Participatory Libraries & Environments

September 23, 2019 § 3 Comments

This week, I have really engaged with the idea of participatory environments and on some the unique ways in which librarians can create experiences that are truly user centered. One article that really spoke out to me was written Kathleen Constanza on the San Francisco library and their dedicated teen area The Mix. The area came into existence with the help of the Board of Advising Youth(BAY), a group of teens that helped design the space and advocate for its funding. It was specifically designed for the teens by the teens. Once can even say a user experience designed by the user. This to me is what libraries should really be moving towards.

As I continued reading through some of these inspiring readings, I really began to reflect on some of the participatory websites I enjoy. Two things that came into mind was Reddit and Goodreads. Both places allow me to “geek” out and participate in participatory environments, such as pop culture fan bases on Reddit or the Goodreads awards, which I look forward to every year. Then I thought about how I participate with the my neighborhood library. Eventually, I came to realize that there is only one time that I fully participate with my library and that is the Summer Reading Program(SRP). Now I have been on both sides of of SRP, both as a public library employee and user, and I fully enjoy both sides of it. I love the moments of chaos as the library goes all hands on deck for SRP but I am not here to talk about my time as an employee. I want to talk about being a patron. As an adult user during SRP, I enjoy signing up and writing reviews on the books that I read. I enjoy it so much that I do not miss to review my summer books and I read other people’s reviews to get ideas on some titles to add on my to-read list. Mind you, I do not often write reviews, even on Goodreads, so this for me is an event. This is the only participatory online activity I do with the the library. As an active library user, this makes me realize I want more from my library.

If I could create some participatory activities, I would include elements from the participatory environment that I already enjoy. For instance, why is it that we do not have comment capabilities on library websites? Why can’t we review books on the library website? Why can’t we create annual book awards for our library (this could be online or in person)? As a user, I feel like this would be exciting and different. Yes, the library websites provides an abundance of information pertaining to its events, its databases, and the collections, but it doesn’t really ask the user to interact with it. If libraries can make these tweaks to their online environments, maybe some of our users will stay awhile and enjoy the virtual side of the library.

§ 3 Responses to Participatory Libraries & Environments

  • I totally agree about the features of Reddit and GoodReads. There are a few library sites out there that offer commenting and reviews. Here’s the new book from the My Favorite Murder podcasters at Ann Arbor District Library:

    A product called BiblioCommons is one solution for adding GoodReads style features:

  • Robert Leiva says:

    Hey Josie,

    The Mix is amazing! One of the libraries I work is San Francisco Public Library and I got to do a tour of the Mix a while back and I remember being really impressed when I heard that teens themselves were interviewed to help design the facility and that they got to participate in advocating for its funding. Upon my visit I was also taken aback how many teens were casually hanging out at The Mix. There were even teens making food in a communal kitchen. I really like how home-like vibe it had and that there were so many apparent opportunities for patrons to participate and collaborate.

    And regarding Bbliocommons, both public libraries I work at use Bibliocmmons and its great. In addition to serving as a user friendly platform library’s catlaog, patrons can do things like leave reviews, create and search reading lists, keep track of what they want to read, and other cool stuff!

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