Learning Somewhere or Everywhere: Sparking Curiosity and Community!

Wow, it has been a whirlwind of a week, y’all. We got our first sticky snow, which was pretty awesome because this is the first time I’ve lived somewhere it snows! I also started a new job at the public library here. I am beyond excited to get to know my coworkers and community!

A photo of a pumpkin on a front porch dusted with snow.
A photo of my front porch. Is this Fall or Winter?

For my adventure, I chose to walk the paths of Learning Everywhere and Library as Classroom. The two modules show the different ways libraries can help the community, one through reaching outside to give access to the community and one from the inside by bringing the community in to learn. Both are equally important moving into the future.

Learning Everywhere

I am part of the demographic that expects to learn anywhere. If I forget my phone, I am sorely disappointed when I want to look something up. It is natural to me to have the entirety of the Internet at my fingertips, to answer questions or curiosities within minutes of searching. It is the same for many of us. I can muse aloud “I wonder what the etymology of that word is…” and a friend will immediately take out their phone to look it up. Our phones have become an extension of us, of our learning, and we can create our own on-the-fly curricula at any time, anywhere, and learn anything we want. These are usually small pockets of learning, although I have used YouTube, blogs, and MOOCs to learn a variety of skills from my home computer. Oftentimes, I have learned while chatting online with friends because learning anywhere can be isolating and lonely, as many of us may feel in an online program. This is one of the reasons I started an MLIS Discord server for group projects, but still chat with some of my classmates long after the class has ended. Which brings me to the second half of the adventure I chose:

Library as Classroom

Because learning anywhere can be isolating (even if some of us don’t have a choice), the library can bring a group together to learn. The library I work at has 3D printer classes, programming classes, yoga classes, among many other programs that bring people together and complement learning on your own. Not only might these classes spark a curiosity that can drive a person to learn that subject from anywhere, but it can build relationships and community ties and keep people coming back for more learning.

Learning Anywhere and Together!

Learning Anywhere and Library as Classroom go hand in hand, and I believe one can feed into the other. Personally, I have learned yoga on my own, and now want to try learning it in a library classroom (once another session is posted!). Conversely, I have seen 3D printing in action in my library and have found myself learning more about it online! Because information is so pervasive with cell phones, tablets, computers, social media, and games, the library can harness that curiosity and access to information by providing ways for learners of all ages, skill levels, and backgrounds to come together, both online (through databases, online catalogs, and apps) and in the library classroom to spark a greater sense of wonder and love for learning.

My dog, Buddy, learning what snow is! (No audio)

Mobile technology: A boon for the future of libraries, but creating a tech gap

As I was reading Deloitte (2016), I found myself nodding along with the findings. Yes, I do wake up and check my notifications on my phone. Yes, I do check my phone even if I don’t have any notifications. Yes, I do use my phone to help manage my life (Google Calendar and Google accounts in general, you are a lifesaver!). I use mobile tech and social media to get my news (mostly via Reddit and sometimes Twitter) because I can subscribe based on interests and read the articles that are posted, no matter what news source they come from. With this major mobile information age, people are able to subscribe to the types of news they want to see (more science? animals? hobby news?) without having to join a club, listserv, or subscribe to magazines. This service offered through social media could be offered through the library, as well, as Enis (2014) wrote about with regards to the BluuBeam, which allows users to learn about library programming through their phone. Imagine a library app that allowed users to subscribe to certain interests, sort of like Reddit, but library related. Think subjects like: tech classes, children’s events, new [insert genre] books, game nights, that a patron could subscribe to and receive notifications for on their phone. Perhaps library’s post about this on their social media, but the app would encourage user-specific interests and content. What if this app also included local museums? Local community centers? The possibilities are incredible for mobile technology and harnessing that for libraries will be key in getting some of the more tech savvy patrons into the library.

But what about the non-tech savvy people?

As Pew Research Center (2019) found there is a great disparity in smartphone ownership between younger age groups (18-34) and older adults (50+) meaning we will need to find a way to reach those who do not use smartphones. If there is something everyone loves, though, it’s convenience. Perhaps a way to bridge the gap in mobile tech users and non-users is to offer easy-to-use services for everyone. The Moose Jaw Public Library offers a “text a librarian” service (Shaw TV South Saskatchewan, 2013) where you can text a question anonymously to a librarian and get a response. This service does not necessarily need someone to use a smart phone, but could introduce less tech-savvy people to the idea of using mobile technology for library services.

In addition to bridging the gap via inclusive, super-convenient services, helping less-tech savvy people learn could be another way to reach all patrons. The Memphis Public Libraries offer a “Mobile Technology Learning Van” that brings mobile technology to different areas of the county. Not only does this help bridge the digital divide, but it reaches people who may not have transportation to the library, and gets people interested in learning about mobile technology, which in turn, helps prepare people for the future of mobile devices.

There are so many possibilities for mobile tech in the future (and right now!). If anything, it will only become more and more popular as the generations move forward, but, as librarians, we will need to find ways to bridge the gap and still reach those who do not have access to mobile tech or who have not yet embraced it. Librarians will need to plan on both fronts: helping the library shift into the mobile direction of the future and work to get all patrons on board and help everyone within a community.

References

Deloitte. (2016). How do today’s students use mobiles? Deloitte. Retrieved from https://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/public-sector/articles/how-do-todays-students-use-mobiles.html#

Enis, M. (2014, November 18). “Beacon” technology deployed by two library app makers. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=beacon-technology-deployed-by-two-library-app-makers

Local 24 Memphis. (2018, December 13). Mobile technology learning van helps to bride the connections for the non-tech savvy in Memphis. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHGlxCT9iIQ

Shaw TV South Saskatchewan. (2013, May 10). Text a Librarian. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGlB34HMIOU

Silver, L. (2019). Smartphone ownership is growing rapidly around the world, but not always equally. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/

Emerging Technology Planning: Creating community artifacts and engaging cross-generational patrons through podcasting

I was immensely inspired after reading about the Listening Station’s concept of archiving stories told by many different types of people and allowing others to interview them and ask questions about a life different from their own (Storycenter, n.d.). I began tying this idea with Anythink Library’s get to know your neighbor program, where people picked questions from a bowl and had conversations with people from the community and coupled it with Westmount Public Library’s postcard archive for their community (Baicco, 2016) where community members donated postcards to their library which were digitally archived and put into a software for the community to explore. Tie this together with Eric Klinenberg’s (2018) concept of bridging generational divides and bringing a community together through shared experiences, and I wanted to introduce a program that uses a media center room to hold storytelling interviews. The interviews could either be edited by the project creators or by a library staff and kept as a local community artifact. Specifically, I want to introduce a program that incorporates Erie County’s love for genealogical research with new media technologies and introduce a service where grandkids, family members, or other participants could interview seniors within the community about their family history, life experiences, how they came to the area, or even their recollection of other large events in history. Historical interviews could be posted to the library’s website and archived as part of the area’s cultural history. They could also be viewed within the library or media center for others to listen to or watch.

The Library

Erie County Public Library, Blasco Branch contains an Idea Lab with a media center room with three microphones, a computer with Adobe audio and video editing software, an audio mixer, a camera, two lights, and a green screen. The Blasco branch also has a very in-depth Genealogy- Heritage Room with microfiche, yearbooks, and other historical books and documents meant specifically for genealogical research. Because genealogy is so important to the community, I wanted to introduce a program that could teach patrons to create archives of their own.

Bayfront photo of Erie County Public Library's Blasco Branch.
Erie County Public Library’s Blasco Branch. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2016/09/a-waterfront-library/498665/

Description of Community I wish to Engage

I wish to engage cross-generational patrons of Erie County to bring the community together doing an activity that will be fun for young and older generations.

Purpose and benefits

This program would benefit the community of Erie County in multiple ways. It is meant to be a multi-faceted program that can be easily adaptable to different themes. The major historical and cultural theme would bridge the generational gap present within the community. It would create a space where the younger and older members of the community could work together on a project. Generations could learn new technology alongside one another while learning about their family or cultural history. In this way, the program creates a learning opportunity for new technologies, as well as an opportunity to bring the community together and listen to stories. It has an added benefit of archiving histories and providing cultural resources for future generations to listen to in the genealogy department.

Goals and Objectives for Service

  • Promote diversity by engaging multi-generational residents of the community.
  • Incorporate Erie County’s love for genealogical research by documenting and creating cultural and community artifacts for Erie County.
  • Support digital literacy by teaching the community how to use audio and video recording hardware and software, as well as editing techniques.
  • Support critical thinking and interviewing skills by engaging the community in live interviews where members must listen and respond thoughtfully to others.
  • Create a sense of community identity by having stories be told, listened to, and played within the library or on the library’s website, mirroring traditional storytelling and oral history methods and marrying that with new technologies.
  • Create a service that ignites excitement and curiosity within the community and engages them on multiple levels both online and offline.
  • Help the community of Erie County continue to mold the library into a community center and space they want by involving residents in the program evaluation and conversation.

Action Brief Statement

I want to convince the residents and community of Erie County that by using the media center to interview members of the community they will create new cultural artifacts for Erie County and new skills which will support digital literacy and bring the community together because they are using new technologies to create living artifacts and record their own histories while getting to know members of the community.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

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

The Erie County Public Library’s policies for its Idea Lab will need to be adhered to. Patrons will need a library card in good standing and a signed Idea Lab Agreement in order to use the media lab and new interviewing stations. Currently, policies are in place for the media lab to be reserved for up to two hours at a time and it must be scheduled. With the hopes of creating one more media station for multiple interviews, times could be booked simultaneously. The patrons will need to check in with a library staff member to help set up the interview room and staff will need to be available for help with tools.

Currently, the media lab is set up for personal projects only, but the community service I am proposing will include a day of open community interviewing in which those who wish to participate can do so in addition to solo interview projects. The community interviewing day will begin with an orientation of equipment use and signing of the Idea Lab Agreement and an agreement to allow the videos to be put on the library website. A staff member will need to oversee the service for the day to help users with tools and to facilitate interviews.

On a much larger scale, the service will adhere to the Erie County Public Library’s Mission to “build a culture of curiosity and creativity by connecting people to information and interactions that ignite ideas, excite passions, and inspire action to improve our collective quality of life” (ECPL, 2016). The service being offered will help the library reach its goals of connecting the community and engaging people in learning new skills and coming up with new ideas. Both the service and the interactions made with the community online and offline will help spark ideas and help the community refine the service to meet their needs and excite their curiosity.

Erie County Public Library’s Strategic Plan. Retrieved from https://erielibrary.org/about/strategic-plan/

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

This service will require funding for one more audio recording station which would include a desk, computer, software, and two new microphones with stands and pop filters. Thankfully, the Blasco Branch Library has media editing computers in the makerspace, so once an interview is recorded, it can be edited in the makerspace and others can record new interviews. There will, however, be a need for a library SoundCloud or podcasting platform channel to post interviews that have been agreed to be posted and a staff member will need to run the channel. A staff member will also need to run the open community interviews.

The Public Library Association (2016) offered ideas for funding a digital media lab through budget add-on requests, putting aside funds from the budget, grants, or other sources, such as The Friends of the Library. It does recommend, however, that “Instead of a single funding source, look to blend a variety of ideas as mentioned along with those that may be unique to your location” (p. 16). Because the community is heavily involved in local history, grants or funding could be procured from benefactors or foundations, such as the Erie Community Foundation or the ECGRA Community Assets grant, wanting to help create cultural artifacts. A donation box could be set up on the days the service was being offered in the library or links to donation pages could be put in the podcasts descriptions on social media if the library was set to expand its media lab for community interviews.

Action Steps & Timeline: 

The staff training will serve as a prototyped interview to help bolster the marketing for the project. The service flow will depend on community engagement, staff training schedules, and volunteer sign-ups, however, a reasonable timeline might look something like the following:

Week 1: Order new equipment.

Week 2-3: Training staff on software and hardware: 3 sessions within two weeks. Begin marketing for volunteer positions in schools and through social media.

Week 4-5: Promotion and marketing of service, continuation of procuring and training volunteers.

After promotion, the open-themed interviews would happen once or twice a week for four weeks, depending on other programs that are happening. Ideally, the media lab would be open for community interviews all day and patrons could come and go as they please, however, that may not be feasible and the media lab could be open for four hours during the day for community interviews and podcast editing. The media lab is shared with those wanting to work on personal projects, so the schedule must be mindful of those patrons, as well. The podcasting and interview program would be ongoing, like other library services, and could have different themes throughout the year. It would be under continuous iteration and channeling feedback into program refinement.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service

A librarian or senior staff member will need to oversee the open interview days, however, there are other considerations for finding people to assist the librarian in: working with the technology, signing people in, and performing short orientations.

Volunteers:

  • Offer experience for those enrolled in an MLIS, history, archival, media, or communications program. This program will meet multiple educational goals.
  • Ask for volunteers who wish to be involved in a heritage and culture documentation project.
  • Ask local media professionals, communications, or audio editors if they would like to be a part of the program.

Staff:

  • Ask if those who wish to be a part of new library programming want extra hours helping with the community interviews.
  • Interns or clerks working at the library can help with a special project that deals with programming, media, and cultural studies.

Day-of help:

During the program, there may be a need for people to help interview others if there are more interviewees than interviewers. Some ideas for extra interviewing help include:

  • A sign up sheet for interviewers or a call for volunteers to help with interviewing
  • Work with local schools or the local college news team to help them with interview and podcast skills
  • Try and invite some of the interviewees to interview others if a staff member who is helping with the interviews could show them the ropes

Interview Questions Help:

While library staff can help come up with interviewing questions to help facilitate the podcasts, it would be interesting to crowdsource through social media. As part of the marketing, ask community for interview question ideas and types of stories they’d like to hear about.

Training for this Technology or Service:

All library staff who are using the media center would need to be thoroughly trained on how to use the software and hardware. It would only need to be a short 3-hour training on how to properly set up and use the microphones and the editing software. Classes could be conducted by the librarian in charge of the media center and program. After the first hour in which staff learns to properly handle hardware and software, they could engage in an exploration project where they interview a volunteer and edit the interview to gain practice and confidence with the editing software. At the end of the training, they could share the prototyped mini-project with other staff. The training would need to be done two or three times to accommodate schedules and have different volunteers, preferably family members or friends of the staff who wish to participate. Additionally, the library could reach out to media specialists who could come in as guest speakers during training and answer questions. As the podcasting program would be ongoing, learning will consistently be done during the program.

To train volunteers, certain senior staff members or the librarian in charge could give a quick rundown of the software and hardware. This training would need to be done at the discretion of the librarian in charge of the project. Discretion would also need to be used to put certain volunteers to work in certain aspects of the program.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

The library would make use of all social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, the library’s website, and Instagram) for promotion and marketing, as well as in-library flyers. The library could tag organizations who have helped with the program, as well. Casey (2011) posited that “The participatory library engages and queries its entire community and seeks to integrate them into the structure of change” (para. 8) which is what this service plans to do. As stated previously, interview questions and ideas could be crowd sourced through social media as a way to get the community involved and hyped about the program before it begins. The program is about the community and it means to engage them in every way. By filming or recording an interview and posting it on the library’s website, YouTube, or SoundCloud then disseminating it through social media could be an excellent way to promote the program, as well. A steady stream or clips of interviews shared through social media once the program begins could help get more people involved.

For those who do not have access to social media, the library could post flyers in all the branches. A station for watching or listening to interviews could also be presented in the library to show patrons what the program is all about. Canvassing or posting flyers in local shops, restaurants, museums, senior living communities, schools, and heritage centers could also help promote the program and get people of all ages involved.

Evaluation:

The program will need to be evaluated in iterations to make sure it is serving the community. Success would be measured by community engagement with the program and use of the media lab for podcasts and interviews. Social media interaction, likes, shares, and comments could be monitored to see how the community is reacting to the program. Google analytics data of the library website, SoundCloud, and YouTube channel could also be monitored. In addition to passive monitoring, surveys could be distributed in the library with regards to the program. Meetings with library staff would also need to be done to gather any insights staff members may have into how the program is working and focus groups could be conducted to help refine the program.

Moving forward, the service could include a mobile interviewing station with a field recorder that could potentially be shared among the different branches of the library. This would allow different communities to share their stories and help reach all communities within Erie County. The service could also be expanded to have different themed interview sessions surrounding different aspects of life in Erie County. As Mack (2013) proposed with the LA Library, the Erie County Public Library could ask the community for feedback on what types of interviews they’d like to participate in and how to make the program better suited to their needs. There could be a college life series, a maritime series, or a State Parks series where members of the community could come and help interview volunteers, students, park rangers, or artists within the community.

Conclusion:

This service will hopefully integrate the community at every step both on an organizational and individual level. By involving the community in the creation of the service, engaging them in interviews and creating artifacts, posting those podcasts online and archiving them in the library, and having discussions about the service online and in-person, the community will feel like they are a part of the library and are helping to mold it into a community space for everyone all the while learning new skills and about one-another.

Photo by Rogerio Cunha. Retrieved from FreeImages

References

Anythink Libraries. (2016, December 21). Get to know your neighbor. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzLI-aqFzDQ

Baiocco, L. (2016, May). Labor of love: Opening up archival gems for community engagement. Computers in Libraries, 36(4). Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/may16/Baiocco–Labor-of-Love–Opening-Up-Archival-Gems-for-Community-Engagement.shtml

Casey, M. (2011, October 20). Revisiting participatory service in trying times – a TTW guest post by Michael Casey. [Blog post] Retreived from https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/

Erie County Public Library (ECPL). (2016). Strategic plan 2016-2020. Retrieved from https://erielibrary.org/about/strategic-plan/

Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. New York, NY: Crown.

Mack, C. (2013, February 17). Crowdsourced design: Why Los Angeles is asking the public to create the library of the future. Retrieved from https://www.good.is/articles/crowdsourced-design-why-los-angeles-is-asking-the-public-to-create-the-library-of-the-future

Public Library Association. (2016). Quick Reads for busy librarians: Building and operating a digital media lab. In K. Hughes (Ed.). Chicago, IL: Public Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/pla/sites/ala.org.pla/files/content/pdfs/membersonly/pla_quickreads_03_medialab_digital_FINAL.pdf

Storycenter. (n.d.). The listening station- A new approach to capturing stories. Retrieved from https://www.storycenter.org/listening-station

Diversity in Action: Public Libraries Creating Spaces for Everyone

I tried on a few different hats in choosing my own adventure for the Hyperlinked Environments module and finally landed on The Hyperlinked Public Library. As I read through the articles and watched the videos, I found that many of them had a similar thread running through them: the library needs to be what its community needs and wants. This sentiment, however, is not one that is present in just public libraries, but public libraries do serve a great variety of demographics. They must cater to the needs of young and old, wealthy and poor, high school, college, and elementary school education levels, as well as a myriad of interests and skill levels in these interests. As Marie Østergård so succinctly worded it, “Libraries need to be different all over the world and all over the cities” (Public Libraries 2030).

I was inspired by the many different activities and needs the different libraries worked toward for their community. The Westmount Public Library in Quebec, Canada, has created stores and digital archives from 40,000 postcards donated to them by their community (Baicco, 2016). This shows a need rooted deeply in history and understanding the background of the place’s identity. The innovation of spaces like this around the world drove me to look into different and unique library programs in other cities.

As one of my own personal interests lies in video gaming, I was impressed by Cleveland Public Library’s eSports initiative. It brings gaming, which is oftentimes thought of as an isolated hobby, into the community space by providing gamers with a way to meet each other and play together. Not only does the program allow users to meet one another and build community ties, but it also teachers them new skills like the strategy and collaboration skills through gaming itself, streaming software, how to work with gaming hardware (laptops, desktops, and consoles), and digital literacy. In addition to the skills users learn from gaming, this program also helps to bridge the digital divide, providing a space for users who may not have access to expensive gaming computers, consoles, and games, to enjoy the online world of gaming and competition.

In a strange and unexpected, although totally in alignment with library values, program the Newcastle libraries created a Crypto Party for their users. You might be thinking: how is crypto related to library values? The program itself intends on teaching safe browsing, Tor, and encryption (Clark, 2016; Haydock, 2016). As advocates for the free flow of information, digital literacy, and confidentiality, user privacy is extremely important to library values, and the seventh right in the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights (American Library Association, 2019). This program teaches new technology, a new trend, financing, and protecting one’s privacy in an age where private companies often monetize personal data.

These types of programs show the library’s advocacy for all users, even those with hobbies that are socially stigmatized. It shows a want to bring digital literacy to the forefront, that these public libraries are listening to their communities and attempting to bridge the digital divide and bring equality to their spaces. It is thinking outside just book clubs and children’s story times in an attempt to reach people who may otherwise not use library facilities. While traditional programs are very useful and continue to bring joy and engagement to particular groups, programs like these public libraries are creating inspire me to create and brainstorm ways I might reach those on the margins of the community together in the library.

References

American Library Association. (2019). Library Bill of Rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

Baicco, L. (2016). Labor of love: Opening up archival gems for community engagement. Computers in Libraries, 36(4). Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/default.shtml

Clark, I. (2016, October 05). Crypto party…in a public library…in the UK. Infoism. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://infoism.co.uk/2016/05/crypto-party/

ClevelandPublicLibrary. (2017, June 13). eSports and Celveland Public Library. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3OABsQA2yw

Haydock, A. (2016, May 30). What we learned from hosting our cryptoparty. Medium.com. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@alexhaydock/what-we-learned-from-hosting-our-cryptoparty-3950c9721f3e

Public Libraries 2030. (205, April 27). PL2020 Tour – Denmark – A knowledge hub for the community. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvFfbjs8aZo

Linking People: Supporting Our Most Vulnerable

As I ponder the question Professor Stephens left us at the end of the Module 5 lecture: Who needs community and support and how do we reach them? (Stephens, 2019), I can’t help but reflect on my time spent at the Public Defender’s Office working with people who had mental health issues, who lived in poverty or were homeless, who were ostracized, those with addiction issues, in crisis, those with a rough past or present who needed someone to help them, to listen to them, to treat them like humans. Most often, it was the respectful listening that helped me earn a rapport with many of our clients, truly listening and responding without judgement. This is also what librarians do: listen and help patrons without judgement and treat their communities with respect. While reading Lauersen (2018), I was once again reminded of the implicit biases everyone carries with them and how these biases can segregate and isolate people. We need to be mindful of these biases in order to move past them and include those that need to feel included. Those people, Lauersen (2018) wrote, need to be asked to dance.

To answer the first question posited by Professor Stephens, it is these groups with the social stigmas or those that are at risk who need community and support. Stigmas can be isolating, and isolated groups are vulnerable groups. Klinenberg (2018) emphasized the importance of community on our most vulnerable populations like teens in poor neighborhoods with no safe spaces or elderly people with no one to look after them. I would also include other isolated populations such as those with mental illness, homeless populations, and those living in crime-stricken areas. Klinenberg (2018) insists that that inclusion of others, especially those living in isolation, exposes people to others who are different from themselves. This diversity creates strong community bonds and the library is a perfect place to do that.

The Orange County Library System employs a social worker to help vulnerable populations in their area.

The issue remains, however: how do we reach them? The theme of this module is a hyperlinked community and, as Stephens (2019) said, people are hyperlinks too. Outreach services may get the ball rolling on reaching the vulnerable populations. Reaching out to community leaders of neighborhoods who need more support, mental health services, homeless shelters, even perhaps jails or prison libraries and asking them what the library can do to support those who need it would be a start. Maybe those recently released from jail need a career workshop or a technology workshop to help them learn new skills and help bridge the digital divide. Maybe teens who are isolated or at risk need access to safe spaces such as a creativity lab, music club, or poetry slam group to keep them engaged in learning, create an outlet for frustrations, or to help them make friends and create their own support system. The path a library needs to take may not be clear and there is not a one-size-fits-all for programming, but reaching out and linking the library to those who work with vulnerable populations every day is a first step.

BONUS! Something to Listen to:

On an episode of This American Life, in Growing-Shelf Awareness, a segment of The Room of Requirement, Stephanie Foo (2018) recounts her experience as a homeless child not realizing she was homeless due to the public library: https://www.thisamericanlife.org/664/the-room-of-requirement/act-three-4

This podcast emphasizes the importance of including our vulnerable populations, such as the homeless, in our libraries and what it can mean to actually include those who are normally ostracized in our communities.

References

Foo, S. (2018, December 28). The Room of Requirement Act Three: Growing Shelf-Awareness. Retrieved from https://www.thisamericanlife.org/

Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. New York, NY: Crown.

Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. The Library Lab. [Web blog]. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/

oclsvideos. (2018, August 24). Library Social Worker. [Video File]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjwKD378XQY

Stephens, M. (2019). The hyperlinked library: Hyperlinked communities. [Video lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=bdb39d41-e4a7-4b33-9da4-aab40117c7e8

The Hyperlinked Library as Social Infrastructure

Like a fish that doesn’t realize it’s surrounded by the very thing it needs to survive: water, we may not even notice the very life-giving infrastructure that we are immersed in until it is threatened or depleted. Eric Klinenberg implores readers to take another look at the importance of the social fabric of our communities. In his book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life, Klinenberg (2018) takes a close look at how, what he calls social infrastructure, has the power to make or break the future of our communities.

Cover of Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg.

From the very beginning of the book, in which Klinenberg takes the reader to 1995 Chicago in which a major heatwave killed a record number of citizens (pp. 1-7) to the final chapter in which Klinenberg looks at the devastating numbers of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Sandy, and Katrina (pp. 177-207) the message remains the same: communities with strong ties that have relief spaces during disasters have a greater chance of survival and communities that have spaces where diverse types of people can congregate feel happier and are healthier. In addition to social fabric helping communities to survive and thrive, Klinenberg also attributes lower crime rates to the revitalization of abandoned lots and houses into green social spaces (pp 125-139), as well as to places like the library where people are treated with respect and dignity and are given the responsibility of civility (p. 45).

The Library

The most written about theme throughout Klinenberg’s book is the importance of coming together for the sake of the community. It is about the positive forces of caring and creating bonds that make a society healthy, protect the vulnerable, keep crime rates down, and keeps people alive. In many of the chapters, it is the library that helps to facilitate these community bonds. The library connects people with information and with other patrons who may otherwise be isolated or vulnerable such as new mothers (pp. 34-37), teens with no other safe spaces (pp. 44-46), and the elderly (pp. 133-134).

The library helps many more than just these specific groups, though, and it is oftentimes a starting zone for recreational programs, learning, and even after-school childcare. The hyperlinked library can be even more of a community hub when connected to the rest of the community spaces in a town or city. By strengthening the bonds and community ties through outreach and program development, the hyperlinked library can build strong roots, strengthen the social fabric, and connect people in ways that have the potential to save the lives of those who are touched by library programming.

Eric Klinenberg’s Talks at Google for Palaces for the People.

Community Spaces Bridge the Divide

Klinenberg’s ideas are very compelling and give way to an idea that any space, whether it be the library, a park, a dam, an empty lot, church, café, or barbershop, can be more than what it seems. Through the use of these spaces and, in the context of this class, the library, a community can be networked in such a way that we can mend the divisiveness presently tearing our social fabric apart and look to each other for support.

Like Klinenberg’s interviewee Michael MacDonald, head of Global Health Initiatives in Washington D.C., so eloquently put “It’s the fragile, agile networks that make a difference in situations like [Hurricane Sandy]. It’s the horizontal relationships like the ones we’re building that create security on the ground, not the hierarchical institutions” (pp. 193-194). It is the sprawling networks, the caring and bringing together of people from all backgrounds to help one another that can help turn society’s trajectory around. By treating others with dignity, respect, and caring for one another on small scales, like proposed in Stephens (2019) when speaking about horizontal staff structure, to large scales, like community recreational spaces for all, the reaching outward as opposed to reaching upward is what makes a difference.

References

Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. New York, NY: Crown.

Stephens, M. (2019). The hyperlinked library: Exploring the model. [Video lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e

Talks at Google. (2019, February 5). Eric Klinenberg: “Palaces for the people” | Talks at Google. [Video file]. Retreived from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJIYhSA84Sc

<a href=“community”>Library</a>

As luck would have it, I actually stumbled into this class by chance! Another class I had planned on taking was not going to be offered this semester, so I was perusing the course catalog and thought “Hmm, the hyperlinked library sounds really interesting” even though I had hardly a clue what it could be. Based on the foundational readings and the hyperlinked library model, however, I feel very excited about not just this class, but my own future in LIS, my community’s future, and the future of libraries in general!

This week, as I was reading and taking notes, I began to see the pattern of libraries as hubs hyperlinked throughout a community. As we move out of the age of TV and consumption and into an age of sharing and creating, libraries should offer connection and creation over consumption. Libraries should no longer be seen as just storage spaces for knowledge and information when they can be interactive and engaging!

Wordcloud of text from New Clues by Searls and Weinberger.
Wordcloud created from Searls and Weinberger’s (2015) New Clues (CC0 license).

When I first think of hyperlinking, I think of the Internet. The Internet, as Searls and Weinberger (2015) wrote “is an impossibly large, semi-persistent realm of items discoverable in their dense interconnections” and “every thing and every connection on the Web was created by some one of us expressing an interest and an assumption about how those small pieces go together” (The web is a wide world). This is the power of hyperlinking. On the Internet, hyperlinking forges connections between subjects, thoughts, ideas, and people that might otherwise never have been connected. It creates communities, shows people how to navigate the rough terrain of learning something new, of grief, of disasters. It helps people find common ground, find common interests, learn something new, go down rabbit holes and explore. This is the type of hyperlinking the library should want to do. Not necessarily only on the Internet, but within their own communities and with their own users and potential users.

TED Talk: How libraries change lives about the significance of the library as a multifaceted community builder by Ciara Eastell.

The library as a hyperlinked world can be practiced on the Internet, as suggested by Searls and Weinberger (2015), but the power lies in hyperlinking as a concept as opposed to hyperlinking as a medium. The library can link between library departments, between city and state departments, with other businesses, and with community leaders. Most importantly, through these channels, libraries can connect people with: the library, programs, information, and with other people. The important aspect is the connection. A library should look more like a network (of hyperlinks!) than like a pyramid (Stephens, 2019). As Shirky (2010) in Cognitive Surplus posited, we are moving into a future of collective intelligence and creation. The library can facilitate that future. It can be a hub of creation, exploration, and connection.

References

Searls, D. & Weinberger, D. (2015, January 8). New clues. [Webpage] Retrieved from http://blog.9while9.com/manifesto-anthology/2015newclues.html

Shirky, C. (2010). Cognitive surplus: creativity and generosity in a connected age. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Stephens, M. (2019). The hyperlinked library: Exploring the model. [Video lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e

TEDx Talks. (2019, June 13). How libraries change lives| Ciara Eastell | TEDxExeter. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tvt-lHZBUwU

Hello, Classmates!

What’s up, party people? My name is Britt and this is my second to last semester at the iSchool. After this semester, I just have 289 and I’ll be graduating in May, as long as everything goes to plan! (Ahhhh so excited!) I have an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and a paralegal certificate. I worked as a paralegal at a Public Defender’s office for a while, where I met some of the most amazing and caring people and learned a lot about some of the more underserved and marginalized populations of my community. It was an amazing opportunity and has really shifted my views and focus in life. I am looking forward to using my experience understanding and helping others as I move forward in my career.

Here at the iSchool, I have moved in a more technology focused direction and hope to work in data librarianship. I’ve not only been taking the classes through the school, but have been complementing my skill set by learning coding and data analysis through online classes and tutorials that I found for free. Isn’t the Internet a beautiful thing? Open source, crowd source, free tutorials, people who want to teach others for free and others who compile lists of free resources have helped me so much over the years. It honestly warms my heart to know there are so many amazing people out there sharing information for good (and helps me shift my focus away from the more shady areas of the Internet). If you are ever curious, I have compiled some of the resources I’ve personally used most often on my e-resume website under Resources.

On a more personal note, I have recently moved from sunny California to Pennsylvania and am feeling a bit ambivalent about the upcoming winter. I have never lived anywhere it snows in the wintertime (hello, two seasons of Cali’s central valley: “kinda cold but a hoodie should do” and “I guess I live in an oven now”). It’s exciting, but I have hardly any idea what to expect and am a little scared I might end up like Jack Nicholson at the end of The Shining. In any case, I’ll continue hoping I don’t freeze to death before graduation and invest in some very warm socks and lots and lots of layers.

In my free time, I do enjoy learning about almost anything. I often find myself spending hours and hours down online rabbit holes. I love to read historical fiction, fantasy, and sci-fi mostly. I also wholeheartedly enjoy playing video games and meeting new people online (but also meeting new people offline), playing tabletop board games with friends, painting (canvas, minis, and hoping to get in to digital), yoga, and chilling with my two rescue animals, Buddy the dog and Mister the cat.

A photo of a brown dog named Buddy.A black cat with yellow eyes named Mister.

Lastly, I want to say I really look forward to working with you all in this class and I am so stoked to be learning about hyperlinked libraries and all about new technologies and ways to apply them. I hope you all had a wonderful summer and continue to have a super rad fall. Cheers!