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!

Emotional Weight-Lifting: Professional Learning to Strengthen Soft Skills

A colorful mural of two hands reaching out in a supplicatory position
Photo from Tim Mossholder /

Academic, public, school, and beyond- ask any librarian in most any field and they can likely tell you their heartbreaking story of the month, if not the week. Undoubtedly, many of us in this class have our own to share that have stuck with us. These stories are heavy, and their cumulative burden becomes harder to bear over time. But while that weight grows, library staff can and should direct professional learning efforts to strengthen our metaphorical shoulders.

Seeking: Staff Support

While perhaps not as widely discussed as the topic deserves, recent research has focused on the subject of librarians and emotional labor. Librarian and professor Rebecca Tollney (and author of the book A Trauma-Informed Approach to Library Services) discusses the concept of vicarious traumatization in the latest ALA publication. She outlines the difference a workplace’s environment (toxic or positive) can make in the mental health of library staff. The emphasis on administration and management brings to mind Dr. Stephens’ observation in Wholehearted Librarianship on the “formula for success”:

“Essential Skills + Mindset² × Support = Success” (p. 31)

Without support of an institution, library staff withers. It’s a hard enough job without active stress added from your supervisor. In our own iSchool’s excellent Student Research Journal, recent publication “Emotional Labor, Stressors, and Librarians Who Work with the Public” delves into the cause of work stressors for library staff and their potential solutions. They identify three main causes of stress that involve emotional labor (specifically surface acting, or the “grin and bear it” mentality): user-produced stress, coworker-produced stress, and management-produced stress. Social sharing is noted as a positive coping mechanism that staff should be allowed to engage in (having an honest conversation with coworkers behind closed doors after a negative interaction with a patron, for example).

Letting Library Staff Learn

Staff training is imperative to empower library workers to notice and prioritize their own emotional health and to continue empathetically serving others. (This comes back to that support element Dr. Stephens outlined as part of a librarian’s success.) It may be far beyond our power to massively overhaul an administration’s toxic work environment, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start making inroads now to improve life for library staff and continue our own lifelong learning as well as our coworkers’.

If some libraries paid half the attention to staff development as they did to their library programming, I believe a world of benefit would blossom: staff turnover would likely decrease, genuinely positive library interactions would increase, and staff goodwill would be on its way to secured. Such training doesn’t necessarily need a budget: libraries can partner for staff development just like they do for their programs, reaching out to local social workers to taking advantage of existing free community trainings. I found at least one library-specific training on trauma-informed services that’s now archived for free on Infopeople. This could be an opportunity to present to your library management a proposal for free and much-needed staff training, whether at a designated staff development day or as part of a meeting.

Emotional labor is on the rise, and learning as library staff how to navigate that labor will put us ahead of the curve.


Gershon, L. (2017, June 22). The future is emotional. Aeon.

Simon, K. (2020). Emotional labor, stressors, and librarians who work with the public. School of Information Student Research Journal. 10(1). Retrieved from

Tolley, R. (2020, November 2). The weight we carry: Creating a trauma-informed library workforce. American Libraries.

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!

Next Steps Initiative – Emerging Technology Planning


Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

Emerging Access

As we were reminded in a recent module by Professor Stephens himself, many technologies and services we read about in this course and beyond it really aren’t emerging, they’re already here. In light of that realization, the question shifts from “should the library be spending its time and focus on shiny new tech toys?” to “who gets first access to rapidly changing technology and the education surrounding it?”

With no tangible barrier to access, public libraries should be a natural choice for emerging technologies and services, as they can not only provide access to tech for those who can’t afford it, but also offer direct assistance and even formal classes to the public on such tools.

Beyond the vague and oft-heard “libraries are for everyone,” though, it is critical that libraries analyze and interrogate both who they already serve well, and who the community at large often overlooks. Are we reaching out to those micro-communities? If not, why not? How can we change that?

Certainly, libraries are for everyone. But who isn’t part of that “everyone” right now? It is our responsibility to find out, and to do our part in providing access to resources and empowering our communities.

Getting Specific

A growing number of individuals in America are joining the number of incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people. And yet, incarceration often seems like the elephant in the room to those who are aware of the issue, and like nothing to worry about to those who aren’t. Libraries are uniquely situated to bring up this pervasive but oft-dodged issue and normalize it in the public eye.

I am seeking to launch the library initiative Next Steps, forming a community collaborative for this group, comprised of local nonprofits, grassroots organizations, and public and private partnerships. This collaborative will un-silo services and resources to pool them together in a targeted manner. The goal of starting this service is to empower incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people, and their families to access the resources they need and the education to utilize them. Another primary goal is to provide a strong link between local community organizations serving this demographic in order to create more tailored and effective services.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

The community the Next Steps initiative will reach has been touched by the shadow of incarceration in some way:  whether they themselves are currently incarcerated, formerly incarcerated, or family of someone incarcerated.

This group of people often needs access to either technology or technology education, whether that is offering digital literacy courses for formerly incarcerated people, or video and teleconferencing services to families of incarcerated people. However, finding free access to such resources, especially without having the technology or skills to look in the first place, can often be overwhelming. Enter the “middle person”: the neutral ground of the library.

The public library can and should serve as a community hub, but it cannot do so without targeted effort from the institution itself. While local services exist for formerly incarcerated people and their families, they are hard to seek out alone. Disparate organizations and agencies need a missing link to connect to each other and the people they serve more effectively. In order for this program to target those affected by incarceration, it must first reach those organizations already providing services.

Action Brief Statement:

For community partners:

Convince community partners that by forming a community collaborative, they will pool together resources such as staff, contacts, and funding which will make them more accessible to their clients. Further, this will better publicize their services to the general public and de-stigmatize the conversation around incarceration.

For incarcerated individuals and their families:

Convince those affected by incarceration that by attending Next Step fairs and other planned events, they will more easily access the resources they need. This will empower them to have more social currency and effect social change because of the support they receive as a result of the program.

For library staff:

Convince library staff that by housing Next Steps collaborative and future programs in our space and spreading the word to patrons, they will be reaching existing patrons with new resources as well as creating new positive impressions for yet-unreached community members, which will foster good will and better relationships with patrons. This effort will aid in making the library a safe space for all.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Why focus on those affected by incarceration?

Incarceration and Libraries-

Starting a Community Collaborative-

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

The mission, guidelines, and policy for Next Steps will be determined by a community collaborative organized and guided by a vertical team as outlined by Casey and Savastinuk in Library 2.0: A Guide to Participatory Service. Local grassroots organization chapter of All of Us or None, Kern County probation department, local job centers and legal assistance organizations will be represented in this collaborative specifically geared towards offering services for incarcerated individuals and their families.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

At the start of this initiative, Next Steps will require staff time in the form of a vertical team, as outlined in Library 2.0. This team will work towards integrating a community collaborative and coordinating with Friends of the Library and county jails and prisons to give book donations. In-kind contributions will be sought from those prisons equipped with teleconference systems as these are typically charge-to-use for families and we will be asking for free access during Next Steps programming. Additionally, organizations such as local tech startup Bitwise Industries can be reached out to for partnership on providing their coding courses to formerly incarcerated people free of charge. However, these are considerations to be made later on. The true goal of this program at its start is a synthesis of local organizations to work together towards aiding this community, in providing inroads to connection throughout incarceration and beyond: for families seeking visits with incarcerated family members, for incarcerated people to engage with loved ones and prepare for reentry, and for formerly incarcerated people to transition to reentry equipped with the resources and skills to do so.

This project will be largely guided by the community collaborative once established, which means further funding in the form of grants and donations may be sought out. But the goal first and foremost is to establish the collaborative comprised of those who already work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Action Steps & Timeline: 

This is a program that can certainly be replicated at other branches and for other library systems. Because the initial step is to involve a smaller group of people that will form the community collaborative, this can get off the ground in 2-3 months and grow from there. This initiative will need the approval of the library director and buy-in from at least three community partners, but with the library’s past track record of working with these specific community partners and given their communicated desire for more, that aspect should be fairly quick and easy to solidify. While the beginning phases of planning will be intensive for one staff member, the lessening of involvement once the program is underway will undoubtedly appeal to the director.

Phase 1- Securing Administrative Approval (1-2 weeks): This will involve meeting with the library director, sharing the plan for the initiative, and receiving approval as well as input on who should comprise the vertical team.

Phase 2- Internal Staff Planning (3-4 weeks): Establish the vertical team, present plan to team and share contacts for community outreach. Primary staff member should familiarize themselves with the process for starting a community collaborative, as well as prepare surveys for evaluation.

Phase 3- Community Outreach and Collaborative Building (4-6 weeks): Reach out to and secure 2-3 community organizations as core team for the collaborative and begin building the collab. This should involve weekly meetings to brainstorm the core tenets and structure of the collaborative as well as initial goals. Once established, core team can reach out to more contacts and begin regular collaborative meetings.

Phase 4- Involving the Wider Community (5 weeks): The building blocks for this collaborative and early goals having been laid in phase three, this collaborative should hit the ground running at its start to begin working towards its first community program. This phase involves marketing at other community collaboratives, collab members reaching out to their clients, and spreading the word to staff about the services provided at the upcoming event, as well as the general planning around the project (i.e. setup, takedown, securing additional event-specific partners or funding if desired).

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

Though the Kern County Library has offered many programs that this particular community could benefit from, and one resource fair specifically for formerly incarcerated people, no ongoing, targeted service has been attempted to engage this demographic. This new service will initially require more staff involvement at the beginning, but once the collaborative is established the responsibilities of library staff will lessen.

One primary staff member will serve as the project leader, establishing a vertical team whose sole responsibility will be to disseminate information about the initiative to their staff. The primary staff member will conduct outreach to begin and nurture a community collaborative. The primary staff member will also develop surveys for each evaluation stage, with input from the vertical team as well as the community collaborative once established.

Training for this Technology or Service:  

This will require training time for the primary staff member responsible for beginning the community collaborative. This staff member will read the New Community Collaboration Manual as training, and report on their plan for implementation to the vertical team composed of library staff. Once approved, the primary staff member will move ahead with reaching out to community partners and beginning the process of forming the collaborative.

It is the responsibility of the remaining members of the vertical team to inform library staff of this new initiative. While this is not formal training per se, it should be included in the training aspect. Front-facing staff need to be aware of this new service and constantly be updated in its development. This does not have to mean a special meeting for each team, but it should be a part of team huddles and general updates.

Collaborative members will be initially led by the primary staff member through the process learned in the New Community Collaboration Manual (listed above in Evidence and Resources).

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: 

A distinct advantage of forming the Next Steps collaborative is that these organizations are in direct contact with the demographic the service is endeavoring to reach. Word of mouth between these partners and their clients will be key in ensuring incarcerated people, formerly incarcerated people, and their families are made aware of resources provided by the collaborative and new initiatives they take on.

Because those affected by incarceration are often members of different demographics, outreach for this collaborative and its services should be done at other local collaboratives such as the Kern County Network for Children’s collaborative, the Homeless collaborative, and more. The attendees of these collaboratives also have clients who could benefit from the resources of the Next Steps initiative.

Internal promotion for this service will include:

  •  posting flyers within the building
  • informing other branch supervisors of the initiative and keeping them apprised of progress should they want to start a similar chapter at their branch
  • ensuring circulation staff, who interact with almost every patron who enters the library building, are well-informed of the service

It is important to keep in mind that while we want this initiative to thrive and reach as many people as possible, much societal stigma exists regarding incarceration. This program seeks to undermine and work against such stigma, but an approach that “shouts from the mountaintops” might cause those seeking these services to shy away. Discretion and sharing where appropriate is key.


This initiative has many stages and will flourish best with multiple points of evaluation. Surveys should be drawn up by the primary staff member for phases 3 and 4, and approved by the vertical team as well as the core team of the collaborative. These surveys will be distributed to the collaborative for feedback on its running, and different surveys will be given to community members and community partners at events. Surveys should be taken into account by the collaborative, encouraging the possibility of change both for the collaborative itself as well as the events they organize.


Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today.

Salles, J. (2020, March 6). For people leaving prison, adapting to modern technology is a daily challenge. NY City Lens.

Stephens, M. (2017, April 20). Libraries in balance: Office hours. Library Journal.

Trends in U.S. corrections (2020, August). The Sentencing Project.

Choosing My Own Misadventure: Hyperlinked Environments Reflection

“Choose your own adventure,” we’d been instructed for our Hyperlinked Environments module. I was struck by this whimsical directive that recalled the series I grew up with, accompanied with a burst of nostalgia and excitement to dive into all the different modules for the week.

The Power of Choice

“Choose” and “adventure” are also two words that have not recently found their way into my personal vernacular. But this week, as we were ushered into a space that invited us to explore, the joys of choosing and learning took me by surprise.

A children's library display with cobwebs and caution tape, books wrapped in newspaper, and a sign that reads "the Society of Hidden History" (acronym S.H.H.).
An example of staff having fun at the children’s library I supervised! This program was designed to give non-circulating books some love as well as engage reluctant readers.

When libraries thrive, they function similarly to a Choose Your Own Adventure book: empowering their communities, incorporating their wants and needs, and giving them a safe space to explore. The gift of choice is a powerful one. Using “Responding! Public Libraries and Refugees” as a launching point, I found an excellent article on the public library’s role in Athens refugee camps, “Libraries as a space for self-actualization in the refugee context.” The author reminds us that “the case for the library is not only a sentimental impulse but research suggests that access to safe spaces offered by libraries not only support learning and literacy but also builds trust, self-reliance and social capital.” The library is not the hero of the story, as so much vocational awe might lead one to believe. The user should be. And the choices libraries make should be made with users in mind.

“No choice”? Roll with it!

Of course, sometimes the choice is wrested from us, or one we begrudgingly make for the greater good of the community. As part of the CYOA adventure for this module, I visited the Denver Public Library’s page for Cultural Inclusivity services (formerly services for refugees and immigrants specifically) to see their current offerings, and they are robust! Conversation groups, social hours, tutoring, an audio archive of stories from home, citizenship classes. They’ve simply pivoted to virtual offerings. At the very top of their page they have a pandemic-related update, pictured below:

A screencap from Denver Public Library's site that reads:
"Cultural Inclusivity Services
Formerly called Services to Immigrants and Refugees
UPDATE - To ensure the health and safety of our community, all Denver Public Library locations and Plaza programs are currently closed. 

Please contact the New Americans Project with any questions or to get more information about citizenship, English language learning, legal help, computer help and more. Call 720-865-2362, text 720-610-2310 or email "

While letting users know of a choice that cannot be made at this time, this update also provides three options for contact: email, phone, and text. With welcome guides for 13 languages and multiple methods of contact, this web page conveys a safe (albeit virtual) space.

In the midst of the chaos of today, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and like a passive observer, helpless in face of the onslaught. Sometimes all it takes is someone offering you the power and perspective of choice- whether that’s a professor’s module, a library’s services, or which fast food to eat for dinner- that us to put one foot in front of the other and make it through.

“No, really- how CAN I help you?”: The Curious Librarian’s Community Conversations in the Midst of Covid-19

Like everything else for me these days, any piece of media or literature I consume is tinged with a pandemic perspective. And our class readings are no exception to this. As I read through the excellent offerings for our module on Hyperlinked Communities, I was struck by the questions we as librarians ask of and about our communities.

When You Ask, But No One Answers

In his article “Asking the Right Questions: The User Experience,” Aaron Schmidt posits that perhaps the kneejerk question we eager librarians ask our users, “what do you want out of the library?” is in fact not as incredibly helpful as we sometimes think it is. While the inclination to tailor our services to users is a good one, asking community members what they want from the library when many of them do not know all the resources libraries offer will not get us mind-blowing results. Instead, taking the time to get to know the public, what they do, what they need or would like to see in their daily lives, could help us bring more innovative services that would successfully integrate the library into the community sphere.

When our county first closed down back in March, we asked on various social media channels for folks to “tell us what they’d like to see from us!” While we actively sought public opinion during the beginning of our community being thrown into chaos, we didn’t get much feedback. I saw similar narratives from other librarians reaching out in various library facebook groups.

I’ll tell you what did get us a lot of feedback, though. Doing things! Before we’d even closed, I started offering virtual programming. Virtual storytimes, virtual ukulele clubs, and more. I felt overwhelmed, I desperately wanted a positive point of connection to my community, and it turns out that the community wanted that, too.

I think it’s incredibly important to reach out for feedback and input, seek it from sources that don’t normally come to you of their own volition, and to listen to your patrons when they tell you what they want. But while the library may be the most important place in the world to a lot of us seeking to make it our career, it isn’t for many members of our communities. I don’t think it’s our job to make it necessarily hold that place of importance for everyone, but I do believe it’s part of our job to meet community needs as they arise and meet the public where they’re at.

Access to Tech: An Urgent Need, Not an Indulgence

This is why a library student’s question Michael Stephens brings up in in his article “Libraries in Balance: Office Hours” struck me in light of the pandemic. The question asked, how we balance emerging tech with the basic needs of the people we serve, has a painfully apparent answer now. The people we serve have always and will always need and deserve access to technology, emerging or otherwise. As Stephens points out, “3-D printing isn’t emerging, it’s here.” We are now feeling the digital divide in ways we never have before, with many districts now using an at-home learning model and parents worrying about bandwidth, devices, to say nothing of the time itself to be able to aid their kids with homework and distance education.

Some libraries are responding to these needs by quite literally bringing their library to the community, with bookmobiles serving as mobile hotspots. It’s a service community members likely would not have conceived of, if asked. But by getting to know what it is that people need in the moment, and envisioning a service to get it to them, we can earn a place in the heart of the places we serve. I continue to look forward to seeing how services evolve and adapt in the face of the virus.

Taking Care

So how can we help right now? I often feel powerless. Beyond the obvious takeaways of listening to our communities, and throwing ideas at the wall to see which ones stick, I’d say this: take care of yourself. Library staff are no stranger to burnout and stressors now are even worse. Please take the time for meaningful rest. The world will still be waiting for you when you get back.

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.


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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.