Reflection: Infinite Learning

A meeting room in the Seattle Public Library.

This week I took a look at the Infinite Learning: Library as Classroom for my choice of topic, and I thought about how my own library is measuring up to the the goals of making the library a place to create, explore, and learn as a community. In “8 Awesome Ways Libraries Are Making Learning Fun”, and I thought of just how cool an idea that “Supper Club” was where parents eat a meal with a librarian and the group talks about safe apps and which are the best to help kids learn.

While my own library does create Storywalks in conjunction with the local parks and rec and other town officials, we don’t have something that really speaks to a section of the community like parents and app worries. It isn’t something I thought about, but using phones are a huge part of our daily lives, and to expect parents to navigate the world of children’s apps alongside the rest of the whole “being a parent” thing is a lot to ask in my opinion. The library has children’s librarians who know these things and I feel like courses (as in meals or otherwise) about this topic would be a huge boon to our community.

Something that I think our library does do very well is that it has an eye for opportunity. The reference librarians create technology courses focused on some of the things covered in this reading (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, etc.), but it is the more creative courses that really see the most amazing community moments of learning and opportunity that I personally observed.

This occurred in a recent course about cutting the cord to cable that I was co-teaching with another librarian, and we were both shocked when the people in the at-capacity meeting room took over the course towards the end during our question period and began talking to each other about their ad-hoc solutions for getting deals from cable companies. They spoke about what streaming services they found the most value in, and what kind of arrangements they had made which worked for them.

There was a huge amount of knowledge (local knowledge!) right in front of us, and this community had been brought together and found its members because the library just offering the course. People exchanged numbers and spoke for almost 15 minutes after the course ended with no prompting from the librarians, and several people told us how helpful the group session had been and asked if the library could teach the course again for the purpose of recreating that conversation period.

So what I took from this week’s reading was very much influenced by that experience. The library can absolutely act as a classroom, it can make partnerships with the community and focus on important things like technology and digital skills for all ages, but it should also remember that classrooms are places where students learn from each-other. This learning can create openings that the library can use to expand services, improve the classroom experience, and use the strength of its connection to the community to enhance the overall effect the library has for its patrons.

Reflection: New Horizons

Amazon Echo (2nd Gen)

After browsing through this week’s readings and videos, I thought about how I use virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home in my day-to-day life, and wanted to reflect on how it changed my information seeking habits.

While I don’t make use of it every day, I think I can attribute that to having to overcome a strong sense of what I can only describe as ‘horror’ at the potential violation of my privacy that these devices represented in my life.

But the fact of the matter is that when I do make use of Alexa I do it almost reflexively, it is so convenient and effortless to get small pieces of information like how long a certain dish might take to cook, or to add or take something away from a shopping list that I might otherwise forget as I’m rushing out the door. In two of the articles this week multitasking was a factor in why people made use of their virtual assistants, and I have to agree after thinking about it for myself, after some reflection I realized that I had set up the machine in the kitchen area because that was where I most often began multitasking (I don’t know if it’s the space itself in my home or the function, but I find myself starting tons of separate tasks in the kitchen that I can easily lose track of).

When I think about how routine it is to have this source of information at the ready, I have to think about how this influences libraries and library thinking. How can libraries meet and learn from something that benefits not only from a massive investment from a private company, but also the millions or hundreds of millions of datapoints that virtual assistants have access to when making a search or trying to interpret a command?

I think the strongest message I take from this convenience is that libraries should try and meet the responsiveness of these devices, to try and make library spaces places where if a need is expressed there is a clear and visible way to meet that information need or space need as quickly as possible. Utility is key to building sustained use, if Alexa shut down every time I asked it something I would never use it, and so libraries should try and build places and services that aren’t readily available online, and do so in a way that reinforces the place of the library in the community. Whether this takes the form of a physical space being available almost on demand or easily by appointment (conference rooms, study spaces, makerspaces, etc.) or a service (notaries, reference services, digital catalogs), I think that responsiveness to patron needs with tangible results is the lesson I took away from some of the week’s readings.

Planning: Open+ and the Pequot Library

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

Open+ is a service that allows libraries to permit controlled access to the library building during hours that are unstaffed, and also allows staff not present at the building to monitor and control this access. Remote access gives libraries the control over their space in a way that can be used very effectively to extend the amount of hours libraries can be open per day, and with my understanding of the service, incorporating this technology into the Pequot Library would help empower the commuter population to make further use of the library and engage with the services the library provides.

The overall goals of using open+ are to expand the hours in which the library is available for patron use, encourage patron use of library services, and increase the number of people using the library whose schedules make it difficult to make it to the library during regular hours. The library has many physical and hard services like wi-fi, printing, and faxing, along with a robust held book service that can be used by patrons without staff being present when combined with the self-checkout machines already present in the library. As a piece of the community’s social infrastructure (Peet, 2018) it is important that the resources that the library offers are available for as many hours as possible. Implementing Open+ into the library system will let patrons make use of these services before and after the general library hours have ended, and empowers patrons to make use of self-service technologies and to further embrace the library space as their own.  

Description of Community:

The commuter population of the Fairfield and Southport Village community over the age of 18 will benefit from the expanded hours of library operation provided by open+, as they work hours that are at odds with regular library hours.

Pequot Library (taken from https://www.pequotlibrary.org/ )

Commuters spend much of their time traveling into New York City or other major employment hubs on the weekdays, and are often unable to visit or make use of many library services as staffing, budgeting, and other logistical concerns have prevented the library from remaining open during hours these patrons are able to visit the library. These regular hours are from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM on Monday through Friday, which puts these services out of reach for this group. Patrons make use of other nearby local libraries for library services, as they are open until 9:00 PM on Monday through Thursday, which the Pequot cannot match at the current levels of staffing. Members of this group use the library infrequently during the week and often make most transactions during the weekend, which can be problematic if the information or another physical resource (such as a held book or needing to make a quick fax or copy) that they have been waiting for is not ready for them during this window of time. 

Action Brief Statement:

Convince library patrons, staff, and the community that by implementing open+ they will benefit from extended ‘hours of operation’ and be able to access the library and make use of many of the library’s non-staff driven services. This in turn will lead to more patron use of the library because expanded hours give people with inflexible schedules who might otherwise not use the library a chance to explore the resources we offer and creates the potential for them to make using the library part of their life.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Libraries Who’ve Used (Unstaffed or Limited Staff) Extended Open Hours or Open+

Sample Guidelines/Articles:

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

Library administration must be involved in establishing the mission and guidelines regarding the usage of the open+ system by patrons, but heads of major departments should also be consulted over concerns about misuse and potential shortfalls of allowing patron access to resources provided by their departments. While some sections of the library are already helpfully separated by keycard access and unavailable to most patrons such as the rare books collection and the sorting and materials room, some items may need to be relocated and guidelines for usage of the service can be adjusted accordingly. Any policies created for this service must also conform to the policies already in place at the Pequot Library.

The rare books section of the Pequot Library (already secured via keycard lock)

Guidelines for the service can be adjusted from the examples provided in the examples above, and will likely deal with ages, restrictions, expectations, troubleshooting, appropriate behavior, and what would constitute a revocation of access for permission to use the library during open hours.  

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

Funding for the original purchase of the technology would need to be sourced from either the community via a fundraising effort, or through negotiations with the town. The town has expressed concern about the library hours in the past, and this solution may be a way to help address local concerns enough to receive some measure of funding or support. Regardless, most of the funding would come from fundraising the library puts on by itself if no appropriate grant or other source is found.

A portion of what little of the proceeds are not needed for critical library operations from the extremely popular library book sale and are not already committed to other projects could be used to help pay for the installation and implementation fees, or put into a fund that will enable the library to be able to install the system as needed.

Staff time will absolutely be needed for determining policies, such as who is qualified to use the service, and for training and other considerations, but no additional staff would need to be hired for this technology to be implemented unless it is decided after beta testing and consultation with focus groups/patrons that a security guard is needed for the few extra hours the library is open each day. 

Action Steps & Timeline: 

Depending on the state of funding available for the project, a reasonable timeline for implementation can be expected to last around a year. Prototyping of the technology is not technically possible; however, there is the possibility of running a beta rollout and a limited access model once the technology is installed so that the community and staff members can adjust to the new capabilities and unforeseen limitation of the technology. Should the administration say no to the idea, expanding hours will require staff to be hired or given longer hours and funding would need to be allocated in order to make outreach to the commuter population during the week.

Several of these steps are heavily influences by other stages in the timeline, and careful consideration must be taken to ensure that if installation of the open+ system occurs that it is done correctly and with safeguards in place to catch problems before they occur.

Projected Timeline

  • Administration Consideration and Approval: (5-8 Weeks)
  • Funding Allocated/Raised: (Highly Variable, Potentially Months Depending on Sources and Timing)
  • Installation of the System: (2-3 Weeks, including testing and primary staff training)
  • General Staff Training (2-3 Weeks)
  • Focus Group Testing/” Beta” Testing: (3 Months)
  • Policy Tweaks/Adjustment (1-2 Weeks)
  • Marketing Campaign: (3 Weeks)
  • General Rollout: (2 Weeks)
  • Evaluation (Ongoing, Report after first month)

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

While the idea of extending hours using open+ is to do so without adding additional staff members, as stated previously if it is decided a security guard would be required for the space once everything is in place this could be arranged by extending the hours of a library monitor whose job description would solely be to ensure patron safety and not include any general library duties.

And while some staff members will be needed to control the functions of the open+ system remotely in case there was a problem or an announcement needed to be made, this is a momentary responsibility and should not take very long (and in fact could potentially be automated for most of the functions of the open+ system).  

Training for this Technology or Service:

People using the service must be given an initiation for how the system works and the rules for using and being allowed to keep using this special access to the library. Training for how staff can make use of the system and operate it is designed by company setting up the system, but administration would be responsible for designing the training for general staff in order to make them understand how to make space ready for use at the end of the day, including opening staff and maintenance workers who might not understand what their roles are.

Effective scheduling during staff training day (Columbus Day), and a quick refresher course before opening.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: (How can the new technology or service be promoted?  Brainstorm some ideas to promote within your organization. Brainstorm more ideas to promote outside your organization.)

Promotion of this service must be done very carefully, as the message a staff-less library experience could send to both patrons and library staff may be misconstrued very easily. The goal is expanded access to library resources, not the replacement of staff members and a fully robotic library. It makes use of the physical resources the library has, the barriers and partitioned spaces already in place, and simply allows everything in place to be used in a more effective way for limited hours.

Ads promoting the service can be run on local radio stations that commuters and other library patrons might listen to, along with articles in the library newsletter and email blasts to registered patrons. Additional promotion can take place online on the library website, at the library itself via posters, signage, and other print materials, news articles in local papers, and brief write-ups in local blogs. The focus should be on flexibility, patron empowerment, and the library responding to the needs of the community in creative and innovative ways. The library should indicate that this is a reflection of the trust and respect the library has for its patrons and community, and that this is the library expanding access to our popular collections and making new roads for communities the library hasn’t been able to fully serve (Open Library Model Lecture, Zullkey, C. 2019). Messaging could involve the idea of the library “always trying to make sure that its doors are open to you.”

Internally, promotion should be done via email, staff messages, and internal signage of areas and services usable for open+ hours. Staff should be made aware of the intentions behind the technology and the kind of uses the library hopes it will see once it is in place.

Evaluation:

The performance metrics that will be used to evaluate the success of this technology will be the amount of people registered to use the service, the actual number of people using the service as recorded by the system itself, results from patron surveys sent to both people registered for the service and patrons in general to see if they noticed any differences in the library environment, unsolicited patron and staff comments that may be made to staff or admin members, and a survey specifically for library staff.

It is important that a beta trial is run and that the patrons are consulted about this change to the library space. These stakeholders should be engaged and participate in this new solution to a problem that the library has faced (Mack, C., Stephens, M.) when it comes to community outreach and making sure services are available for the people who help contribute to the library’s success. It should be an open and transparent process that takes into account patron and staff concerns (Casey, 2011). If some service can be made available during open hours, then it should be considered if a need is expressed by a patron using the service. Staff concerns should also be helpful and considered when it comes to what areas should be secure during open hours.

If successful, the service could be used to slowly expand how long the library is open without staff, perhaps in 2-hour increments with trial periods to see how the changes have worked out. Overall, the story that evaluations should be uncovering is ideally that of flexible hours and flexible spaces to fit patron needs at a price the town and library can afford, of a library committed to finding solutions that help everyone on the community find time to make use of what the library provides.

References:

Mack, C. (2019, August 1). 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.

Peet, L. (2018, October 3). Eric Klinenberg: Libraries and Social Infrastructure. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=181003-Eric-Klinenberg-QA .

Stephens, M. (2012, May 30). Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World (Full Text). Retrieved from https://tametheweb.com/2012/05/30/taming-technolust-ten-steps-for-planning-in-a-2-0-world-full-text/.

Stephens, M. (2016, April 22). Revisiting Participatory Service in Trying Times – a TTW Guest Post by Michael Casey. Retrieved from https://tametheweb.com/2011/10/20/revisiting-participatory-service-in-trying-times-a-ttw-guest-post-by-michael-casey/.

Zullkey, C. (2019, September 16). Automatic for the People. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/09/03/automatic-people-self-service-libraries/

Hyperlinked Environments Reflection

This week I spent some time clicking through the Global Communities and Global Librarianship and reading many of the articles, reports, and resources in the list provided under the section. I quickly became fascinated with the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), specifically the Trends Report and the Ideas Store. The IFLA is an “international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users,” and their Trends Report identifies five trends shaping information society and is based on, “consultations with a range of experts and stakeholders.”

IFLA Logo taken from https://www.ifla.org/

I was very impressed with the presentation and layout of the trend report, which hit on issues I’ve learned about in this course and others I’ve taken (such as libraries being sure that there was a future without reasserting their purpose, the struggle with privacy concerns, and the ways libraries can leverage their connections and community networks to solve problems and identify opportunities).

In one of the sections of the report there is a wonderful explanation of libraries acting as community centers, support points, and cultivators of community growth straight out of the hyperlinked community lecture. The Idea Store was also something that gave me pause, as it is an attempt to crowd-source the creative problem solving solutions from professional librarians to create a, “…strong and united library field powering literate, informed and participative societies, further forward.” Anyone can add ideas, and some of these are also very similar to things I’ve seen on this course like the “23 Things” learning initiative (an idea was posted proposing a new 23 things about internet 2.0 along with an explanation), which helps me feel like I’m definitely learning things that are relevant to librarianship in this quickly changing time. While this course deals with some transformative ideas, when exploring the individual cases I sometimes forget to think about the huge, overarching problems facing librarianship and how to go about confronting all of them, and looking through these resources has definitely helped center my thinking again.

 

Context Book

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution is a book that argues that the rise of digital manufacturing constitutes what can be considered to be the third industrial revolution, and lays out the way that the digital age has allowed for this to take place and the possible benefits and challenges that such a momentous change in how products are created and distributed could bring to the modern economy. Anderson speaks about how it used to be much more difficult to be an entrepreneur, and notes that with the web any kid with a laptop and an idea can create what may one day be a world-changing company from the comfort of their own home, garage, or workshop (Anderson, 2014, p. 7). Communities of people who make use of digital manufacturing using tools like 3-D printers, laser cutters, and CAD programs such as Sketchup and Autodesk are called Makers, and these Makers make good use of the fact that these technologies and tools are readily available to purchase, and are able to engage in a community market that values and competes for innovation over cheap labor.

Librarians reading the book should automatically see the idea of a third industrial revolution and think to themselves, “Libraries need to be a part of that,” especially when they recognize that markets of innovation which Makers thrive in are prime opportunities for the library to become involved. Imagine if instead of saying “I started this business in my garage” that the next CEO of a major company’s success story started with, “It all began in the Makerspace at my local library.”  Innovation is a messy, sometimes expensive process, and there are always going to be people who are innovators at heart but who don’t have access to the means in which to express themselves and (crucially) be allowed opportunities to fail and learn from their failures without it breaking them financially. This is a role that libraries can readily take on, as it builds off the already existing idea of libraries as infrastructure. All libraries need to do is ensure that the informational and social infrastructures of the library align with the physical infrastructure that supports the Maker program (Mattern, & Shannon, 2014). Communities are eager to explore STEM courses and expand those offerings, and having the library more closely align itself with that trend is well within the overall mission of the library project.

How can libraries do this? Libraries can support their Maker communities by building Makerspaces, and by seeking feedback from the communities they serve. For example: What kind of courses can libraries teach that helps them become a part of this vital community resource? How about free lessons that teach interested people how to use 3-D CAD tools, printers, and laser cutters that the libraries provide access to when local schools are lagging behind and are only offering classes on Excel and PowerPoint (Anderson, 2014, p. 55)?  Asking the public for feedback and encouraging them to take a role in the purchasing decisions of these important physical pieces of technology invites them to be more active in shaping their library, and would benefit both the community at large and the Maker community of innovators, which is very much in line with the participatory library model. By fully committing to the participatory library model, libraries also can ensure that they are places that provide the insights and infrastructure that can empower people to create, share, curate, and reflect on their learning within the Maker communities that they are connecting with (Matthews, Metko, & Tomlin, 2018).

The last thing libraries want is to be left out in the cold if there is something potentially as revolutionary and earth-shaking as the digital manufacturing age dawning, and luckily many libraries have heard the call and responded to it with gusto. The LAPL reached out to its community and asked for guidance on what kind of Makerspace technology it thought was needed to ensure that the community could experiment and explore these new tools together, and libraries across the country have already installed Makerspaces and are offering courses for interested people all the time (Mack, 2013). As an equalizer and firm believer in the idea that knowledge and information are supposed to be for everyone, libraries should strive to understand the informational and material needs of the Maker community in order to support what Anderson argues will continue to be an incredibly disruptive and powerful technological movement.  

Works Cited:

Anderson, C. (2014). Makers. Random House USA.

Mack, C. (2013, July 2). 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

Mattern, & Shannon. (2014, June 1). Library as Infrastructure. Retrieved from https://placesjournal.org/article/library-as-infrastructure/

Matthews, B., Metko, S., & Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries

The Participatory Library Reflection

The article that really caused me to stop and think about how libraries work and what a truly participatory library model might look like was the “Automatic for the People” article that revolved around Open+ and the ‘open access’ library. When I think of a user-focused library, I honestly cannot think of something more user-accessible than a library that is there for you when you need it, regardless of if there is anyone currently working a shift.

This approach to library space as something that is mostly available to the community as needed is something that at first completely goes against almost every one of my instincts. The objections to this idea are immediate: patrons abusing their access, theft of library property, the homeless or other groups using the library as an overnight shelter. The benefits are also pretty evident: remote libraries for more rural areas become something available on lower budgets, people are able to make use of a community resource (even if it is in a diminished state regarding personnel to help them), and overall greater accessibility.

To go through with this kind of change, to really implement it into a library and take ownership of all the benefits and potential problems it might cause shows one of the most genuine acts of radical trust in library users and the community that I have ever seen. Community members are treated as trusted members of the library and are invited to take advantage of what the library has to offer with the express idea that they don’t need someone to mind them while they are doing it. Even with all the tinkering (and community feedback) that individual libraries would have to do to make this technology and model work for them, and with all the safety precautions, cameras, and remote control that Open+ gives the library, this kind of act is something which speaks to the powerful drive that librarians and those working in the library field feel to improve services and be there for the community they serve.

The Hyperlinked Library Reflection

I found myself incredibly drawn to two specific areas from the Hyperlinked Library Model module this week, which were the idea of the hyperlinked library itself and the notion of the library as a platform. It is hard to imagine a library as being “everywhere” and the people working within the library as able to offer a level of seamless service across all channels of interaction, but on further reflection that’s probably one of the only surefire ways that libraries can continue to be relevant in an increasingly connected world.

The level of connectivity found online and through popular search engines has to be transferable to the library project in some way, people within a library should be able to act like links to other guides, and be able to direct patrons to people who can fulfill their information need. And this kind of service should be available anywhere at any time, whether it be through digital books/resources or online chats with librarians.

The notion of the library as platform is, I think, the other crucial element to my conception of what future libraries will look like. Despite all the digital resources and functions our interconnected world offers, there are some things that have to be started in the physical world, and libraries can absolutely be a part of this! I learned this week that the Library of Alexandria was part of a larger institution which housed gardens, laboratories, dining halls, and living quarters for scholars. This was a real eye opener for me, as I’ve known that libraries should be a source of creative works, projects, and other efforts, but I had no idea that the legendary library had basically the whole enterprise at one point.

I can now more easily imagine in my mind how libraries with Makerspaces, audio recording studios, hackerspaces, and other innovative facilities can be the launching pad for projects that fit right into the most popular elements of online life and help create new, lasting connections to both the library as an institution and the people that these works have entertained, distracted, or influenced. If people can be links, as the readings suggested, with these kinds of tools and determined outreach from libraries, I can definitely see a path forward for libraries in a digital future.

An audio recording studio available at a public library.

An Introduction

I’m interested in the reference librarian aspect of the library science world, and am focusing on public libraries as I greatly enjoy that environment and workplace, and hope to get skills and understanding through this course that I can bring back to my own library.

I chose to take this course because over the course of my time in libraries I’ve seen so many new pieces of technology be introduced and change the workplace in ways I’d never really considered to be possible. I spend a lot of time at my job trying to teach people how to use technology that has been integrated into the library, such as e-books and e-readers. To do this I often find myself explaining why there are different platforms for digital books, why they can’t just download a book from the library without waiting for holds, and what kind of value all the investment my library has made into fostering digital spaces for the library community actually produces.

Having an understanding of technology and how it is used in library spaces is something that is very important to me from a professional prospective. I like knowing (or at least having an idea) what kind of technology is on the horizon for libraries and the real value that it brings to the library project. Being able to explain and articulate the trends, worth, and overall direction that the modern library is going in helps me know what to look into and research so that I am kept up-to-date on what might be coming to my workplace.

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