The task of crafting library services that cater to a diverse—and sometimes misunderstood—community of patrons may seem daunting, yet there’s a simple and effective means of creating engaging, meaningful services: just ask. And while there are numerous philosophies that could be taken into consideration when creating relevant library services, my favorite (and the most straightforward) approach featured throughout numerous readings from Module 5: Hyperlinked Communities is to thoughtfully inquire about their lives, both inside and outside of the library. Some people in the earlier generations of Library and Information Science professionals have grown accustomed to the divide between librarians and patrons, but it’s our responsibility as modern-day LIS professionals to bridge the gap and strengthen the library’s relationship with its surrounding community. In doing so, we may establish meaningful, lifelong relationships with our patrons and strengthen the community as a whole—something that can’t be done without personalized, one-on-one conversations with individuals.
In Aaron Schmidt’s “Asking the Right Questions: The User Experience,” he urges that, “[i]nstead of asking people about libraries, we need to ask people about their lives,” something that may feel unconventional for some, but is absolutely necessary for the development of progressive and personalized library services (2016). Likewise, in Michael Stephens’s (2016) “Reaching All Users” he encourages his audience to be actively engaged with the community and states that: “[i]t starts with some questions. Whom do you reach well? Who uses your library passionately? Take care of them and keep them. Who doesn’t use the library? Who in your community could benefit from access, services, assistance? Find them. Go to them, ask them what they want and need” (p. 42). Both Schmidt (2016) and Stephens (2016) inspire up-and-coming LIS professionals, like myself, to embrace the often overlooked opportunity to have purposeful and transformative conversations with our patrons. Libraries have a longstanding reputation as being a foundational pillar of their communities, and it’s our duty as today’s LIS professionals to be the leaders of the ever-changing information dance—as Christian Lauersen would say, “[d]iversity is being invited to a party. Inclusion is being asked to dance” (2018).
Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/
A. (2016). Asking the right questions: The user experience. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=asking-the-right-questions-the-user-experience
M. T. (2016). Reaching all users. In The heart of librarianship: attentive,
positive, and purposeful change. Chicago: ALA Editions, an imprint of the
American Library Association.
I’m a fatalist, and a planner—a fatalistic planner. Perhaps that makes me an oxymoron, but I’m more than content with my unorthodox position, especially after reading and reflecting on Peter Morville’s (2018) Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals. Now, I’m even more certain than ever that my unconventional approach to, well, everything, will aid me in developing a well-rounded philosophy of librarianship that values kindness and compassion over productivity and measurability. We, as soon-to-be Library and Information Science professionals, must approach planning by thoughtfully considering how to manage all known factors, yet we must also plan and prepare for what’s out of our control. By recognizing the inherent uncertainty involved with planning, we’re better able to respond to situations that don’t go accordingly and may recover from our mistakes without feeling entirely defeated. Participatory library services might sound daunting for those who focus on older notions of media spectatorship, but proper planning proves otherwise (Stephens, n.d.).
Morville (2018) introduces his own real-life applications of planning by beginning the first chapter, “Realising the Future,” with an anecdote about exploring Actun Tunichil Muknal, a subterranean cave in Belize, on an adventurous holiday with his family (p. 2). Even after disclosing how he built flexibility into the itinerary and carefully considered the needs of his family, Morville concludes his surprise-related sentiments by asserting that: “[s]urprise is inevitable. Both the plan and the change need to happen. To manage disruption with grace and a sense of humor is part of the challenge. That’s why planning is about more than a plan” (2018, p. 2). Anyone who has ever traveled anywhere—even if it’s just a small daytrip—knows that surprises are always part of the journey, but we still choose to travel. Why? Because we don’t want to limit ourselves and experiences.
We shouldn’t limit our plans on holiday, or in the library. And just as travel plans are often more successful when collaborative efforts are made (who wants to vacation with no involvement in what’s to be seen or done?), planning for participatory services are more successful when done so collectively. Morville (2018) emphasizes the importance of collaborative planning by noting that, “[i]n particular, exercises in planning together help people get better at problem solving, decision making, and metacognition. When we share the responsibility for planning, we share strategies, insights, tools, and tactics that improve our ability to design paths and goals” (p. 10). Furthermore, Morville encourages his audience to push the boundaries when planning and states that, “[w]e should not limit ourselves to efficiency metrics when it comes to organizing the future” and that we must “embrace a more expansive definition” of planning (2018, p. 11). While library statistics are essential for assessment and gaining awareness of trends within the library to better serve patrons, we can’t base our decisions on or limit ourselves—and our library services—to such rigid figures. Instead, we should opt for experimenting with diverse methods of planning. I wholeheartedly agree with Morville’s (2018) sentiment that, “[p]lanning is enhanced by diversity,” and consider it to be an essential component of creating participatory services that will truly engage a diverse community of library patrons (p. 13).
Since change and surprises are inevitable, we must consider—and work to evolve from—K.G. Schneider’s “The User Is Not Broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto,” where she, much like Morville, chooses to emphasize of focusing on what we do have control over, rather than what we don’t, as she states that: “[y]ou cannot change the user, but you can transform the user experience to meet the user” (2016). In the early stages of developing participatory services, we must begin by investigating what’s most engaging to patrons and then adjust accordingly. Morville (2018) would, likely, suggest that we remind ourselves that, “the path to ‘helpful help’ begins with ‘humble inquiry,’” something which humbly reminds us that even though we are information professionals, our expertise isn’t enough and that we must open the lines of communication to better serve our patrons (p. 54). Without explicitly asking our library users what will help them become more engaged, we won’t be equipped to create effective services. Morville puts it simply: “[w]e won’t fix what we don’t see” (p. 100). On a similar note, in Michael Stephens’s (2016) The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, Positive, and Purposeful Change, he proclaims that, “[i]t’s not out of the question to imagine these service models based on community enrichment and building connections,” which offers a promising glimpse into how LIS professionals can—and should—plan to become more involved with the surrounding community to create new participatory library services (p. 56).
Above all, Morville’s(2018) Planning for Everything: The Design of Paths and Goals has influenced my ever-evolving philosophy of librarianship by affirming that no matter how disrupting of an era we are in, or how many obstacles may interfere with our original plans, “[w]e will answer with truth and hope” (p. 113). And although surprises are inevitable and planning has its limitations, Morville reminds us that, “[k]indness and compassion are everything on the well-trodden path to joyful, meaningful life,” and any librarians who chooses to embody such life-changing qualities when crafting services for their patrons will, hopefully, be remembered as the pioneers in developing participatory library services (2018, p. 105). Kindness and compassion are the gateway to planning library services for lifelong engagement.
Morville, P. (2018). Planning for everything: The design of paths and goals. Ann Arbor, MI : Semantic Studios.
Morville, P. (2018). 8-4. Planning for everything. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/morville/25819013767
Schneider, K. G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a menifesto. Retrieved from http://freerangelibrarian.com/2006/06/03/the-user-is-not-broken-a-meme-masquerading-as-a-manifesto/
Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. Chicago : ALA Editions
Stephens, M. (n.d.). The hyperlinked library: Participatory service and transparency. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=35b4e981-cd58-479a-96d3-aab3011b0f24
As someone who was born and raised in a Victorian farm home that was built just three years after the Library Bureau’s 1890 catalog, I can’t help but be drawn to the images of dictionary stands featured in Shannon Mattern’s “Library as Infrastructure” (2014). It’s challenging to begin to truly fathom how much the field of library and information science has evolved over the past century (or even decade!), and it’s even more unfathomable to imagine where we—and our libraries—will be in another hundred years. The international libraries featured in Module 3’s readings, namely those in the Netherlands and Denmark, appear to be the most accurate indicator of what future libraries may look like (highly inclusive, interactive, user-centered, versatile spaces for both collaborative and independent activities), but we’ll just have to observe and wait for further developments. Another side note: Mattern’s (2014) discussion of the early Carnegie buildings also deeply resonates with me, as my beloved childhood library, the Ferndale Public Library, was built in 1910 with a grant from Andrew Carnegie and is one of the few Carnegie libraries that still functions as such today.
And although most of the examples
from Module 3’s readings featured libraries in well-populated cities, I can’t
help but be wildly inspired by their bold and innovative efforts to consider how
I—as someone who is interning at a rural university library—may one day implement
such practices on smaller scale with limited funding. Mal Booth’s (2013) “People
and the UTS Library” includes a robust amount of inspiring recommendations that
I can easily imagine benefitting the Humboldt State University (HSU) Library
and its surrounding community, but I’m especially thrilled with her assertion
that, “[i]ncreasingly, I think we need more people around us who will help us
to challenge the norm for library practice, particularly for academic libraries”
(p. 8). The HSU Library uniquely stands out amongst both the CSU libraries, as
well as the other libraries in Humboldt County, making it an excellent candidate
for experimental and unconventional policies which may, in turn, help Humboldt
State University reinvent itself as a smaller institution that’s not afraid to
challenge the norm. Even if it’s one small step at a time, I’m certain that
many of Booth’s (2013) recommendations may be applicable (and beneficial!) to
the HSU Library and its growing population of users.
Booth, M. (2013). People and UTS Library. INFO 287 – The Hyperlinked
Library. Retrieved from https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Booth_PeopleUTSLibrary.pdf
Mattern, S. (2014). Library as infrastructure.
Places Journal. Retrieved from https://placesjournal.org/article/library-as-infrastructure/