Karah's #hyperlinkedlibrary Blog

Reflective Practice

Posted in Uncategorized by on May 13, 2019
Image by Capri23auto from Pixabay

After more than a decade in the classroom, I realized I did not want to be there anymore, but I knew I did not want to leave education. I loved the kids, but I was drowning. Deciding to pursue my MLIS and become a school librarian has been incredibly rewarding. I can do fewer things, better. I have time to concieve projects and execute them, then go back, tweak and make them even better.

I come away from this class with detailed plans in place to tackle projects that were just ideas last fall. I feel invigorated as I am reminded of the amazing learning environments that exist around this occupation, and so excited for all the possibilities for professional growth and creativity.

Virtual Symposium

Posted in Uncategorized by on May 12, 2019
I have highlighted the key takeaways from the course in these slides; they feature the best of my thinking over the course of the semester.

Never has the phrase “not enough hours in the day” felt more true than during the time I spent working in The Hyperlinked Library. I truly wish I could have spent many more hours digging into the excellent content supplied by @michael and my peers. Thank you all for easily the best class I have taken in my many great classes here at SJSU. Can we please keep in touch in our personal learning environments?

Director’s Brief: Starting a School Library Makerspace

Posted in Uncategorized by on April 30, 2019

My brief outlines a plan to create a makerspace in the Bloomfield High School Library based upon the school’s mission and existing curricular goals and includes the philosophy, definitions, rationale, and resources associated with the project. I do not take credit for this image; I was unable to find its creator.

If you are in the business of education, the likelihood you’ve seen Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED talk, “Do Schools Kill Creativity” at least once is very good.  In the talk, Robinson, a leader in global projects on creative and cultural education, makes the case that schools can and should nurture creativity rather than undermine it.  The talk has been viewed over 17 million times and is the most viewed TED talk ever. Robinson (2019) says of his work:

Human resources are like the earth’s natural resources. They are highly diverse and often buried deep beneath the surface. They need to be discovered, refined and applied. Education often promotes a narrow view of ability, as do many corporate organizations. As a result, many people are unaware of the variety of their talents and depth of their potential.  

In the years since the talk was given, sadly, not much has changed in education.  But libraries, facing a sort of existential crisis at about the same time Robinson’s talk was gaining attention, have seized an opportunity to grapple with this question.  They have analyzed their programming and services, and embraced a way to offer users an opportunity to find and use knowledge in new, creative, and meaningful ways in the form of the makerspace.

You can read my whole brief on starting a school library makerspace here:

“Encouraging Learning Everywhere”

Posted in Uncategorized by on April 23, 2019

I’ve done a lot of work I’m proud of since taking the position in my school library, like weeding the dated and dusty reference collection (replacing much of it with an eBook collection and moving the rest to nonfiction) and using the space to create New Arrivals shelving, which we previously did not have (new arrivals would sit on a prominently displayed cart for a while and then be put into general circulation). While this is good, necessary work, I’ve struggled much more with outreach and advocacy that encourages and supports “learning everywhere”.

The title of this post comes from what Michael says is what he thinks of as the most important work of the information professional at this time, and it is a concept that resonates deeply for me both as an educator and as someone who is passionate about learning herself.

As I read about the public librarian Leah Hamilton in Voices from the Hall, a publication that features innovative service in local government, I was thinking a lot about my own experience offering services in the school library.  Creating programming and experiences that are meaningful and useful to my community is perhaps my most important goal. I am constantly looking for ways in which to leverage connections to grow our reach and meet the needs of our users.  But networking and advocacy does not come naturally to me. I’ve done some necessary and deeply satisfying work sprucing up the library to make it more attractive, but, as Hamilton says in the piece, “‘Paint can cover up flaws within a building, but it can’t fix broken relationships.’”  I need to convince stakeholders of the library’s capacity to transform learning, and to do that I need to rebuild perceptions of the space; this can not be done alone. People are at the heart of good librarianship.

Reading about librarians like Hamilton inspires me because her work models what I can and should do for the users:  Get out there and make connections with the needs of my students as my guide.  “In 2018 alone, she’s leveraged over 100 partnerships with public, private, and non-profit sector agencies to acquire funding, equipment, and expertise to provide hands-on educational opportunities.”  I can’t get mired in worry about stepping on toes or being aggressive. What do my students and teachers need to be successful in their learning? What are the best ways of providing for those needs? I draw heavily on my 14 years in the classroom to answer that question, but maintaining existing relationships and continuing to forge new ones with my community is the key to getting the job done.

Interpret the library world in whatever way makes the most sense for the situation your community is in.  Libraries have much more freedom to leverage creative approaches than [classrooms]. You can create the solution that meets the need that you’re facing.

I often say that the difference between being in the classroom and being in the school library is that in the school library, I get to do fewer things better.  Hamilton says, “‘Interpret the library world in whatever way makes the most sense for the situation your community is in. Libraries have much more freedom to leverage creative approaches than school districts.  You can create the solution that meets the need that you’re facing.’” If I swap out “school districts” for “classrooms” in that quote, I’ve got an idea worth reminding myself daily as I do this joyful work.

“Harness the Good” or, I’m Scared, but Will Try to Keep an Open Mind

Posted in Uncategorized by on March 30, 2019
Lately, my four year old loves watching Circle Line Art School on YouTube and drawing houses with the tips he picks up.

In this week’s lecture, Michael concludes by saying, “ If we can harness the power for good of [mobile] to help people learn, I think it’s going to be pretty amazing.”  What does it mean for information services? For libraries?

The first thing that comes to mind, though, as I sit at my kitchen table watching this week’s lecture on Mobile Devices and Connections, is my own young children.  Since my first son was a toddler, I’ve been interested in finding the best games to load onto the iPad and my phone for him to engage with, and since then, I have had a lot of fun seeking out the good stuff that exists out there for little ones on screens.  There is a lot of unease surrounding children and screen time, but our philosophy has been “everything in moderation,” and that has worked out nicely for our family so far. Most recently, my seven year old has been playing with Google Earth daily on our mobile devices, and we have been listening to the Harry Potter series using Libby and Sora. My four year old is loving the YouTube channel Circle Line Art School, and has been drawing constantly and adding to his “gallery” on our front porch. All this to say, we use our mobile screens for good, I believe, for learning. It undoubtedly adds value to our daily lives.

But when it comes to AI, I am much less comfortable.  I think it is because I don’t really understand how or why it can be used for good or for learning.  I have a Google Pixel, but I literally only use the voice assistant to set timers. If I want to know how to bake boneless chicken thighs, I Google it myself because I want to scroll through the results, sifting and sorting the results based on my ever-changing criteria; for example, maybe I want to cook them a little differently than I did last week, or I want to retrieve the recipe from the page my friend sent me, or I want to avoid Alton Brown’s advice (I would never, I’m just using the first name that comes to mind here), or any number of other variables based on how I’m feeling on this particular weekday when I’m trying to make it to bedtime without ending up on the local news.   How could AI possibly work with all that? My kids have no interaction with AI in our home because my husband and I don’t use it.  I have a friend who has both an Alexa and an 18 month old in the house. My friend has never called Alexa by name, and instead set it to respond to “Computer” because she didn’t want her baby to confuse the computer for a person.

I think what concerns both of us as parents (and educators) is what Samantha Murphy points out in “Growing up with Alexa: A child’s relationship with Amazon’s voice assistant,” her September 2018 article for CNN Business, ”It raises profound questions about how children interact with technology, with other people, and how it might shape their interactions and development.”  The obvious task for libraries is to provide information, programming, and services that address these questions. How can libraries best harness the power of AI for learning? Is there AI that can provide greater discovery, access, and delivery of information?  Can we build AI into our makerspace programming?

What I’ve realized in thinking about mobile information environments is it is hard to view them with the eyes of a librarian and not those of a wary parent, educator, and patron.  This will be important to keep in mind in my work.

In other news…

On Friday, a colleague strongly recommended Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, and after hearing about it everywhere, I’ve decided to make it one of my few actual book purchases.  She and I got to talking, and I was telling her about Eric Klinenberg’s Palaces for the People, and then this morning I read this article in The New York Review of Books (thanks, Feedly!) about both books as well as the 2017 documentary Ex Libris, which I have not yet seen.  From the article:

Perhaps the most definitive rebuke to the idea of trading libraries for Amazon and coffee shops comes from a former Starbucks employee whom Klinenberg met at a branch of the New York Public Library, where he is now an “information specialist”: “At Starbucks, and at most businesses, really, the assumption is that you, the customer, are better for having this thing that you purchase. Right?” he said. “At the library, the assumption is you are better. You have it in you already…. The library assumes the best out of people.” What we learn from The Library Book, Ex Libris, and Palaces for the People is that we are all better off, too, when people assume the best out of libraries.

I love this piece (though I am confused about the use of quotes around “information specialist”), and am so looking forward to reading Orlean’s book and watching the documentary to bundle with my reading of Klinenberg’s book earlier this semster. I came away from that reading with a much clearer understanding of myself and my love of libraries; I am excited to build on that knowledge with these texts.

Emerging Technology Plan: Let’s Launch a School Library Instagram

Posted in Uncategorized by on March 24, 2019

Goals/Objectives for our Library Instagram


Students and the wider school community will be able to connect with the school library and engage in conversation, programming, and activities via Instagram (BHS Library).


Though engagement is the primary objective, there are worthwhile pedagogical goals embedded within the plan to use Instagram in the library. The World Economic Forum published a piece outlining “8 Digital Skills We Must Teach Our Children” in 2016. As both a teacher and a parent, this brief article resonated with me and should help guide the goals for this endeavor. Because the effort is collaborative with the librarian acting as coach, students will learn through modeling and practice about each of these skills in ways both explicit and implied. Evaluation of these goals will be included and discussed to establish the extent to which the library Instagram has contributed to the cultivation of these important skills.

The World Economic Forum provides useful articles, charts, and infographics to help stakeholders talk about digital skills. Students collaborating on the library Instagram will practice all of these skills, either explicitly or implicitly. Including skills in the project goals is important, especially for administrators who may be uncomfortable straying from traditional pedagogical practice.
Images retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/01/digital-danger-kids-protect-themselves-online/
and https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/09/8-digital-life-skills-all-children-need-and-a-plan-for-teaching-them/

Description of Community to Engage

Students at Bloomfield High School as well as the wider school community (faculty, staff, parents, families, administration, board members, local/regional/global school library communities).

Action Brief Statement

Convince students and the wider school community that by engaging with the school library on Instagram they will connect with and contribute to happenings at the library which will enrich their school library experience because libraries are for and about people.

Evidence and Resources to Support our Library Instagram

https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=the-hygge-state-of-mind-office-hours (the philosophy behind the decision to start an instagram)
https://aislnews.org/hygge-in-the-library/ (the philosophy behind the decision to start an instagram)

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy Related to our Library Instagram

First and foremost, the mission statement. The library mission will guide the Instagram project, and is adapted and inspired by the building mission:

The Bloomfield Public School district, a culturally diverse system, is committed through cooperative efforts within an educational community to provide an equal opportunity for all learners to achieve individual success and to be prepared to meet the needs of an evolving society.


The building mission paves the way for the library mission:

The library provides equal opportunity through cooperative community efforts to achieve success and prepare to meet the needs of an evolving society.

In short, we are people helping people be successful.

From the readings. What follows may ultimately be too much to include in this plan,but I think it is important to lay out guidelines to work from and help lead us in what is new, uncharted territory for our school library. Particularly, what guides us pedagogically and why? Why and how is a school library Instagram valuable? What does our mission look like in practice? I hope to gather answers and guidance to these questions here:

  • “We should be able to say, ‘We teach, we develop independent learning skills, we inspire, and so much more!’ If we can teach our students about these new things, but they enter a workplace culture that doesn’t support transformation, their skills will go to waste. Thus, librarians should seek to encourage and facilitate learning of all kinds within our spaces.” (Stephens, 2013)
    Turning again to the goals discussed above about eight digital skills, the model of the hyperlinked library speaks directly to the ideas outlined in the World Economic Forum article: “Above all, the acquisition of these abilities should be rooted in desirable human values such as respect, empathy and prudence. These values facilitate the wise and responsible use of technology – an attribute which will mark the future leaders of tomorrow. Indeed, cultivating digital intelligence grounded in human values is essential for our kids to become masters of technology instead of being mastered by it.” (Emphasis mine). When speaking about pedagogical value, these skills should serve to guide the conversation.
  • From Rhea Kelly’s 2016 piece, “9 Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2016,” four trends–Makerspaces, Accessibility, Mobile First, and Video–are viable in the school library and can be featured, promoted, and grown using Instagram. I included quotes from the article that resonated with me the most and speak most directly to the mission of the project:
    • On Makerspaces
      • “Makerspaces are great for building collaboration and a must for campuses. But, in reality they are an administrative change that results from the convergence and democratization of technology.”
      • “They model a peer-based pedagogy, which is one we’re grappling with as we head away from sage-on-the-stage. Our formal teaching can learn from this relatively informal practice.”
      • “Maker pedagogy also models blended learning, as practitioners rely on digital (often mobile) devices for information and for sharing results.”
      • “Artisans, welders, woodworkers, knitters, tinkerers of all sorts can contribute to the campus environment through a makerspace, improving town-gown relations. Faculty and staff can benefit from these connections as well.” I already have relationships with parents who contribute to the library through volunteering and donations; imagine the possibilities of offering community contributions to the library makerspace in this way! Our library Instagram can harness and grow this possibility.
    • On Accessibility
      • “The challenge in accessibility moving forward is vetting products as we move to a more open learning ecosystem. The questions become: Who’s responsible for accessibility? The vendor who creates the plug-in? An LMS certification process? What if the software is free in the first place? Does the school assume responsibility? As various technologies mature, they will be held to a higher standard of inclusion.” This article is speaking to higher ed, but I think the mere existence of a school library Instagram with shared content creation among students, teachers, and community members opens up the conversation around accessibility in ways that don’t currently exist for us in the school library. For example, we have two smaller, special needs schools that live within our larger high school ecosystem; how will they interact with our school library Instagram community? What do we need to make our library’s virtual as well as physical spaces accessible to all users? (Campus Technology published 8 Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2019 and included Accessibility again, noting: “As we engaged in compliance with accessibility standards at [our university], we broadened our thinking to include universal design for learning…. We are driven by our mission to seek student success in all activities for all of our students, being inclusive in all our endeavors.” (Italics are mine.)
    • On Mobile First
      • “Mobile devices will continue to impact teaching and learning in multiple ways. First, continued negotiation over the role of mobile devices in classrooms. [This is a daily conversation among my colleagues.] Second, growing use of mobile for off-campus work (home, community involvement, study abroad, research, etc.). Third, possible realization that underserved populations use mobile more than the typical college audience; we could see more mobile-first design to meet that group [My students often at least try to follow along on their phones when they have forgotten to charge or left their school-issued devices at home].”
      • “In focus groups we did with students in early 2015, we heard students ask us why our services aren’t mobile-friendly when everything else is.” Users expect everything to be mobile-friendly. I know I do.
    • On Video
      • “‘Video’ is a misnomer that reinforces traditional beliefs and misses the potential. Video in the classroom is still largely a one-way medium. The group with the knowledge (faculty, institution, etc.) makes a video (or worse yet, ‘captures’ a lecture) and then replays it online. But even at the highest Hollywood production quality, it’s still a ‘sage on the stage’ model. This is not where students are. Students have fluency in Vine, Periscope, Snapchat, etc., and are communicating with video and other forms of media at level far beyond the basic concept of video. It’s interactive. It’s engaging. It’s two-way. When they go into the classroom, whether in-person or online, it seems primitive. It’s like asking faculty to go back to typewriters and Wite-Out.” I worry a bit about pandering to students when we start talking about what we perceive as primitive to them; it is what seems to follow every time we in education try too hard to engage students in using technology. In cases like these, attempts to use video can end up alienating students instead of engaging them. But it is true that more and more, library users are engaged by and involved in content creation involving video; how can our school library Instagram feature, promote, and grow this bit of ed tech?

Funding Considerations for our Library Instagram

Initially, members of the Student Library Advisory will be asked to collaborate with the librarian on this project; interested students will need to contribute their time. As the community grows, we will be on the lookout for additional opportunities for collaboration which may result in in-kind contributions or pro-bono contracts. (I am thinking of community members offering programs and services in the library that can be featured, promoted, and grown using our school Instagram.)

BengalLibrary’s first post! Before going any further, I’ve decided to “Plan to Plan” a bit more and gather more information on posting guidelines , at the risk of “overthinking and dying.” (Stephens, 2008)

Action Steps & Timeline

The Instagram has been created and I have secured one Student Library Advisory student collaborator (yay, Josie!), but I need to write our bio this week. I would like to gather and post training materials over the next week, and begin posting daily, at least, in the next two weeks. Training materials should include content considerations (see “Asking the Right Questions: The User Experience”, collaborative inquiry projects, credit for reading “anything and everything” (Loertscher,2008)) I would like to bring in at least two more student collaborators and have them complete training in the next month to bring the team to a total of four, including me. From there, we will evaluate our reach and make a plan to grow our community. Whether or not students drop out, or otherwise do not contribute regularly, I will continue to look for contributors interested in regular participation. I would like to see increasing participation, collaboration, and engagement between now and June, with a plan in place to keep the profile active through the summer months when school is not in session.

Staffing Considerations

Initially, at least, I will use the existing Student Library Advisory to help build our Instagram. Hopefully, engagement will bring in additional students and community members interested in helping to run the project. Staffing considerations and opportunities for collaboration will be included in promotional efforts.


I will use our existing Student Library Advisory Google Classroom to gather training materials (guidelines on posting, captions, hashtags, filters, etc.) and bring in one or two SLA members to turnkey training to interested parties that come on board. The username and password can be shared with collaborators once they have completed training, perhaps demonstrating competency by posting 3-5 times with guidance from existing collaborators. Training can conducted in person during a student’s lunch, after school, and/or completely online with effective use of our SLA Google Classroom and selection of relevant materials.

I want to make note here of something Michael Stephens says in “Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World” because I often feel pulled between his step seven, “Overthink and Die!” and step eight, “Plan to Plan.” Essentially, always be gathering information, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward. When you have gathered enough information to launch the project, launch it. Then manage it by creating timelines and an audit process, and having “effective meetings with action items and follow up.” I shouldn’t be afraid to have meetings as long as they are focused always on planning:

Planning projects focuses creativity. Meandering meetings sap creativity.

(Stephens, 2008)

Have a plan, action items, and evaluation in place. Repeat.

Promotion & Marketing

  • Contests for best posts using our hashtag (#blfdbengals)
  • Be aware of the most popular school library related hashtags and use them to increase engagement.
  • Display on whiteboard projector in library and on screens around the school
  • BengalLibrary is the Instagram username and it is linked to a Twitter profile by the same name. Everything posted to Instagram will also post to the Twitter profile. Create a bio that includes links to all the content creators additional profiles (where appropriate) to increase marketing reach.

Evaluation of our Library Instagram

  • Track “likes” and followers gained; Track comments received; look for average number of comments per post to increase–this indicates a growing community and loyal following. Seek out this feedback, grow the community, and share this information regularly on the ‘gram.
  • Be direct–ask for feedback and share stories and anecdotes; make adjustments based on the feedback.
  • Meet with SGA (Student Government Association) and SLA (Student Library Advisory) to review usage and brainstorm new ideas. Post about this process.
  • Meet with teachers and admin to share and brainstorm. Make connections between school mission and core values and the library Instagram.
  • Instagram Stories are not as easily measurable, so don’t spend too much time on them for now. Focus on building a community first, but look to the future and plan to integrate stories more and more as we grow.


Casden, J., Nutt, M., Lown, C., & Davidson, B. (2013). My #HuntLibrary: Using
Instagram to crowdsource the story of a new library.
Kelly, R. (2019). 8 Ed Tech Trends to Watch in 2019
Kelly, R. (2016). 9 Ed Tech trends to Watch in 2016
Loertscher, D. (2008). Flip this library: School libraries need a revolution.
McDonnell, A. & Mollet, A. (2014). Five ways libraries are using Instagram to share collections and draw public interest.
Park, Y. (2016). 8 digital skills we must teach our children.
Schmidt, A. (2016). Asking the Right Questions.
Stephens, M. (2008). Taming technolust: Ten steps for planning in a 2.0 world.
Stephens, M. (2013). Holding us back. In The Heart of Librarianship, page 9.

Some takeaways from Hyperlinked Environments….

Posted in Uncategorized by on March 13, 2019
I bought Keva Planks for the school library in January, and I’ve been happy to see the students using them regularly.

I first perused the materials for the Hyperlinked School Library with a guiding question in mind:  How can I bring activities and programming to my school library that are useful and valuable to my users?  How do I bring in and promote content that is useful and valuable and builds upon our school’s shared vision?  It’s complicated because what might be valuable to the users may not hold value for the administration, which brings me to the reality of advocacy (the part of my librarianship I struggle with the most). And public education is not known for its clarity of vision. But I think the short answer, at least, is to adopt the building mission–the principal’s vision–and link my efforts to those values:

The Bloomfield Public School district, a culturally diverse system, is committed through cooperative efforts within an educational community to provide an equal opportunity for all learners to achieve individual success and to be prepared to meet the needs of an evolving society.”

I am fortunate because my principal is supportive and is interested in the idea of bringing a maker space to the library.  I have been intrigued but overwhelmed by this prospect, but I think it would be great because it would be useful and valuable as well as provide great opportunity for advocacy.  I post pictures and stories on social media to share what goes on in the library already; images from the makerspace would be great PR. In one of the module articles “The New Black & Veatch MakeSpace at the Johnson County Library”, two librarians who operate a makerspace at the Johnson County library in Kansas give their advice for getting started.  One librarian said he could boil it down to six steps:

1) Track need and interest from the community, 2) Find an internal champion, 3) Make a plan – use the data you collected to articulate your goals, 4) Get funding, 5) Buy Equipment/Software, 6) Launch limited activities and usage.”

I love a simple checklist, but his colleague said she didn’t get up and running the same way and offered this advice:

I tell librarians to start with small programs and get people excited. From excitement and interest, the patrons will lead the way on what kinds of things they’re interested in. It’s all downhill from there. If you are successful, funding will be easy to get and justify. No one cares what people say on paper. They care about how many people show up. Stop talking endlessly about how, and just start doing stuff.”

I make note of both pieces of advice and plan to revisit both as I work towards my own makerspace, but I am particularly struck by that last bit: “Stop talking endlessly about how, and just start doing stuff.”  It’s like she’s speaking directly to me–this is me.  I need to stop talking and thinking and researching and just do it.  I am proud of the use the Keva Planks I purchased are getting, and it makes me very optimistic about the use a makerspace would get, but I just need to take the leap.  I know I get bogged down with that original question about how to make it valuable… I worry it will not look “academic” enough or something.  

Some additional takeaways:  

  • I had the pleasure of taking a class with Dr. Loertscher last spring, and I am super excited to see his work on the LIIIITES Model on this website. There is a wealth of information on the school library here, and I’ve already explored a bit as I’ve been exploring building a website for my school library.  I found an excellent example in the Wilton High School Library Learning Commons and have bookmarked it to use as a guide.  
  • That same high school maintains a Digital Learning website I’d like to explore as well and possibly emulate; unfortunately, as it stands now, it would be miraculous if our school could agree upon and then consolidate resources in a similar way, but it’s worth looking into, at least.

I Want to Do This: Interactive Community Stories

Posted in Uncategorized by on February 24, 2019
The “Local Stories” video included in the Hyperlinked Communities module got me thinking about how great it would be to launch a project like that at my high school.

I am particularly interested in the ideas surrounding the embedded video included in the Hyperlinked Communities module.  After watching the video and doing a little searching for more information about the content, I got to thinking how cool it would be to do something like that as a kind of running installation in the school library with the goal of bringing our community together in new and exciting ways.  Kind of like a Storycorps or Humans of New York or Auckland Humanity Project for my high school.  I love this idea!  We could begin creating a living history of the people who come through our building with whom we spend a significant part of our lives.  I have a colleague who does a Storycorps project with her classes already; it’s possible we collaborate and start by expanding that existing project into something that could become more public and visible to the whole school.  From the Hyperlinked Communities Module notes:

“Peter Block writes in Community: The Structure of Belonging, ‘Communities are human systems given form by conversations that build relatedness.’ Building a relationship between the librarian and the user is a step toward establishing the bonds of community. That’s why we can’t just hide behind our reference desks or our virtual lecterns and hope that students or users listen but leave us alone. Active engagement begins here.”  

But I think this idea could not work without the “conversation” piece; in other words, it would have to be a give and take between students and teacher/librarian-as-coach, otherwise it’s just a few faculty members with an idea they hope students might like. Without the student involvement and, ideally, ownership, there would be no point I don’t think. There would be no engagement.

After reading Palaces for the People last week, I have been able to articulate in new ways my mission as a librarian, and I think I am getting closer to having a good “elevator pitch” about the importance of libraries:  Libraries are the measure of the health of a democracy. A strong community, to draw on Block’s quote, creates and maintains “conversations that build relatedness.” I think it is the librarian’s duty to create and maintain the “bonds of community.”  Providing space for community voices to be heard for no other reason than to tell their story–not to highlight an achievment or an award or some other competitive thing that school too often emphasizes–sends students the message that all voices matter, that all who enter BHS belong.  We have been moving towards that sentiment as a society for a while now. But we also know that kids can tell better than anyone the difference between a catchy slogan weilded out of convenience and an attempt to control, and a sincere attempt at improving their lives.

Some Miscellaneous Thoughts on Other Readings/Viewings from the Module

  • In other news, I think I’m learning how to make my blog more visually appealing!

“Palaces for the People” Review

Posted in Uncategorized by on February 19, 2019

In May of 2007, my parents and grandparents decided to combine households, and my soon-to-be husband and I decided to buy the house my grandparents would vacate.  We had saved for a honeymoon, but cancelled those plans in favor of a small down payment on the house. It was a great little place, a Levittown-like cape with a huge back yard and an inground pool.  The community was sought-after by people commuting to New York for work, as there was a direct train from our town into Manhattan, but being in northern Monmouth county, it still offered the quiet, tree-lined streets of the suburbs with close proximity to the beautiful Jersey Shore.  The house had been maintained well since it was built in 1962, and it would make a great forever home.

But in 2011, we had our first child, a boy, and another baby boy completed our family in 2014.  The next year, as the prospect of enrolling our oldest in the public schools loomed, we found ourselves having second thoughts about the town in which our sons would grow up.  Besides, a move would eliminate our dreaded commute, and offer us peace of mind knowing when our kids were in school, we would be just down the road, a phone call away if they were sick and needed us to pick them up.  Not having to rely on anyone else to help with our kids was a huge relief after years of dealing with unreliable child care greatly complicated by the fact that it was given for free by family. After a long search, we found our home, and the new place felt more like home to us than our old one ever did, despite the fact that we had been happy there.  

So what prompted a move from our home where we’d always assumed we’d stay and raise our family?  From the beginning, when we first moved to the town, we noticed there was not what we thought of as a sense of community.  There was a town center, but it was vintage, at best, and didn’t have the type of vibrancy that made us want to spend any time there.  Plenty of restaurants and businesses resided in nondescript strip malls laid out on main county roads separated by fast food chains. There were huge county parks, but you had to drive to get there, and the one neighborhood green space that had been planned with the prefab houses in the 60s had a crumbling playground that never seemed to attract children.  It was as if all the set pieces of a happy, suburban life had been dropped down in the middle of beautiful open land in rural New Jersey, but something about forming this community didn’t quite take. And when we had children, it really became clear to us: The town did not have what Eric Klinenberg calls strong “social infrastructure.”

I take all this time on my experience because for years I have tried to explain to friends and family why we would move from the suburbs by the shore back to the congestion of northern New Jersey with its high taxes and home prices, but I didn’t have language to describe why I never really felt at home in that setting.  In his 2018 book, Palaces for the People, Klinenberg has offered a way in which to understand both my unease in that community and my comfort in our new one.  He says, “…people with the same interest in social connection, community building, and civic participation have varying opportunities to achieve those things depending on the conditions in the places where they spend time.  The social and physical environment shapes our behaviour in ways we’ve failed to recognize; it helps make us who we are and determines how we live” (13). I think when I had children, it became clear to me that although I could not put my finger on what it was about that community that I did not like, I somehow knew living there would determine my family’s behavior and could possibly affect the lives of my children in ways I was not at all comfortable with.  I had assumed that when we had a family, we would be drawn into the community through them as we frequented local parks and took part in local activities, but I see now my husband and I did not share an “interest in social connection, community building, and civic participation,” with our neighbors, and that having children wasn’t going to change that lack of interest. It had always been there; having children just made it more obvious.

In any case, after adding quite a few titles from the original list provided to my TBR list, I settled on reading Palaces for the People because the subtitle–How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life–speaks not only to my professional passion of librarianship, but also to my experience as a citizen and member of a community.  Klinenberg’s thesis is that shared spaces play a vital role in our democracy, and the social infrastructure that support these spaces has the power to make society better.  Reading this book has helped me understand more fully my lifelong love of libraries; I am not just an avid reader and book lover, I see libraries as a physical manifestation of my core values and beliefs that learning and information is for everybody.  How beautiful is that!? Klinenberg says, “Why have so many public officials and civic leaders failed to recognize the value of libraries and their role in our social infrastructure? Perhaps it’s because the founding principle behind the library–that all people deserve free open access to our shared culture and heritage, which they can use to any end they see fit–is out of sync with the market logic that dominates our time….Their core mission is to help people elevate themselves and improve their situation” (37).  The author’s summary of the library’s founding principle and core mission speak directly to why I went into education in the first place. I believe public school is perhaps the only systemic institution that has the power to democratize, and I have always wanted to be a part of that work.

Libraries are not the only form of social infrastructure Klinenberg discusses, but he says they are “among the most critical forms of social infrastructure that we have” (32).  He also talks about religious centers like churches and synagogues, daycare facilities, parks, and bookstores as vital components of the social infrastructure, and says these “public places and institutions play a pivotal role in the daily lives of our neighborhoods and communities.  On good days they can determine how many opportunities we have for meaningful social interactions [the kind I was interested in securing for my family when we decided to move]. On bad days, especially during crises, they can mean the difference between life and death” (226). Klinenberg examines what happens to communities in the days, weeks, and months following disasters such as heat waves and hurricanes, and finds those with strong social infrastructure fare far better in the aftermath of a crisis despite demographics and geography.  

This book has allowed me to truly zero in on my mission as a librarian, provided me with language I did not previously have about librarianship and my role, and I am just beside myself knowing there is someone out there doing this kind of thinking about social infrastructure.  I feel hopeful in new ways after reading this book, and am so excited to talk about the ways in which it has grown my thinking on the value of libraries. I recommend that everyone read this book, but especially librarians. Klinenberg wrote an opinion piece last September on the subject, if you just want the broad strokes for now.  Great, great stuff.

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!
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