Karah's #hyperlinkedlibrary Blog

Some Reflections on the Foundational Readings

Posted in Uncategorized by on February 11, 2019
I have been weeding vigorously since assuming the librarian position in my high school library. This image is from one of the books I weeded this week.

This post is over 800 words.  I know it’s okay, but I value what Dr. Stephens says in the explanation of the blogging bit of the course about, “Part of the challenge in blogging is packing meaning into a few short paragraphs.”  I plan to keep working towards that, but this foundational stuff just felt especially important to flesh out here. What follows are my thoughts as they relate to the foundational readings, my takeaways, and how I have been and plan to use these ideas in my work.

From Buckland (1992):  “Responsible selection of means depends of prior selection of ends.”  In other words, ask “What good does it do?” and, “What sort of good do we most want to achieve within available resources?”  This is the ends. Then ask, “How good is it [at meeting our end goal]?” (On goodness, Buckland says another type lies in the question, “How well is it done?” which has to do with effective management.)  It felt important to me to get a handle on this idea of ends and means, and so I made a list of the ends I am trying to achieve. (I was also thinking about Buckland’s use of “we” and “our” and the problem of isolation I face in my job as a school librarian where it’s just me.  I feel like there are a few allies I have that value and would be interested in working towards a shared vision, but no one that shares my exact position so that these individuals also have naturally competing agendas of their own. In my sixteen years of employment in public education, there have been many frustrations, but chief among them has had to do with what Buckland identifies as effective management and the question of how well are our ends being achieved.  I don’t believe that question is often asked, let alone answered and acted upon by most managers I’ve worked for. Surely it is a big endeavor, but one that has to be undertaken to maintain integrity, I think. But now I just feel hopelessly optimistic.) In my work in the library, I am trying to achieve:

  • A strong sense of community
  • A strong sense of ownership
  • A space that is welcoming to all, for all
  • A collection and services of the highest quality possible to convey the message that our students deserve the best

So how will I achieve these ends?  What are the best means available with which to achieve them?

According to Buckland, I need to ask:  What is the mission of the library? What is the role of the library?  What are the means for providing service? I have a vague sense of what I am trying to achieve as outlined above, but no clear mission that offers clear guidance.  (Something like, “Linking students to resources to enhance the lives of our diverse community,” which is taken from one of the example mission statements in Casey and Savastinuk (2007)).  

And Mathews (2017) reminds me in “Cultivating Complexity” of Ranganathan’s fifth law which states “The library is a growing organism.”  And so, what does the library want to become? What does it need right now? How might it grow in the future?

I think I’ve been moving towards a vision of a library by and for the students.  I think these questions and ideas can help me distill that vision into a mission statement that can guide me and be shared with stakeholders.  Casey and Savastinuk said the mission statement should answer the question: How does the library serve customers? The goal should be to keep current users and reach potential users by empowering them through participatory, user driven services.  This speaks to my vision of a library for and by the students. The authors go on to talk about ways in which to solicit information from both the user as well as the non-user, and I am thinking I could do quick surveys (with the help of my Student Library Advisory) in the cafeteria and in the library at lunchtime on a Chromebook using a Google Form to gather some preliminary data, starting with the simple Net Promoter Score to track “customer delight,” as discussed in Steve Denning’s “Do We Need Libraries?”  This article outlines “Five ‘Right’ Approaches For Libraries” that I can use as a guide to understanding and cultivating Ranganathan’s fifth law, the library as a growing organism.  

These ideas are super exciting, and definately aptly grouped together as “foundational.”  I feel like I’ve got a place from which to start understanding exactly the type of groundwork I’d like to lay down in my library.  

Some miscellaneous thoughts from Mathews (2012) “Facing the Future”:

  • I have been working on a newsletter that highlights the work being done in the library, resources, etc. and realizing I need to “Get it into others’ hands and see what happens.”  It is a “minimum viable product.” Rather than waiting until it is perfect (ha!), get feedback and build it into my next iteration. Scary. Necessary.  
  • Also from Mathews (2012):  If I were still in the classroom, what would I want my library to be doing for me and my students?  “Seize the White Space,” and ask, “What isn’t being done? What opportunities exist to help people in new ways?  How can I empower people by addressing unmet needs?” A travelling bookmobile comes to mind, but how else can I answer these questions?  
  • Partner with Cindy (my friend and crisis center coordinator) to brand the writing tutor volunteers as the “Writing Center”
  • I love this:  “Libraries need to be a cause, a purpose, and the reason you get out of bed and are excited to get to work.” Yes, yes, yes!  “Libraries are about people, not books or technology. It’s about the outcome for patrons interacting with everything we do and offer.”  Yes!

8 Responses

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  1. diana said, on February 11, 2019 at 4:32 pm

    @karah2019 I love the image you chose for this post, and I LOVE your newsletter! That is so, so cool. Thank you for sharing that with us. Do the kids at your school seem to like/use the library? Do they play with those fun blocks? I really hope so!

  2. Karah Iansito said, on February 11, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    Hi @diana, Thanks! I love libraries and all associated imagery like the one included here. Thanks for the positive feedback on the newsletter, too! My kids do like the library, and I am happy to say I’ve gotten a lot of anecdotal positive feedback on changes I’ve made in the last 18 months I’ve been in the job. I plan to gather data more formally to assess the extent to which the library is meeting user needs. The Keva planks are brand new, and have been well received. I’m thinking of ways in which to market them, though, so they are used with some regularity. As it is now, I’ve just been keeping them visible and available, which works.

  3. Michael Stephens said, on February 12, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    @karah2019 Your bulleted points resonate. The first list of goals is just so student-focused and that’s exactly the way it should be IMHO. The second list – with quotes – to me is the “we we do this” piece. Or “why YOU do this.” 🙂

  4. Lisa Semenza said, on February 12, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    Thanks for including the link to your newsletter. It is structured to be very eye catching. We keep thinking about sending out a newsletter to our patrons but I just need to get the oomph to get it set up and started. Maybe all this blogging will be the incentive I need.

    • Karah Iansito said, on February 13, 2019 at 6:45 pm

      Thanks for taking a look at it, @lisasemenza! I used free software from Smore that I think works well.

      • Lisa Semenza said, on February 13, 2019 at 9:18 pm

        I just did a quick look at the Smore site. I will check into it more and see if it will work for us.

  5. Angela Benford said, on February 14, 2019 at 11:10 pm

    @karah2019 I think your newsletter looks great! I am glad you just went with it. I also love that you suggested starting Goodreads, how I wish I had started earlier, and that it had been available 40 something years ago — I adore the stats at the end of the year 🙂

  6. Karah Iansito said, on February 19, 2019 at 10:16 am

    Hi @abenford! Sorry for the delayed response, I think I’m still getting the hang of the site! Thanks for taking a look. I appreciate the words of support!

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