Wanting to Yell into the Void about Library 2.0

I am in my 4th semester of library school. Overall I have quite enjoyed all my class readings, but none have quite made me want to grab the first person I see and tell them all about it quite like Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Library Services by Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk.

What is Library 2.0, exactly?

To my mind, Library 2.0 is less a strict guide to a practice and rather a case for a certain mentality that library professionals would do well to adopt if they intend on staying relevant and perhaps even leading trends in their communities. Authors Casey and Savastinuk do not promise readers some magical library elixir, “do this, exactly like that, and you will thrive.” In fact, many times throughout, they caution against this type of thinking. There is no one roadmap to successful library service. Rather, we must listen to the communities we both serve and have the potential to serve in order to make a difference.

Casey and Savastinuk provide a whole host of suggestions for how to adopt Library 2.0. But first, what is it? Library 2.0 is an institutional mindset that values participation from within (library users, staff) and without (potential library users) the organization, and incorporates that input through constant evolution of library services, space, and policies. The aim of Library 2.0 as stated by the authors is to “improve services to current library users while also reaching out to potential library users.” If successfully adopted, Library 2.0 can and should also aid in staff retention and morale, something that I personally am incredibly passionate about.

Dealers of Delight

I have spent my three and a half years of library work mainly in two different branches: one, a small, quieter branch on the East side of my city, the other, the main branch and headquarters of the library system overseeing the children’s area. This reading assignment allowed me to conceptualize and put into words what I have loved best about both supervising that smaller branch and supervising the busier (and more micromanaged by library administration) children’s section: change not for the sake of it, but as a way to breathe life into the library and allow users and staff to shape it to its purpose in the moment.

Me in my natural habitat: the first, smaller library branch I supervised

As a library supervisor, I came to delight in the delight of others. How could we keep the library fresh, both so that we as staff couldn’t wait to show our patrons, and so that patrons themselves couldn’t wait to spend a day with us? Think the Beast in Beauty and the Beast when he shows Belle his library. That was the vibe I wanted to create, but not just with books! Extra craft supplies that had been sitting in our back area forever? Bring them out, set them up on a table in an interesting/attractive way, make a Creation Station out of them. Holiday books hiding in our staff-only area until the given holiday when we brought them out? Forget it, find the space and let’s put them out for people to enjoy whenever they want. A forgotten corner where nothing happens? Take up a puzzle donation and start a community puzzle corner.

See? Staff and patrons alike can be excited about the library!

None of these ideas are brilliant. They are just small things that come up on the day-to-day that you can try. Sometimes they come to you all by yourself, often they are suggested by a staff member or a patron. Seeing the gleam in a staff member’s eye when one of us got an idea and we realized we were going to try it, come what may, is what Library 2.0 is about.

Dampeners of Delight

The damper for me in all of this is that when you aren’t in a position to change workplace culture in this way, your morale can wither and die altogether. If management does not adopt or foster Library 2.0, how does a library move forward? How does a motivated staff member or group enact lasting change? Casey and Savastinuk provide some insight, but even their suggestions for those without power and who work in a lackluster organization feel less than helpful. While they maintain that change is still possible, perhaps I am jaded, but I would recommend leaving a place that is toxic and unwilling to motivate and care for their staff and incorporate public feedback. The work we do is too valuable to end in burnout, but it all too often does (and quickly) in library systems unwilling to change and communicate.

Library staff having “too much” fun at the Northeast Library branch

Be the Change

As for me, I left my system altogether and on good terms. Perhaps someday I can return, degree in hand, in a position to enact some positive change and incorporate a constant and healthy change cycle into the system itself. Now thanks to Library 2.0, I have a handy toolkit on how to get started.

Hi there!

Hi INFO 287! I’m really looking forward to learning with and from everyone this semester. Allow me to introduce myself a bit!

Ah, making noise in the library. One of my favorite pastimes!

My name is Ariel Dyer, and I am currently halfway through my MLIS degree (I began in last Fall 2019). For the past three and a half years, I have completely fallen in love with the work of public libraries at the Kern County Library system where I worked as a library associate. I really never pursued a career in libraries, but happened to apply for this position on a whim, started working part time as a branch supervisor, and then was promoted to full time supervisor of the children’s library at the main branch. The fast pace, the planning of community events, and the everyday surprises I have encountered in my years with the library made me realize this was a job I could see myself having for a long, long time. After completing my degree, a long-term goal of mine is to ultimately become the director of a multi-branch library system. I am very passionate about the rights and mental health of library workers as well as racial equity in the workplace, and would love to put that passion to use as a director someday. 

But what about now? Well, we’re all living in this pandemic. I’m willing to bet it’s thrown multiple wrenches in many of our plans, likely in more ways than one. It definitely has for me! As of June, I no longer work at a library. I made the decision to begin job searching when the pandemic hit, because I was worried about the trajectory of my current library system. (Like many library systems, ours is understaffed and underfunded, and their budget has decreased by 20% for the upcoming fiscal year.) I was also worried about my personal safety and how the library management was handling the safety of its employees. I do find that as a member of the public and no longer an employee, I am more empowered now to advocate for libraries in our community.

Fortunately, I now work for an incredible tech company as their community events coordinator, and will be working from home for at least the remainder of the year. Making the switch from a public library to a private tech company has caused me some serious whiplash, but I love the work culture at my new place of employment. I also love how dedicated they are to pursuing new ideas and thinking outside the box. For instance, we recently launched a free service called Pod Up designed for parents to connect with other caregivers who share their same quarantine values and share the extra burden of childcare during this time.

Much like the rest of the world and my life, my new job’s offices are currently under construction!

I chose to take INFO 287 in part because of my new job running events for this company, but also because of the world’s rapid change now more than ever. As a librarian and also just as a human being, I’d like to learn more about the future of… well, everything and anything, really. Life feels pretty up in the air right now. So I’m very excited to be here!

In my personal life, I’ve been enjoying hiking now more than ever as a chance to get out of the house. I started out on 2-4 mile hikes but now I typically go for 6 mile and occasionally 8-10. It’s wild to me how many beautiful trails are within two hours’ drive of me. If anyone is looking to hike in the Sequoia National Forest area or in Kern County, let me know! I’ve got some great hikes to recommend. Otherwise, I’ve been keeping myself busy with work and school. When we’re not in a pandemic, I typically am a lot more active as a local musician and performer, and while I’ve done a couple virtual shows, it’s not the same. I’m also an avid horror fan and have been catching up on horror movies I’ve missed, and host a podcast about women in horror with two good friends. Plus reading as much as I can! Currently, almost all of my extracurricular reading has been devoted to Afrofuturist authors. I’m finishing up N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy right now and can’t recommend this amazing series enough!

Me with my two podcast co-hosts at Halloween trivia 2019

I’m eager to hear from the rest of you all, as I feel pretty starved for social connection and can’t wait to learn about you and learn together in this class!