tool to help patrons preserve their personal history and stories. Whether it is a single artifact, or a collection of personal belongings, our RetroTech Lab should be seen as a safe and inclusive space to help patrons safeguard their memories from any number of unforeseeable tragedies. This space should be inviting enough for open sharing and storytelling, allowing a community to come organically together in fellowship and camaraderie.

Resources:

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times.

Chant, I. (2016). User-Designed Libraries – Design4Impact.

Mattern, S. (2014). Library as Infrastructure

Peet, L. (2018). Libraries and Social Infrastructure.

Tomlin, P. (2018). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries

The Library: Swiss Army Knife for the people, or like Goldilocks “Just Right”?

I decided to explore the Hyperlinked Public Library route since I am invested in serving the community through a multi-branch institution in my near future. There are many different challenges and issues facing libraries currently and they all vary in weight and severity, as do libraries in their size and services. An issue that is constantly in discussion is how libraries are staying relevant within the changing infrastructures that dictate the trends that become in vogue, and in due course, the norm. The general public often looks upon libraries in a favorable manner, emphasizing the importance of digital access as one of the main reasons to support their institutions (Zickuhr, 2014). The need to stay connected through digital/virtual spaces is ever more present as our conditioning to accept the digitization, automation, and “hyperlinked” lifestyle that we as a human society are growing more accustomed to with each and every “smart” device being iterated into our daily lives.

But this doesn’t mean that the newest and greatest is necessarily what our patrons desire out of their library. We don’t want to be dragged into what Michael Stephens puts it the “technolust” that is being amplified by corporations and our own global cohort of LIS professionals. The percentage of patrons who are self-sufficient when it comes to navigating the library’s website and physical resources is very low in comparison to the Pew Research’s reported 30% who know “…little or nothing about the services their library provides” (Rainie, 2014). I have lost count on the weekly engagements I have had with patrons who call in to renew items over the phone because they don’t know how to login our online catalog. Or, how they do not understand how to use their new smart tablets to email their friends and family, much less connect to their house’s Wi-Fi.

The rate of technological adoption by the average American citizen is rapidly growing, but there are still demographics that struggle to adopt, access, and understand these “new norms” and make them applicable to their everyday experiences. These groups include the elderly (techno illiteracy, physical ailments), immigrants/new citizens/ESL learners (cultural differences, language barriers), and low income/homeless patrons (no internet access, no home address etc.) among others. Pushing forward to stay relevant should not mean leaving behind patrons who still desire physical materials rather than reading/listening to the same content on their computer, tablet, or smartphone. But I do want to advocate older libraries to begin redesigning their spaces to include digital access points and/or tutoring programs to help patrons get familiarized with the resources that are our there on the Internet, especially the ones the library’s are paying for.

I have had the privilege to work for some amazing library systems here in the South Bay Area and they all do a great job of servicing their communities to the best of their abilities. But unlike libraries like Dokk1, many of the buildings being used are older, and rarely get a cosmetic upgrade, unless the library and its stakeholders call for it. In my experience there is always a need for more funding to improve our services, whether that means hiring more qualified staff, and/or building new spaces to support the growing demands placed on the public library. There is a clear line being drawn in regards to the old and new ways libraries exist in today’s public spaces. Public libraries are constantly asked to take on more projects, create initiatives, and build new public platforms in order to engage the community in and outside the building. Although I come from a generation that has made a part of their lives live in and around emerging tech, older librarians and patrons often feel that they are bombarded to learn these tools in order to function in society. I disagree with any forcible push towards tech, if it doesn’t help the person perform smarter and better. If people are more irritated by an added improvement than ecstatic, then we need to reevaluate the service periodically to weigh in its effectiveness and relevancy to the library.

My experiences with city systems, county systems, small systems, and individual libraries give me a varying degree of questions and answers when talking about the Hyperlinked Library. Not every institution will need what the other has, and vice versa. I have found that libraries that lacked the funds to add more technology and e-resources to their repertoire do an amazing job on their programming initiatives, suiting the tastes and needs of their cultural community (e.g. Hawaii State Public Library System). There are great creative solutions to help strengthen a library’s brand image that doesn’t cost the additional fund to hire an outside agency, or additional staff. Sometimes recognizing alternative uses for spaces inside and outside the library help to multiply the options for a bootstrapped library staff.

Creative solutions are one thing, but I also implore the need for library leaders and stakeholders to create 5, 10, 15, 20 year plans for their institutions. Financial projections and plans for infrastructural improvements will help initiate the much needed next steps for funding asks and “blue sky” projects. A proactive library is much better than a reactive one, and it goes back to our mission for serving our number one audience: our patrons. And if we are providing services that are more for us than it is for them, then we really need to reevaluate what we, as library professionals, are doing there in the first place.

References

Rainie, L. (2014). 10 Facts about Americans and public libraries.

Zickuhr, K. (2014). Public libraries and technology: From ‘houses of knowledge’ to ‘houses of access.’

You Got to Come Correct to Get Respect

Module 4 presented us with one of the core reasons why the public library is often viewed favorably in most municipal communities: that there has been an established amount of trust built into its brand and mission statement. That is not to say all libraries are created equal (in size, funding, staffing, etc.), but I could not think of too many examples where the mere thought of libraries brought too many ill feelings of contempt and animosity from out of a person’s psyche. Rather, public libraries are usually seen as safe havens for learning, experiences, and character building in most cases.

The ideas that revolve around participatory services and transparency in the library space go hand-in-hand due to the bonds that are established in involving and engaging the community in our buildings and public spaces, which are as much theirs than it is ours. We may be the stewards of the stacks, but without the people to use our services and seek out our skills, we are jokingly just glorified book babysitters (kidding folks). It is in this need to engage with our patrons and create opportunities to interact and converse where we begin to see an active rapport that goes beyond reference interviews and reading advisory, or as Michael Stephen’s (2017) puts it “…the ways organizations are making stories demonstrate the importance of tapping into the collective voice of our communities.” In my opinion libraries are ground zero for stories: we house them, buy them, read them, listen to them, recite them, create them, and share them. I would even argue that individual people can be considered living, breathing libraries themselves. This may be a little out there, but I always veer towards the fantastical when inviting our patrons to express their thoughts, whether it is in a casual engagement at the desk, in a riveting program, or online through our social media portals.

Casey (2011) notes, “The importance of this participation cannot be overstated, especially in these difficult economic times. Taxpayers are more and more reluctant to part with any percentage of their diminishing paychecks. Getting them to participate, at any level, will go a long way towards gaining their buy-in.” It’s not just about the dollars, but that is relative in part to the trust we must garner from our community. The tax dollars are just a monetary representation of the community’s trust in libraries. What we do with that trust (personally, and monetarily) is reflective on our ability to produce transparency in our work, in our voice, and in our consideration to our community’s needs. I cannot imagine a worse betrayal than ignoring the legitimate concerns and requests of our patrons on how their library is (or is not) serving their specific needs. Or in Kenney’s piece (2015) engaging in behavior (e.g. the spending of public funds for a cosmetic rebrand) that may seem erroneous and frivolous. It’s not about our wants, but what they want, in order to keep coming back. This work is not easy, but it is necessary. And that’s why we should love it.

I’m coming into this profession already seasoned through decades in the arts and activism world. Serving diverse populations is in my core and being. But I also have had a hard time working with librarians and colleagues who are apprehensive about serving certain populations, taking on new services, and/or learning new technology. Many are older librarians, or sheltered individuals, often visibly uneasy when they are helping unruly teens, the mentally ill, or in some cases: persons of color.  I’m not saying that their work is less effective, but their social cues and biases make me question whether they know that their actions and words could be considered out of pocket for certain demographics, and that could spell trouble down the road if it’s not checked and corrected. It’s a bad look overall. If we are going to begin talking about building transparency with our patron population, we are going to need to be transparent with our own shortcomings as an organization and remedy those blind sides with a complete view of who we are as one of the most trusted municipal resources around. If trust doesn’t start within the organization, what makes us think it is being genuinely built outside of it?

Resources

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times.

Kenney, B. (2015). Lesson’s From Seattle’s Failed Bid to Rebrand its Public Library. 

Stephens, M. (2017) Telling stories.

Context Book Assignment

Curation Nation

by Steven Rosenbaum

Fall 2019

Unlike many young adults of this current generation, I was not born into the smart tech movement, or consider myself a true digital native (as in the audience that the term was intended for), but rather I grew up as a child of the 1980s when the revolution of the personal computer (PC) was building momentum and household names like IBM, Compaq, and Apple (among others) were vying for the top market shares in both their monetary wealth and social capital. I could not recall the first time I was introduced to our first PC, unlike receiving the original Nintendo Entertainment System (deluxe edition with R.O.B. the robot) I so desperately wanted. My father who worked for AT&T at the time just brought the bulking, heavy grey system home one day and started to teach me how to use the black floppy squares and execution commands on the keyboard to boot up crude bootleg versions of Lode Runner and Pacman.

For me the personal computer was not a replacement for the typewriter I used for my class assignments (the special paper and ink was just too costly to waste on a six year old child), but I did see it as another medium for creative play, not unlike my NES. What I did learn from being exposed to home computing and gaming early on is that both my NES and my father’s PC were crafted from the same ilk. Although they were marketed and intended for different audiences, they both served to take the digital experience of computers that were found in the arcades and work places home for the everyday consumer. This allowed these and many other digital devices to take precedence in millions of homes around the world. The ubiquity and fascination with computers carried itself onto television commercials, films, print media, and in the minds of everyone on the planet. What radio and television help to spur as the must-have devices of their eras, so too did the home computer system for the late 20th century.

But to circle back to the contents found in Rosenbaum’s book Curation Nation, what made home videogaming and the personal computing exciting was the ability to customize the experience with new game cartridges, software packages, add-on perpetuals, and of course the never ending upgrades. The idea of exclusivity is not a new concept in product marketing, it’s a well-used tactic to help sell units of merchandise that would otherwise sat in warehouses across the country. Yet people wanted to feel like insiders to the industry. They wanted to be connected to this new industry that was flourishing financially and culturally. The experience could be tailored to your needs and means. It meant opening a new world outside of physical reality and entering one that was created by engineers, programmers, and artists. These visionaries and rebels had epithets like “geek” or “nerd” associated to their work (and person). However, these perceived social outcasts soon became the nouveau riche, the next generation of robber barons, crafting the future of commerce and societal norms. And everyone who had the means was willing to invest and spend to get a piece of that digital pie.

Thoughts on Curation Nation

From the time of its publishing Curation Nation will be almost nine years old to the date. That’s a long period of time in light of how technology and information currently moves from year to year. Much of the content and reference points used by Rosenbaum in the book reflected the growing changes and challenges that were presented in 2011. Although he was able to note the ascendance of Facebook over its competitor Myspace, allusions to companies like Blogspot and Livejournal dates much of the content in the book, and makes it more of a historical reference piece than a tome to be used by today’s researcher. But if the reader can ignore their content-ageism for a moment they would be drawn in the narrative Rosenbaum illustrates in his book on the compacted history of content creation, curation, and how it is distributed to the masses. Through his casual writing voice, stimulating anecdotes, and ability to be relatable, Rosenbaum makes a strong case for his research and soundly reinforces the notion that humanity has always had a fascination with content curation since the earliest libraries, to the social media channels in vogue of today (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok etc.).

I enjoyed Rosenbaum’s ability to connect the dots on humanity’s need to categorize and disseminate data for people outside the intended information tribes. From the early classification systems developed by Melville Dewey to the improved search accessibility (and entrepreneurial motives) that Google later brought to the infancy of the internet, the need to “curate” and make sense of a multitude of seemingly random content is inherent in all of humanity. Curation, a term that has been historically associated with art collectors and the museum cohort, has now taken on a new meaning in the digital era. From the stand point of certain professionals, the coup of the moniker has made many turn a discriminating eye on bloggers, digital natives, and art/design amateurs who call themselves, curators. Yet, Rosenbaum opens the book with several important stories to demonstrate the vastness and depth of content curation on the human level and exclusivity to the title is not solely grafted to those who hold an elite status.

In chapter two of the book the reader is introduced to the history of DeWitt Wallace and Reader’s Digest, one of the earliest examples of multi-sourced content curation that was distributed to a wide readership. As Rosenbaum expounds, the unassuming Wallace had a “knack” for finding the most alluring and interesting articles from different newspapers and a magazines, and synthesizing the articles into smaller versions to be included for his own publication. Similarly, the story of Henry Luce and Time Magazine also demonstrated the power of content “aggregation” by finding stories and studies from around the world, in addition to dynamic photo journalism, thus creating a new medium for publishing our shared global experiences. Rosenbaum continues to drum up this momentum in the formation of cable television, building a case for the rapid expansion of content viewership on a national (and global) scale, and the widening of the consumer’s taste and interests. This of course leads into the introduction of the internet and democratization of information, leveling a playing field that is now fluid and constantly changing.

One of the key points in Rosenbaum’s book is how sourcing and distributing content has changed since the world’s introduction to the world wide web. The older supply models that capitalized on original content, marketing driven branding, and customer satisfaction was soon uprooted by platforms like The Huffington Post, Google AdWords, and Yelp. The early internet allowed information to be digitized and shared almost instantly without the industry gatekeepers to monitor and control (and monetize) everything that was traditionally filter through print and film. Now the onus of how that information is used (purchasing, opinion pieces, shared) falls back into the hands of the consumer, who now yield more power and influence over major brands (and small businesses) than ever before. The collector-consumer has become their own stylized curators. A hybrid of independent brand builders and societal critics to a potential audience of millions. That kind of power can very intoxicating.

While the business models may have changed, and the ability to control one’s intellectual property a more difficult task, Rosenbaum reiterates this point in the remaining chapters: that everything is cyclical. Disruption leads to change and innovation, and before long – normalcy, until the cycle begins anew. The lessons found in the book can be condensed as such:

1) Don’t be cynical to new forms/mediums/models of information distribution.

2) Learn to use these new platform for your own creative gains and ideas.

3) But don’t stay “married” to these conduits. Always continue researching for the new voices and ideas that will unsettle the paradigm, again.

How this book applies itself to the Hyperlinked Library

In David Weinberger’s “The Hyperlinked Organization” he expressed that, “…the Web, in short, has led every wired person in your organization to expect direct connections not only to information but also to the truth spoken in human voices. And they expect to be able to find what they need and do what they need without any further help from people who dress better than they do.” Given the current state of libraries and their fight to state relevant, this quote speaks volumes regarding the stereotypes associated with librarians and their institutions, and what needs to change in order for that relevancy to trend and take hold in this rapidly evolving citizenry. There is not a shortage of examples to conjure up in instances where library staff have been in opposition towards integrating a new ILS system, digital apps and databases, STEM education, or human resource to their ever growing list of duties. Yet, the mission of the library is not so much in the action of collecting materials, but truly in how patron populations use the materials and resources to the betterment of their lives. The public library has historically adapted itself to fit the informational needs and changes in society. So why is it so hard for certain library staff to accept these sometimes necessary changes? What’s often being voiced by these individuals harkens back to the opinionated museum curators in Curation Nation: what do you uneducated lot know about this kind of work? (Well, not in so many words. But something along those lines.).

But what if the public does obtain the latest devices and services, upgrades to the best wired internet readily available, and purchases the newest “in” trends being touted in the industry, would all these improvements make a library institution that was underperforming, any better? Yes and no. Yes, in the fact that new and improved services create new channels of patron engagement and interest for the library. No, in the same way the issues of underperformance might have transpired: that there is a lack of excitement and willingness to experiment and try new things. In Steve Denning’s article for Forbes, “…we need to recognize that the computer age is not fundamentally about computerization. The computer age is about the change in management mindset enabled by computerization.” Denning is clarifying an important point to the reader, and that is the way information has shifted the way it is being accessed and used by the customer. Just like how the internet has democratized the way the user interacts and expresses themselves to multiple entities online, in a similar fashion it has also given the library patron the voice and authority to express themselves on what is good, or lacking, in their library.

Whether or not the comments are relative to the improvement of the library, or just insufferable complaints, they are coming from real people in real time. There is no room for internal pushback to change, or a lack of response to the public. The power is in the hands of the customer. It always has and always will, and it is up to the library to gauge how it curates every aspect of its organization: from materials, services, web presence, interior design, and staffing. The library is no longer just a stagnant building. It is also a digitally expansive conduit to other libraries and communities around the globe. For those library staff who cannot accept these facts and change accordingly, then they will have more than the patrons to answer to, but also those who are in power to make or break the library.

Resources

Denning, S. (2015, May 1). Do We Need Libraries? Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/28/do-we-need-libraries/?utm_campaign=ForbesTech&utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_channel=Technology&linkId=13831539#74ec3e046cd7

Levine, Rick. The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual. Cambridge, Mass.: Perseus, 2000. Print.

Rosenbaum, Steven C. Curation Nation: How to Win in a World Where Consumers Are Creators : Why the Future of Content Is Context. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Web.

Hyperlinked and HyperHaute

One of the many reasons I fell hard for librarianship is its core emphasis on serving communities with access to informational resources, creative place making, programming, and a willingness to adapt for the times ahead. The paradigm of what I know about libraries changed half a decade ago. At that time I still counted myself as one of the many individuals who sought most of their information outside the library, deeply invested in the total accessibility of the Internet from anywhere and at anytime. That alluring ease made it hard to deviate myself from my autobahn lifestyle: fast lane only.

So I was deeply surprised when I reacquainted myself with my local libraries and found that not only has the intuitional culture of libraries changed from a surface level, but it has adapted to meet the needs of a rapidly connected, and busy world. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley’s tech industry often blinds you to the importance of resources that are not just within an app on your device, but I found that libraries have always been answering the challenges of a changing information world, generation after generation. Yet, as I am learning, it is an uphill battle for relevancy, funding, and scaling that hinders many libraries from catching up to the times. Might I also add institutional infighting to this list?

But not to digress, the living Hyperlinked Library was vastly more expansive, practical, and entertaining to discover through my library’s web portal. As I cycled through this week’s module readings, I went back to look at the libraries I have been privileged to work at: San Jose Public Library, Santa Clara City Library, Santa Clara County Library, and the San Jose State University Archives & Manuscripts department. The idea of physical materials adorning the stacks will not go away anytime soon (at least, hopefully, not in my lifetime). Digital access has not only increased the amount of items a patron could receive via their computer or personal electronic device but also their awareness that the library can offer many of the services that were either unobtainable (money cost, bias in social status) or unknown. Databases, interlibrary loan systems like LINK +, and the growing number of digital “self-help” businesses (Headspace, Lynda aka LinkedIn Learning, Mango Languages etc.) makes getting a library card an attractive win-win proposition.

Something that also helped sell me on this career path was the way libraries started to view themselves not only as government institutions (although they are coolest of them all) but also as a brand, not too dissimilar to Disney, Levis, or Apple. Not many people who have worked in libraries for a long time enjoy the changes being made to their spaces. I have often heard these grumbling being echoed by the older guard, who are often having a hard time keeping up with the rapid changes, or added job descriptions and duties being asked of them. I will not disagree with their concerns with having adequate staffing for their branches, and safety issues arising from the various degrees of patron issues, but the world has evolved and the library has to as well.

What has been refreshing for me was seeing a variety of libraries outside my state/country who are pushing and progressing the image and function of the library that has grown into the “Third Space” coined by Ray Oldenburg. Once such library of note is the Seattle Public Library’s Central library, located in their city’s downtown. Although the architecture has aged since its erection, just by the sharp corners, and glass façade, visually it looks ultra modern and hip. What I found when I visited not too long ago is a public library that I have never seen before. The place itself resembled more of a modern museum of art rather than a library. But trust me, there were plenty of books. From indoor amphitheaters, high ceilings, glassed walls for extreme natural lighting, gallery spaces, a Starbucks (but of course) sponsored youth space, floors of resources and seating, and one of the coolest special collections I have ever seen, I practically wanted them to hire me on the spot. I assumed these kinds of libraries only existed in Europe, but they do exist in America too. It was alive, busy, and great examples of what libraries are evolving into.

However, this is an example of one extreme case, of a city investing in its literary assets and growing them into a cultural cash cow. I can’t say all cities would embrace the same of their institutions, or have the means to nurture the talent to own up to the challenges of running a futuristic library. But having the fanciest building doesn’t make a great library. It still comes down to the materials and services that support the needs of the community. Nothing wrong with strengthening the foundational pillars.

Microphone check, one two one two…

My name is Danny Le and I am a Vietnamese-American Future Librarian straight out of San Jose, CA. I found my way into librarianship in 2016 as a marketing assistant with the San Jose Public Library’s MarCom Team, but swiftly found the profession and the work very fulfilling and relatable to my previous experiences in fashion, design, the arts, event planning, and community work. This has lead me to many more opportunities with other library institutions (Santa Clara County Library, San Jose State University Archives, Santa Clara City Library) and eventually into the SJSU iSchool MLIS program, which I will be graduating from in Spring of 2020.

What made me take on public librarianship as my new lifelong endeavor was the amount of resources and opportunities that there were available to creating a lasting impact on our communities in regards to self-education, self-edification, and creative cultural enrichment from partnerships and collaborations. I have worked in many different creative organizations and businesses for the last 19 years and I bring a wealth of experience and resources to the profession that would help to aid in progressing the creative initiatives that are being expanded in our field. 

Starting out as a young poet in the late 90s lead me towards creative writing and touring around colleges in the U.S. as a spoken word artist in the early aughts. I have always been plugged into music and street culture since an early age, allowing me to gravitate towards individual and groups with similar eclectic tendencies. Surrounded by DJs, producers, visual artists, filmmakers, writers, educators, dancers, entrepreneurs, chefs, and activists gave me a community of endless inspiration, helping to develop my own sense of identity and moral standing in the world of creative expression. 

Through my association with these amazing cohorts I have had the pleasure to work in many different industries and create some amazing events, products, and opportunities around the Bay Area and beyond. My colleagues and I have produced clothing lines, a footwear company, concerts, art festivals, weekly nightlife events, websites, fundraisers, speaker series, gallery showings, food events, and print and visual marketing/promotional/branding assets for public and private entities among other accomplishments. 

In the last 3-4 years I have been able to apply my previous professional experiences into library spaces in the South Bay Area, producing many different events, series, and programs that have enriched the lives of the patrons in the SJPL, SCCL, and SCCDL. Acknowledging the diverse needs of our patrons and helping to supplement their curiosity has been a source of great joy within my life in libraries. The differences between my past and my present life today is that instead of pursuing an aim for profit or applause, I now get to produce many more similar events with the sole purpose of educating, informing, and entertaining the public with an endless amount of possibilities. 

What I bring to the table is a professional and uplifting attitude that has been nurtured through practical experiences with a willingness to try new things. I have a good rapport working in diverse, open-minded teams and enjoy aiding and contributing to all parts of the creative process: from initial ideas, prototyping, roll out, marketing, and postmortem. I stay relevant by constantly checking up on the trends and subcultures in and outside the library and searching for new ways to introduce these ideas into our public spaces. And I stay Hip Hop 100%. 

www.cukui.com
www.ungramr.com
www.powwowsanjose.com

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