Virtual Learning Symposium: CYOA

Welcome to my offering for the virtual learning symposium- a choose your own adventure story inspired by our CYOA modules! HOW TO PLAY: It’s simple! Just read to the end of a page and once you’re finished, you will be presented with a set of options for what to do next. You’ll click on your action, which will take you to a separate page, and so on. The whole playthrough experience won’t take longer than 10 minutes tops, and that’s if you take the time to explore the whole thing. Enjoy your adventure!

man floating while reading a book
Image Credit: Mark Williams, Unsplash

As the year 2020 draws to a close and so with it the coursework for yet another SJSU semester, you can’t help but find yourself swept up in the rush: of life, of final assignments, of dealing with the holidays. It’s a lot, and like most endings, this one has caught you unawares.

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug
Image Credit: Green Chameleon, Unsplash

You’ve got one more assignment left for INFO 287: the virtual symposium. Your professor, Dr. Michael Stephens, has asked you to consider one deceptively simply question: What are you taking away from the Hyperlinked Library course? You crack your knuckles and sit down at your computer. Time to get to work.

You hear a commotion outside your window as you begin typing your planning notes, and you know you’ve come to a crossroads. You can either put on some headphones, listen to music and power through your assignment, or let distraction guide you like it’s done a million times before. Maybe your mind could use the break before you really start to focus.


To ignore the noise and keep working on the virtual symposium, click here.

To follow your distracted brain and open your front door, click here.

Director’s Brief: Library Services for Patrons with Dementia

A woman pauses to look at wall-sized floral paintings in an art museum setting
My mom at an art museum in 2018

We found out going on 6 or so years ago that my mom has early-onset Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, accounting for an estimated 60-80% of the overarching syndrome. The journey has not been an easy one. This director’s brief is a gift to my past self and family, who didn’t possess the tools to navigate something so overwhelming as a parent being diagnosed with a progressive brain disease. It is also (hopefully) a gift to my future self and the communities I aim to serve in the years to come.

I was genuinely surprised at the wonderful amount of resources I found on library services to people with dementia and their families, and at the innovation taking place for this community. I invite you to be surprised along with me as you read my brief!

The Power of (Scary) Stories

There’s a chill in the air, and it’s got nothing to do with the climate (in my town, we’re still experiencing highs in the 80s). It has everything to do with a certain haunted holiday at the end of the month. I’m a big horror fan year round, and I love this time of year especially because everyone is eager to get in on the scary fun.

In our latest #hyperlib chat, Stacie Ledden encourages libraries to resist the impulse to be insular: to look outside the industry itself to see how other industries and fields are behaving and how they are innovating. This may sound like a lot of work and it certainly can be, but there are also ways to easily bring this innovation into your own library- starting with what are your passions, and what are your staff passionate about? How can you bring that into the library?

A Haunted Library Tour

How that looked for me was the Beale Library’s Haunted Library Tour. I thrive on scary stories, enjoy creative writing and planning, and wanted to bring this all to a Halloween program after dark for adults at the library. It started as an idea for something small- one evening three years ago with guest storytellers throughout library with 30 attendees max. What it turned into is a multi-night, multi-tour event complete with scare actors, set pieces, soundscaping, and an original script that spanned the last three Halloweens (not including this one) and hundreds of attendees. You can see photos from last year’s theme, a summer camp run by an immortality cult, here, and a trailer for the year prior’s theme, Dr. Frankenstein’s haunted library, here.

Photo Credit: Terry Tripp Photography and Shawn McQuilliams

I’m immensely proud of this work and my team, but make no mistake, this was absolutely a labor of love. I would not have pulled several 14 hour days for just anything! I think stories, experiencing and telling them, are what keep many of us going through dark times. They certainly are for me.

Photo Credit: Terry Tripp Photography and Shawn McQuilliams

A New Type of Storytelling

This year looks different. I’m no longer working for the library, and though I’m still planning events they aren’t in person anymore. Appropriately for the season, these memories are haunting me right now. I miss the stress and excitement of pulling off events like these. But there is much to be learned about immersive storytelling virtually from theatre companies around the world.

No Proscenium is a site that shares news of upcoming immersive theatre and so much of it is at our fingertips now that we’ve been forced to go virtual. I invite you to take a seat around the online campfire as the world swaps chilling tales to keep you up at night:

  • The Tower of Terror: Six Stories of Horror – An immersive site to explore and experience on Halloween night. Pay-what-you-can.
  • The Empty Space’s HAUNTED BAKERSFIELD – Local storytellers and actors tell true accounts of ghost stories in Kern County. $10.
  • Dark Dial Haunted Radio Hour – With live soundscaping provided by a DJ, we present three tales of terror adapted for the small screen: The Monkey’s Paw, The Tell-Tale Heart, and The Yellow Wallpaper (that last one adapted by me). Pay-what-you-can.
  • The Japanese Ghost Painting Introduction – Like most immersive theatre experiences I’ve done in the past month, I know absolutely nothing about this one, just that it comes highly recommended. But that’s part of the adventure! $33.

The More, The Scarier!

Scary stories pair well with libraries, it’s true. Perhaps a partnership with a local theatre company could bring new people into the library and create a unique immersive experience. As Professor Stephens reminds us in Challenged but not Dying, The Public Libraries are More Relevant than Ever, libraries struggle against the status quo of what we’ve “always done,” that fear response that shuts down change. Perhaps it is time to embrace the fear and show the public just how much fun being afraid can be. Consider adding horror programming to your library!

Envisioning the Radical Embedded Librarian

Zeynep Tufekci begins and ends her book Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest with a striking Zapatista saying: “Preguntando caminamos,” or “we walk while asking questions.” The author learned of this phrase during time spent with the Zapatistas, an indigenous group of rebels in the southernmost state of Mexico, and she hears it echoed quite by accident years later when speaking to a Spanish activist who was a part of the Indignados Movement in Madrid.

In the library, where tradition often reigns, we don’t walk while asking questions. We sit while waiting for patrons to ask us questions.

Black and white photo. Two male librarians sit at the reference desk, shuffling papers
Sitting and waiting for patrons to ask us questions can take a while!

Librarians as Learners

This, of course, is not an entirely fair accusation- as we are learning about even just in this class, libraries are innovating in incredible ways around the world. But we have all heard the pushback when it comes to change in the library world, whether from coworkers or bosses or entire institutions, and this is precisely what Library 2.0 reacts to. As David Weinberger reminds us in The Hyperlinked Organization: “Your organization is becoming hyperlinked. Whether you like it or not. It’s bottom-up; it’s unstoppable.” What would it look like for us, then, to take the plunge and stop simply dipping our toes in the water? To not just use twitter for advertisement about an upcoming LEGO club, but to learn from the activists who often rely on social media as a more dynamic and responsive library than our brick and mortar branches?

Tufekci, herself present at the 2013 Gezi Park protests and chronicler of many antiauthoritarian political uprisings around the world, traces the link between such movements and the integration of social media, what she calls “networked protests.” Many of us have likely participated in a protest in the last few months. Even in my sleepy county in the San Joaquin Valley of California, a small yet dedicated faction has erupted in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The central town of Kern, Bakersfield, saw protests lasting multiple days, and smaller mountain towns nearby represented in their towns, too. Much like the hyperlinked organization, this movement is grassroots and unstoppable. Through the power of social media, Tufekci tells us, we can now organize at lightning-speed.

A stop sign with a sign taped to it that reads "Black Lives Matter"
Photograph taken by me on one of my evening neighborhood walks.

Looking Ahead, Holding What’s Behind

But she also warns that the use of social media for organizing can cause what she calls a “tactical freeze,” in which movements are unable to pivot to enact lasting social change beyond showing up for a protest. This can often happen when movements are young and born of the moment. As a counter case study to modern, networked protests, Tufekci offers the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the 1963 March on Washington. These efforts took years of planning and internal struggles that forged a united front and strong tactical decisions. (It is worth pointing out, and Tufekci does, that these internal struggles were kept internal likely in large part due to the lack of social media, which necessitates transparency for better or worse.)

Tufekci’s book, published in 2017, touches on Black Lives Matter but begs a followup given today’s reality in the wake of recent protests against police violence. She refers to the movement as “young,” but with “great narrative capacity” that “has changed the public conversation” (Tufekci, p.209). She published “Do Protests Even Work?” in June of this year in the Atlantic, and the informative, short read not only looks optimistically at the future with Black Lives Matter protests and strategies in the foreground, but touches on and summarizes many key points in her book as well.

In response to Tufekci’s worries about young, networked movements reaching stalemates, journalist Jane Hu argues we have reached “The Second Act of Social Media Activism.” Activists, she says, are now more aware of limitations and can more deftly navigate the uses of social media in raising public consciousness. Black Lives Matter has itself pivoted from attempts to co-opt the movement, such as the misguided #8cantwait campaign as well as the #BlackoutTuesday faux pas that overloaded feeds with black pictures and misused the #blacklivesmatter hashtag which was meant for information and updates. Not only is the movement itself learning, educating and pivoting, but the greater public is proving teachable in these critical moments.

The Library is Leaving the Station

So where is the library in all of this? Why does this matter to our futures as librarians, and the future of libraries itself?

Because protesters around the globe, radically imagining a better future for the world and bravely showing up to make that future a reality, are creating their own libraries. Libraries “are among the first structures constructed by protesters and are subsequently defended with enthusiasm” (Tufekci, p. 87). If we don’t get out there, it’s not that libraries will go away. It’s that libraries will go on without us.

An image of Mr. Wordsworth from a Twilight Zone episode, librarian clutching a stack of books
“YOU are OBSOLETE!” -Twilight Zone episode, “The Obsolete Man”

Librarians: Roaming & Radical, or Out & Obsolete?

The main branch of my county library system closed early, the first day of protests in Bakersfield this past June. But it was not to join the protesters, armfuls of book donations in hand asking “how can we help?” (preguntando caminamos, walking, we ask questions). It was so they could avoid the protest entirely.

The world will not wait for us to wait for them to ask their questions. We must walk alongside, and ask of them what it is they need. The crowd is moving, and growing, and changing life as we know it. It’s past time for librarians and libraries as an institution to join the ranks before they pass us by.

References

Anti-austerity movement in Spain. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-austerity_movement_in_Spain

Gezi park protests. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gezi_Park_protests

Hu, J. (2020). The second act of social-media activism. Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-second-act-of-social-media-activism?fbclid=IwAR1ucy2imXbwfFQpzcZjjjIadS9AzlrLAD30fgZ3ld0VCdZ1kFhsBwUz2hQ

Saxon, S. (2020). What went wrong with the #8cantwait police reform initiative? Retrieved from https://www.colorlines.com/articles/what-went-wrong-8cantwait-police-reform-initiative

Smirnoff, N. (2020). Photo gallery: Local protesters take to Tehachapi streets. Retrieved from https://www.tehachapinews.com/news/photo-gallery-local-demonstrators-take-to-tehachapi-streets/article_dddf8722-a5c0-11ea-a88e-e7ac833f1d70.html

Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and tear gas: The power and fragility of networked protest. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Tufekci, Z. (2020). Do protests even work? Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/06/why-protests-work/613420/?fbclid=IwAR1ucy2imXbwfFQpzcZjjjIadS9AzlrLAD30fgZ3ld0VCdZ1kFhsBwUz2hQ

Visser, J. (2011). DOK delft, inspirational library concepts. Retrieved from http://themuseumofthefuture.com/2011/01/22/dok-delft-inspirational-library-concepts/

Wienberger, D. (2001). The hyperlinked organization. Retrieved from https://www.cluetrain.com/book/hyperorg.html

Westfall, A. (2020). Protesters gather in northwest Bakersfield on day 8 of demonstrations. Retrieved from https://www.turnto23.com/news/local-news/protesters-gather-in-northwest-bakersfield-on-day-8-of-demonstrations

Willingham, A. (2020). Why posting a black image with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ hashtag could be doing more harm than good. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/02/us/blackout-tuesday-black-lives-matter-instagram-trnd/index.html

Zapatista Army of National Liberation. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapatista_Army_of_National_Liberation

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.