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.