Hello, INFO 287! One year ago, I began my MLIS journney. Now, I begin my fourth and final term. Last January, I was working part time for a public library, plus substitute teaching, and wondering if I would have enough time for 10 units of online courses. Next thing I knew, I had no job, no where to go, 10 units, and plenty of time. Thanks to financial aid and unemployment insurance, I could afford to take 9 more units over the summer and 12 in the fall. By October I was employed full-time and things got a little hectic, but I figured how to make it all work. I’ve decided to power through and finish in four terms. In addition to this class, I’m taking INFO 232-Issues in Public Libraries, INFO 281 – Cultural Competence for Information Professionals, and INFO 289 the e-Portfolio!!!! My goal is to work at a public library or the California State Library, but I also plan to apply for jobs at local community college libraries.
I live in Galt, California, with my dairy farmer husband, 15-year-old daughter, 19-year-old son (who is away at college), two dogs, four cats, a bearded dragon, a rotating assortment of foster kittens, chickens, and of course, cows. Light running and yoga keep me sane. When I have time (i.e. NOT right now), I enjoy gardening, kayaking, and hiking. Last summer, we took up backpacking and have some amazing trips planned for Summer 2021.
I call this a mid-life career change, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had a true career. I went to college right out of high school and left with a degree in psychology. I worked a series of jobs, traveled, and tried to figure out what I wanted to be. By my thirties, I was an elementary school teacher. This worked well while raising kids and helping out on the farm. I’m a good teacher, but I never felt fully invested in a teaching career. I bounced between full-time and part-time, and eventully started re-evaluating my future. I found the part-time public library job almost by accident, and magic happened. The library allowed me to indulge my passion for helping people – diverse people – teaching, learning, my endless curiosity, my fondness for pulling threads and following them to the end. Libraries offer these opportunities for employees AND patrons! This is it – this is what I want to be when I grow up. I’m only 54 – growing up never ends.
I started this post during a family weekend trip to beautiful Mendocino County, California. Public wi-fi was rather limited, especially due to ongoing pandemic closures, so my initial draft was composed offline. I find myself viewing everything through the lens of libraries lately – on our trip, I saw community participation everywhere!
Wondering about the public library system in large, rural, touristy, wine-growing Mendocino County, I looked it up when we got home. I was amazed to learn that 3,878 square-mile Mendocino County, with a population of only around 87,000 people and no single city larger than 16,000 (Ukiah – declining at 1% per year), boasts 5 public library branches, a bookmobile, and an outreach van, and an intriguing partnership with the county museum! Check out their impressive website!
Top-down services – The Traditional Model
At a fancy fundraising event for the library where I worked, foundation board members, local leaders, and benefactors took turns speaking about what the library meant to the community. Two common themes emerged in nearly every speech: books and storytime. Speakers enthused about the value of reading, and their fond memories of storytime with Miss Dorothy, whose career at this library has spanned at least three generations. Don’t get me wrong – this powerhouse octogenarian was still entertaining dozens of preschoolers twice a week in the Community Room. I was just frustrated that these prominent speakers, the ones with the power to fund the future of the library, appeared unaware of our newer programs, services, and resources. We clearly needed to work on transparency and community participation.
"For many years, libraries, like many businesses, were very unidirectional. Ideas flowed from the top down, services were created in highlevel meetings, implemented by a few, and rolled out to a (hopefully excited) audience. but, more orten than not, the services that libraries created served an existing user base. We created services for users when they were young kids, lost them as teens, got some of them back again as parents bringing in their own kids, tried to involve them in services such as reading groups, lost many yet again as they worked hard in midlife to save for retirement, and finally brought them in one last time as senior citizens, with targeted reading materials and programs for that age group." - Library 2.0
For my former workplace, and the many libraries that struggle to connect and provide forward-thinking services on a constrained budget, the Library 2.0 model offers examples of fairly simple ways to increase participatory library services. In Library 2.0, the two requirements for successful participatory programming are constant change and user participation.
Constant Change: Is the service frequently evaluated to ensure that it is meeting its expected outcomes and that it is still relevant? When the service no longer meets its expectations, is it updated or replaced?
User Participation: Was customer input used in the creation of the service? Does the review process continue to include customer feedback? Are library nonusers asked to participate in the service creation and review process? – Library 2.0
A few examples from Library 2.0 include;
Library-created blogs that encourage dialog between library staff and users, as well as internal library blogs that facilitate better communication among staff, management, and administration.
Allowing user customization of your catalog and Web site – users create their own “space on the site.”
Ann Arbor Library District’s website allows users to comment directly on the main page, and its catalog allows users to add their own “marginalia” on virtual catalog cards.
After-hours teen concerts at the Gwinnett County Library. I especially like this one because teens are put off by always needing to be quiet in the library.
Other exciting examples of participatory programming, from the Dixon (2017) article, include:
Columbus, Wisconsin’s “Root for Columbus Tree.” This simple, inexpensive passive program allowed library users to tie written “wishes” for their community, to the branches of the tree. The 450 wishes led to community conversations, in the library, about how residents wished to participate in their community.
Current events programming such as “Let’s Talk Race,” at Richland Library in South Carolina. This led to hundreds of people participating in social awareness programming by the Richland Library. What a powerful way to bring diverse community members together for civil conversation about challenging issues!
Documentary film screenings followed by facilitated conversations at Austin Public Library in Texas.
Examples from my own experience include a offered wildly popular monthly, after-hours Laser Tag events. Kids played laser tag in the stacks. The only down-side was that there were never enough spaces on the sign-up sheet. I envision an active online youth advisory platform through which kids and teens could advocate for and create more of this exciting type of program. I see now that I actually created several passive participatory programs during my time working at the library. My favorite was “I Love My Library,” which we ran in February 2020. Users wrote “love notes” to the library on pre-cut paper hearts, then placed them in a drop box. We screened them for appropriate content (yes, there were a few with obscene drawings and language), most were lovely, heartfelt, and much appreciated by the library staff. Each day, I strung the latest love notes up on string all over the library for patrons to read and enjoy.
Here’s to a future in which people everywhere love their libraries.
This title has been on my personal bookshelf for several years. I’ve read it more than once, but not since I decided to become a librarian. This reading, through a new lens, offered new insights into organizations and the temperaments of the people who inhabit them.
The U.S. is one of the world’s most extroverted nations, according to Cain. Americans value an “extrovert ideal,” characterized by a highly sociable, self-assured, spotlight-seeking personality type. This “culture of personality” presents a challenge for the one-third to one-half of us who are introverts. From the time they are children, introverts are admonished to be more “outgoing,” and “come out of their shells.” Based on the premise that working together produces the best results, our schools, organizations, and popular culture are set up to foster maximum interaction and direct collaboration.
“Innovation – the heart of the knowledge economy – is fundamentally social.”
The “Culture of Personality”
It wasn’t always this way. Cain traces the history of the American extrovert ideal to th turn of the 20th century and the industrial revolution. Prior to that, most Americans lived in isolated farms and rural communities, interacting primarily with people they had known since childhood. Character was prized above personality. Then, as the nation became industrialized and people migrated to cities, the need arose for a new set of skills – conversational, public speaking, and salesmanship among them. Self-help gurus, notably Dale Carnegie, offered training in this new skillset. Americans desperately needed to know “what to say and how to say it.”
What’s an Introvert to Do?
“I am a horse for a single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork…for well I know that in order to attain any definite goal, it is imperative that one person do the thinking and the commanding.”
Cain offers a powerful antidote to the culture of personality – that introverts possess powerful innate traits such as high levels of creativity and the ability excel at complex problem-solving. She offers examples of famously introverted high achievers, among them Alfred Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Al Gore. What if introverts were taught to recognize and harness the strength of their personality type instead of trying to overcome it? Cain offers practical advice to introverts and those who work with and interact with them, and provides fascinating insights into the biological basis for our temperament and personality, citing extensive research on the subject.
“The best thinking is done in solitude.”
Quiet! Introverts in the Library
Introverts tend to be sensitive and reactive to high levels of stimulation. For this reason, they require time alone with their own thoughts, or in quiet spaces. Among the introverts Cain interviewed for her book is a popular Harvard professor who has literally retreated to bathroom stalls for time alone at conventions, tucking up his feet so that he is not recognized by his shoes. It stands to reason that the traditional library, with its reputation for strict enforcement of quiet, would seem the perfect introvert habitat. Few would find it surprising that a 1992 study found that 67% of librarians are introverts (Scherdin, 1994).
Serving All Personality Types in the Hyperlinked Library
In the Course Welcome for INFO 287, we read: “The Hyperlinked Library is an open, participatory institution that welcomes user input and creativity. It is built on human connections and conversations. The organizational chart is flatter and team-based. The collections grow and thrive via user and staff involvement. Librarians are tapped into user spaces and places online to interact, have presence and point the way.” Is this dynamic, new library geared more toward extroverts? Is it too noisy and stimulating for introverts? That answer to to both of those questions must be, “No.” While the Hyperlinked Library is not constrained by the enforced quiet of the traditional model, the user-centered focus allows us to create spaces for all personalities and temperaments
Cain writes that some companies are starting to recognize the needs of both introverts and extroverts, and are creating “a mix of solo workspaces, quiet zones, casual meeting areas, cafes, reading rooms, computer hubs, and even “streets” where people can chat casually with each other without interrupting others’ workflow. Why not design libraries the same way? Libraries should offer programming both virtual and in-person, passive and interactive, children’s programs for both small and large groups. . Introverts will appreciate online, “silent” book clubs, while extroverts can meet via videoconference or in conference rooms. Libraries can invest in furniture with built-in dividers for those who want privacy, and offer open seating or conference tables for those who want to be together. While the new library model no longer expects users to stop talking the second they walk through the door, let’s not abandon the traditional user who just wants quiet. Collections and displays can even celebrate diverse personality types. For example, Hamilton Public Library’s website includes the Career and life skills for Introverts staff-created genre guide .
“Introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation.”
Introverts at Work in the Library
The organzational structure of the Hyperlinked Library is more flat than hierarchical, which is good news for introverts. According to Cain, studies show that the most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, and so are many leadership structures. Whether in school or workplace, we should create settings that allow people to “circulate in a shifting kaleidoscope of interactions, and to disappear into their private workspaces when they want to focus or simply be alone.” Not all leading needs to be done from the front of the room. Cain cites numerous examples of quiet leaders and innovators who led by example or from a distance. Those who prefer supporting roles should be valued and supported in their work.
Fortunately, resources are available for librarians and staff who want to learn more about working with diverse personality types. In addition to Cain’s book, I recommend reading the following:
“Theodor Geisel (otherwise known as Dr. Seuss)…was a much more quiet man than his jocular rhymes suggest. He rarely ventured out in public to meet his young readership, fretting that kids would expect a merry, outspoken, Cat in the Hat-like figure. ‘In mass, [children] terrify me,’ he admitted.”
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Broadway Books.
I’m going to use this post to organize my thoughts about the first few modules of this course. I’ve been wondering for the past year about what Michael means by “Hyperlinked Library.” I admit – at first I envisioned digitized, impersonal libraries where users access everything by clicking; people sitting at home staring at screens and clicking all day. Aren’t we already doing too much that? Even more now that we’re all stuck at home all the time? On the one hand, I know that many of us are anxious to get back to in-person connections. On the other, it’s inevitable that this year of distancing will lead to permanent changes in the way we work, learn and interact.
“She found that she liked the idea of people more than the reality.”
fom The Widow Nash by Jamie Harrison
I like people, but I’m an introvert, and most of the time I’m completely content at home. I prefer brief personal interactions to prolonged socializing, observing over chatting. Working in a library suited my preference for interactions with purpose and I absolutely look toward to going back to work in a physical space. I suspect these feelings are true for other lovers of libraries. This is a space where one can find community, experience other people, on one’s own terms. Choose your materials online or in person. Visit the physical library or just the website. Virtual class or in person program? Self check-out or in-person checkout? You, the users, gets to decide! After reading and viewing the early material for this course, I dream of a future working in a “hyperlinked” library.
My former library workplace is, sadly, much like those mentioned in the lecture. We sat behind imposing desks and “roving” generally referred to policing patron behavior. Longtime staff, traumatized by their survival through many rounds of cuts and layoffs, hold onto their knowledge like misers. Pity the new associate who expressed interest in the mechanics of cataloging or book repair or processing or collection management or anything not in their duty statement. Such inquisitiveness usually resulted in a verbal hand-slap of sorts. But oh, how I loved working there! I loved helping people find what they wanted, or figure out what they needed, or just be a listening ear and a smiling face for someone who needed that. And my team of associates had just been given the go-ahead to collaborate for a twelve-month programming plan, creating programs of our own and bringing in others from the community. When I return to work in a library, I want to move forward into the future. I want to leave that desk behind and move around with a cool mobile reference cart, engaging with people when and where they need help.
Libraries are for and about users. Isn’t it obvious that services should be user-driven?
I don’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said that Costco knows what we need before we know we need it. That’s how I imagine the library of the future. Librarians will create and curate services based on emerging trends and technologies. Community input will be heard and valued so that users feel a true sense of ownership in library services.
In my opinion, a great beauty of public libraries is the diversity of their users. I’ve experienced settings where people of all abilities, languages, cultures, economic statuses, and ages shared space, services, and materials. There was discomfort and sometimes outright conflict, but there were also innumerable small acts of kindness between strangers that warmed my heart. As libraries adapt and change, this simple beauty can continue to grow.