Reflections on the Hyperlinked Library Model

I cannot express enough how much I love that the description of hyperlinked library begins by identifying that it is human. In addition, by focusing on how the concept of hyperlinked library is a library that is connected and continuously evolving, while maintaining core librarianship values is so inspirational. By infusing emerging technical processes with traditional librarianship ideals of equality of access and transparency of information is a beautiful concept. Balancing core librarianship principles of protecting the integrity of information while increasing availability and visibility of information is essential to ensuring that adaption of new technology has an embedded values system of fair use, equity, and authenticity. Technology can exponentially increase the volume and quality of interaction and sharing between users and information owners, so information services should embrace this ability to liberate information and provide users a seamless experience of connecting with resources and people.

The concept of hyperlinked library is all about participation and integration, and letting go of the past concept of librarian as gate-keeper or controller of information. The future of proving the value of librarians and libraries in the future depends upon this progression and information professionals have an exciting and unique opportunity to lead the way in how how libraries can be present online. Being present online, is not just have a presence, but having a conversation, aggregating content in a socially beneficial way, opening up the floor to participation and user-driven content, and visually the organizational web-pages like the librarian might envision the physical library.

I was deeply struck by Michael Stephen’s point in the lecture that we, as information professionals, need to be “very purposeful about change” (2017). This is such an eloquent way to summarize that change is not out of your hands, change is inevitable, but you can manage how you feel about, and in leadership capacity, you can help manage how others feel, to provide clarity and vision during a state of disruption, by supporting new initiatives and concepts and very simply, not being afraid.

I cannot agree more with Stephen’s (2017) emphasis upon the importance of being open to new systems that individuals might use to connect to information and to one another in remote physical places or from isolated experiences, as this is exactly why libraries were built in the first place. In addition, his point that by equating popularity with unacceptability is more an attempt by librarians at maintaining ownership of data and the means through which it can be accessed or distributed (Stephens, 2017). The attempt to be an authority control, a gate-keeper and a sentinel at all times would be not just a foolish waste of energy on an out-dated approach, it negatively impacts the user’s growth and ability to learn ways of navigating a modern world. This is such a crucial insight as sometimes librarians who have been in the same job role or organization for a while can become caught up in the day-to-day processes, and forget the vision and values of librarianship.

I really appreciate how the article on the future need for libraries at all, points out that libraries used to be a centralized source of information, but in the new information super highway world with constantly exchanging and developing information, libraries need to embrace this state of decentralization as an opportunity to share even more access with users (Denning, S., 2015). In addition, Denning’s (2015) emphasis on “having new eyes” is a beneficial perspective; for this idea implies openness, awareness, a fresh approach, and the need to be constantly re-calibrating and re-focusing vision as the landscape of information and user needs change.

I imagine if I were to be sixteen in 2019, that I would find it VITAL to be able check in with my favorite bands on Twitter, or to log in to Facebook to send a funny picture to a long-lost friend who moved away during elementary school. Empathy and humility are such crucial concepts to connecting with others, and supporting information seeking behaviors and needs. Part of this means exactly what Stephens describes of letting go of the hierarchy and giving into the open and seamless world of the digital future (2017). Welcoming the change also welcomes users to engage with information in new exciting ways and empowers libraries to be transformational.

I loved the example of the Star Wars event Stephens (2017) shared; I would have been ecstatic to be 3-D printing space ships as a kid at the library. The story of the “unquiet library” (Matthew, B., 2010) is also an exciting example of experimenting on how to adapt to user needs and continuing to find new ways of reaching out, engaging, and creating spaces architecturally, and virtually, that allow people to connect how they want to, need to, or hope to connect.

This whole beautiful world is a science experiment, and part of that for information professionals is to be resilient and not be resistant to change. So the ultimate question is, do you want to be part of the experiment, or just a passive observer? Do you want to be the one to pour the vinegar on the baking soda or just watch? As Stephens aptly describes, “technology is magic,” so, let’s put on our safety goggles and wizard hats and get to work.


Denning, Steve. 2015. Do we need libraries? Forbes.

Matthews, Brian. (2010). Unquiet library has highschoolers geeked. American Library.

Stephens, Michael. (2017). “The Hyperlinked Library:  Exploring the Model.”

  1. I too am drawn to the concept of being “purposeful” in making changes. Not every idea is going to work everywhere and for everyone. Each library is a unique place serving a unique community. We have a woman in our community who moved here from a large city and was a librarian in a large library (we are rural and very small). She has great ideas but they aren’t always the right fit for us. But we have discovered great things that do work for us and we are definitely “unquiet” (especially in summer).

  2. Thank you for you response Lisa! I love how you describe the summer as a primary time to be “unquiet” haha. Growing up as a kid in a small rural town public library reading programs were literally MY FAVORITE THING ON EARTH; so motivational to continuing learning outside of school, and helpful in realizing there are more resources for learning other than classroom structure (crucial life lesson). The reward was a free personal pizza from Pizza Hut which was not very good flavor wise and I don’t think I even finished mine, but the incentive/partnering with local businesses (often chains are owned by individuals and they will be flexible), is a great idea to encourage kids to use of library. It is not that everything needs to be perfect, it just needs to be engaging!
    I could also not agree with you more that each library is a unique community and users at each library have such different needs. I think you are so right that pushing personal agendas or programs that might have been effective in other libraries or communities is not the most advantageous way to ensure patron/user engagement.
    My close friend who works at a public library in Bozeman, MT spent a day handing out special glasses to community members so each could watch the solar eclipse. While immediately some information professionals might jump to deeming this “out of scope,” I thought it was so cool for librarians to engage with an upcoming information event and share resources with the community to be able to join in (without ocular damage). By listening to, and soliciting, the needs of current users and the community, and then using this insight to adjust services to meet these needs not only satisfies an ethical code, but is crucial to thriving as a library.

    1. We partner with the local ice cream stand and there is ice cream galore in Southern Cayuga for Summer Reading. We also had eclipse glasses available although we did not host a viewing event since the school actually has a seldom used (nowadays) planetarium and they had a big party.

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the model and the readings.

    The definition evolved over time. Early on, some folks thought we were leaving librarianship behind for social media, web 2, etc etc. That books would disappear from libraries. That’s why I emphasized that we would always be grounded in our core values and mission.

    Reading through blogs so far today, so many have mentioned the importance of really and truly listening to users. A common theme appears. 🙂

    1. @michael It’s interesting that so many of the people I talk to who prefer “books” (myself included) do so because there is so much technology involved in our day-to-day lives. I monitor 5 e-mail addresses a day, use the computer continuously for my speech job, at the library, and for classes, and am also on my phone for various reasons throughout the day. When I sit down to “read” I just don’t want to look at a screen any longer.

      1. @lisasemenza I agree. I think I do the same. Just got a new book that I could have ordered on Kindle, but I opted for the paperback.

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