23 Things introduces learners to Web 2.0-based technologies through small, participatory modules. It has been successful and popular around the world since it was first introduced by Helena Blowers of Charlotte/Mecklenberg County Libraries in North Carolina in 2006. Her “23 Things” for information technology was based on Stephen Abram’s (2005) social networking site. Her program concentrated on hands-on discovery, play, and creating an atmosphere of learning (Blowers, 2008, p. 57). 


Sitting zazen. Cats do it naturally.

The hyperlinked library (HL) can be an elusive concept. It seems so inclusive and broad as to defy definition. All semester long I have had aha moments that I then lose grasp of—I guess that is learning. Getting to its core values helps me get a grip on it: holistic, connects and collaborates with learners, and responds in creative ways to community needs for knowledge, skills, enjoyment, and quality of life. Its overarching principles are radical trust (Scott, 2018), transparent processes (Casey & Stephens, 2007; Zeigler, 2006), and participatory culture (Jenkins, 2012).


We listen, we teach, we build.

Buckland anticipated the hyperlinked library (1997) and shows us that we can predict the future of the library to some extent. The following were predicted 50 years ahead of time by “practical idealists” in 1935: compact storage, ease of reproduction, remote access to full text, hypertext, equipment capable of sophisticated searching in complex indexing systems. “If form follows function, then concentration on the function should help us anticipate future forms” (p. 18). Conflicting interests among stakeholders are the constraint, not lack of prescience (p. 35). Constraints can lead to creative output if we take a constructivist attitude. He defines innovation as management of change (p. 61) and he found that management and planning are widely underestimated skills (p. 61).

Buckland noted that libraries were closed most of the time. This is still true to some extent. An acquaintance of his said there will be no library in the future, but Buckland predicted that there will always be library services and librarians (1997, pp. 50-51) whether there is a physical library or not. His definition of a library’s mission is not about the library itself: It is to support the purposes of the group to be served (p. 65). 

Mathews introduced us to design thinking: Holistic, connects with learners, collaborative, and leadership integrates the library into learning processes (Mathews, 2012, p. 9). Sounds similar to the goals of the hyperlinked library. He gave examples of companies that stretched their services and didn’t just try to sustain the status quo. Xerox moved from being a photo copy company to providing business support: human resources, IT, accounting, and data entry (Mathews, 2012, p. 10). Amazon, which could have been called “Books Online” when it started in 1994, now delivers my weekly groceries. Sustainability may be a constraint on a mission, but it cannot be the mission itself.   

Out-of-date library structures can hinder creativity, autonomy, engagement, sharing, and participation (Mathews, 2017, p. 13). No service remains effective forever. Constant change is not just for change sake, it’s about the changes necessary to improve service (Casey & Savastinak, 2007, pp. 67, 108).

A new model of the library is that libraries are idea stores (Stephens, 2020a), they are places that change people’s lives, they are a community resource like emergency responders, a “place” where people pursue happiness and success. As the Institute for Museum and Library Services says, it’s a cradle to grave service (Stephens, 2020b). It’s okay to learn along with our users: We can’t be experts in everything. It’s letting go of control and experimenting with trends.

We go find them where they are.

Grandparents’ Storytime at a senior center, sponsored by the Darien (CT) Library.

Library outreach now extends to daycare centers, senior homes, billiard halls, cafes, videogame stores, movie theatres, bookstores, community centers, and on. Libraries need to pay attention to where everyone’s attention is, and own its place in the information, learning, and entertainment ecosystem. It’s about engagement, not just information (Raine, 2016).

The hyperlinked library offers collections and access anywhere anytime. Information is now mobile, so libraries have to go mobile. One of the things that means is open all the time (Stephens, 2020c).

Libraries facilitate connection and learning, but reach beyond that to connect people around ideas and activities (Stephens, 2020d). Hyperlinked library leaders should be facile in innovation management and emotional intelligence. They build teams that experiment, and they allow that some experiments will not work out as a new service.  

Transparency in decision-making, motivations, and mission create trust and enlarge the community. This means staff and patrons need to be included in planning and decisions. Transparency is also recognizing that functions change and that we can reorder the library space, its open times, and what activities people are allowed or encouraged to do in the library (Vangelova, 2014).

Library spaces can model a culture of openness and acceptance of changes. I like glass walls and rooms in libraries (often created as sound barriers and private meeting spaces) because they show what everyone is doing, that we are all part of something big and important, something freeing, and we are all in it together. Former storage areas have been turned into active spaces for staff and patrons. There is more understanding of the need for library spaces that facilitate both staff and public communications.

We are learners, we are connectors, we open doors.

There are many layers to transparency. Honesty is the underlying principle in trust and loyalty (Schmidt, 2013) we want to generate and maintain in the library. But transparency alone may not be enough: We need assessment and social justice, too (Boyd, 2016).

Libraries are getting more into the business of education and helping to reframe it with programs for high school diplomas for insstance. New technologies like blockchain, DBDM (distributed database management), permissioned ledgers, and others, can be used by any organization to give learning credentials and nanodegrees (McArthur, 2018). Libraries are ideal for this activity, as librarians can provide context and vetting. This is a much less expensive way and verified way to deliver education, and it is on the horizon for libraries. It could disrupt the traditional organization of education at the same time being in line with library missions. This is a trend that may get speeded up because of the pandemic. Going to your local library for college—that’s accessibility.


Staff satisfaction = user satisfaction.

The library reflects the community, or should do so, and it also creates a new culture. One that embraces people, learning, ideas, and collaboration. It is all-encompassing and humane. Moore (2017) compares it with occupational therapy, which helps people with life meaning and purpose, personal needs, and obligations. Libraries also help people with their wants, needs, and the things they have to do. They strive to empower people and put choice in their lives. People who do both kinds of work need have interpersonal skills and an artistic approach (Moore, 2017). 

The hands-on creativity of the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1880s was a response to the Industrial Revolution. The movement developed visual, motor control, memory, and concentration (Moore, 2017). More than 100 years later, the Information Age spawned renewed interest in hands-on activities–at my library it’s quilting and other sewing skills, wood modeling, building computer devices, and tai chi. The hyperlinked library evolves with changing trends and social surprises. Learning and knowledge remain subjective and sometimes temporary (Raine, 2016). Now we are in the Attention Age (Ingle & Pewhairangi, 2014, p. 8), and patrons want to make their own choices of activities (some non-screen) because the world is constantly demanding their attention. The library is a good, safe, physical and virtual space to make those choices.   

Tai chi class with people who are homeless at Salt Lake City Library.

There are no more rules for what a library should be. Guidelines are better than rules anyway, according to Stephens (2016b): David West from Moreton Bay Region Libraries (Queensland, Australia) said that when boys were given encouragement to play the RuneScape videogame in the library, they “engaged in the life of the library.”

What are we looking for so that we can engender a library culture of spirit, kindness, and creativity? To build a library team, Felix (2015) says staff need to be treated as well as patrons. When improvements are made to user space, they should also be made to staff space. Staff satisfaction will translate to user satisfaction. When planning library space (physical and online), make arrivals feel welcome, have exhibits that draw in visitors, display patrons’ creative output, AND showcase staff expertise to the public.

Most people like plans and specified outcomes, rather than experimentation with unknowns (Swanson, 2012), but that is the way of death for libraries. While libraries do need clear messages, to be user-friendly, and a functionally accurate website, strategic planning can be mechanistic and not about making real change (Frierson, 2011). Planners need to look at people’s motivations and purposes in their lives to find out what they want in their library interactions.  

In making a library with spirit, there are challenges with people unwilling to change, with professional burnout and other unaddressed issues, and with perhaps outdated norms for staff behavior. What is needed is to invest in existing staff. Felix (2015) suggests the following:

1  Regular set times for staff to create, learn, play, have fun, and make exploratory investigations

2  Set limits. Do the best with what you’ve got. Be creative within the known limits.

3  Give purpose through customer focus, and looking at your library from an outsider’s perspective.

4  Set priorities and do one thing at a time, set an end date, and then evaluate. Do not let an activity ride an endless loop to a distant and future planned fruition.

5  Say yes to (at least some of) the output from staff creative brainstorming sessions. Otherwise, managers will lose trust.

To move the library’s image and self-image from fuddy-duddy to fun, use contemporary language and concepts. For instance, Gates’ successful “Geek the Library” community awareness campaign was managed by the OCLC (Godby, 2015, p. 12). Libraries can be local and global. Leverage what is unique about your community to give your library branding and its own identity. My local town was once known as the egg capital of the world, and the county (Sonoma) library has a wine history archive that goes back to the 1500s and artifacts related to the Peanuts cartoon because the author lived here and supported libraries. Historical photos that are be displayed as part of a larger story are more effective than single artifacts.  

“You can’t fail at library.”

(Stephens, 2017b)


We humbly offer gifts.

Interlibrary drone service at John Rylands Library Special Collections, The University of Manchester (UK) Library.

The HL uses tech to engage heart, mind, and soul. It can live on the edge between chaos and order. If we see any change as a threat, we will not get far nor survive. We can use a technology before we understand it, and we can wait to use a technology we understand until we see a clear use or interest for it. We can push the envelope, while still being realistic. In a 24/7 world of information, we offer and participate in makerspaces, meditation, movement, mindfulness, library gardening, and whatever people feel they need and want, some of which are antidotes. It doesn’t have to make sense for the strategic plan or to a particular manager. Some degree of freedom is important to keep the library moving.

If we look at devices in isolation, we are in danger of a mechanistic mindset (Mathews, 2017, p. 11). Whether the technology stays around for long or not, is it something people can learn from? MOOCs came and went, but large-scale open learning remains for hundreds of students at a time. Does it incite play? Interactions are the most important part of new technologies. Technology is just a tool, which should lead to new ideas, networking, insights, and even self-reflection and new definitions of self. Does a technology support perpetual learning?

We are not looking for perfect solutions, but workable solutions. “Efficiency, accountability, and optimization may actually hold us back when what we need is creativity, collaboration, irregularity, and variance” (McChrystal et al., 2015, p. 38). Here’s an old technology being newly used at a library—the drive-up window.

Drive-up window (on the right) at Northside Library in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Be part of the change.

Self-service libraries, for instance, are an addition not a threat (Zulkey, 2009): They add services, locations, and hours to patron usage of the library. Be part of the change: Don’t buck progress. As Brian Kenney says, “technology is not something we offer, it is something we do” (2014).

In order for information to fit on mobile devices, it is pre-digested (Ballance, 2013) for “micro-learning.” This is an activity well-suited to librarians. On the other hand, there is still a place for stewardship of content and it shouldn’t be sacrificed for devices (Stephens, 2016a, p. 99). Librarians can parse these issues.

Like Open Science, which publishes the results of experiments that failed – the results didn’t support the original hypothesis – we can openheartedly embrace new things and see if they work in our community. Null effects still advance science, and failed library programs may point us in new directions. We don’t know what technology will be useful or for what purposes, but we need to forge ahead anyway. People use things for unintended purposes, and we should allow for that. There is an opportunity cost from waiting to implement a technology until it is perfect (and not serving your community in the meantime). Today at work, an article crossed my desk that uses immersive virtual reality to test for telepathy in humans.

All that said, I am not sure how I feel about beacon technology (Weinberger, 2014). This is where you walk into a library and they beam you (presumably a laser finds your library card on your person and reads its history), and then they tell you about programs and content you might be interested in – “without it being too much in your face.” But that would be in my face, as I go to the library for peace and to think. The technology advertises itself as a “virtual tap on the shoulder” – still not appealing to me. Of course, it can be optional app on your phone, so that could work. And virtual reality will eventually tell us what is new in each book section as we walk past it (that’s cool, and hopefully we can turn it off, too). Just another example of how we give up privacy for convenience. As long as it’s voluntary . . .  


The library is a place of retreat.

(Stephens, 2017b)

Take a breath. Take care of yourself.  Take care of our users. What are our foundational values? Take time to plan and look at what’s on the horizon.  

We want to engender open-mindedness, responsibility, wholeheartedness and banish our reactivity, which we can do through meditation and taking care of ourselves (Morelock, 2020). We don’t want to get burned out or bitter. We need to stay balanced for good decision-making, mindfulness and awareness, and to put forward our best in all our professional We make an emotional investment to help other people be their best, and we must be at our best.  

The future of the library starts with us. Our attitudes and skills of curiosity creativity, compassion, and confidence. Librarians can support each others’ learning and teaching network (Stephens, 2020d). Professional development includes a constructivist point of view, starting with constructing and overhauling your personal learning network. The wisdom of the crowd helps to build a librarian (Stephens, 2017c).

How not to be a zombie (Winner, 2014).

According to an Ithaka S+R study, the future of librarianship is in literacy, instructional design, faculty support in research and publishing, digital preservation and archiving, web services and IT, and subject specialization (Wolff-Eisenberg, 2017). When librarians were asked in the study what a potentially increased budget would go toward, they responded: new employees, redefined positions, facilities improvements; and NOT tools, resources, journals (and some would be discontinued), books, digital presence, general collections (reduced, not added to), special collections (¼ were already reducing).

In another study, when asked what they needed for professional development, librarians responded: face-to-face time in workshops and discussions, more affordable conferences, and engagement in brainstorming, sharing activities and being challenged (Stephens, 2018a).

We can increase our creativity (Staley, 2020) no matter where we start from. Our confidence is just as important as competency skills (Stephens, 2018b). More important than knowledge, skills, or physical resources, are values, beliefs, relationships, and emotional resources (Stephens, 2019). While part of a team, we need to be context-sensitive, but also allow ourselves to evolve individually.  

People are naturally strong in either tenacity or emotional intelligence, but not both (Searcy, 2018, pp. 12-13). Lead from your strength, but work on the other one. I see why I like managing, because I am tenacious and a completer/finisher. I have learned a lot in this course about how to develop other skills, my emotional intelligence, such as active listening, encouraging and taking care of others, balancing attention and emotional expression, and being humble and kind.  

Throughout this course, we have seen many librarians making the most of the library where they work, with inventive programs such as a group of seniors and young immigrants teaching each other English, and device skills and online searching, respectively. This is what Library 2.0 is, being innovative with the resources you have, drawing an honest picture of your situation, and being user-centered (Casey & Savastinak, 2007).

Believe in the community. Believe in the library.

There are so many lessons from The Heart of Librarianship (Stephens, 2016a). Here are two: Change from a focus on the past to one on the future (p. 12); and, Be humble, authentic, passionate, and share successes and failures (p. 33).  

Full-stack librarians (Stephens, 2015, 2017d) have compassion, are team players, thrive on change, connect, discover, keep learning, have a busy PLN, AND are active learners and listeners. They embrace as much chaos as they can, provide a safe haven, and welcome everyone (Stephens, 2017a). Don’t fight growth or “rebuke learning” (Stephens, 2016a, p. 36). If we continue to learn and grow in our profession along with the evolution of the culture, we can feel secure that we are making a contribution.

Here is a public library collaborating with scientists in outer space:

Traverse Area District Library is partnering with the International Space Station (and other libraries) on a microgravity experiment. Students use the library’s mini ExoLab to grow black-eyed peas in a soil substitute in micro-gravity, and comparisons are made with the same experiment at the space station (Kanerva & Emery, 2020).


Ballance, C. (2013, August). Mobilizing knowledge to create convenient learning moments. Learn Magazine.

Boyd, P. (2016, January 25). What world are we building? Data & Society.

Buckland, M. (1997). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. American Library Association.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinak, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0. Information Today.

Casey, M., & Stephens, M. (2007, May 1). Turning “no” into “yes.” Tame the Web [blog]. Library Journal.

Felix, E. (2015, Spring). Rethink the staff workplace. Brightspot [blog]. Library by Design.

Frierson, E. (2011). Leading with heart. In the Library with the Lead Pipe [blog].

Godby, J. (2015). Is your library a “thing”? In “The Internet of things: 50 billion connected devices and objects by the year 2020. NextSpace, 24, p. 12. OCLC.

Ingle, M., & Pewhairangi, S. (2014, May). A beautiful obsession. Weve. Heroes Mingle.


Jenkins, H. (2012). Connected learning: Reimagining the experience of education in the information age. Confessions of an ACA-fan [blog].


Kanerva, C., & Emery, C. (2020, March 5). Traverse Area District Library partners with International Space Station for out of this world experiment. https://www.9and10news.com/2020/03/05/traverse-area-district-library-partners-with-international-space-station-for-out-of-this-world-experiment/

Kenney, B. (2014). The user (still) is not broken.

Matthews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism. http://www.brainmatthews.com

Matthews, B. (2017). Cultivating complexity: How I stopped driving the innovation train and started planting seeds in the community garden. https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/78886

McArthur, D. (2018, May 21). Will blockchains revolutionize education? Educause Review.

McChrystal, S. A., Collins, T., Silverman, P., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of teams: New rules of engagement for a complex world. Portfolio Penguin.

Moore, L. (2017). The gentle art of world domination: Art, occupational therapy, and libraries. Library as Incubator Project.

Morelock, J. (2020). Mindfulness in the public library: A secular Buddhist approach. Right Now It’s Like This . Library 2.0 [YouTube channel].

Raine, L. (2016). Puzzles librarians need to solve. Pew Research Center.

Schmidt, A. (2013, November 1). Earning trust [User Experience column]. Library Journal

Scott, K. (2018). Radical candor: How to be a great boss without losing your humanity. Pan McMillan. 

Searcy, C. W. (2018). Project management in libraries. ALA Editions.

Staley, C. (2016). Can you teach creativity? [Video]. DailyMotion.com

Stephens, M. C. (2007). Foreword. In M. E. Casey & L. C. Savastinak, Library 2.0. Information Today.

Stephens, M. (2015). Stacking the deck. [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.

Stephens, M. (2016a). The heart of librarianship. ALA Editions.

Stephens, M. (2016b, February 23). Open conversation: About trust. Tame the Web [blog]

Stephens, M. (2017a, March 22). Chaos and caring. [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.

Stephens, M. (2017b, August 24). What’s next [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal. 

Stephens, M. (2017c, September 20).  [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal. 

Stephens, M. (2017d, October 21). The right question [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.

Stephens, M. (2018a). Personal, actionable, accessible [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.

Stephens, M. (2018b, August 7). Librarian superpowers activate! [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.

Stephens, M. (2019). Wholehearted librarianship. ALA Editions.

Stephens, M. (2020a). New models . Module 8 lecture for INFO 287.

Stephens, M. (2020b). New horizons . Module 9 lecture for INFO 287.

Stephens, M. (2020c). . Mobile devices and connections. Module 10 lecture for INFO 287.

Stephens, M. (2020d). Infinite learning. Learning everywhere . INFO 287 Module 11 lecture.

Swanson, T. (2012, December 11). Your library does not need a social media plan. Tame the Web [blog of Michael Stephens].

Vangelova, L. (2014, June 18). What does the next generation library look like? KQED.

Weinberger, D. (2014, September 22). Let the future go. The Digital Shift [blog]. School Library Journal.

Winner, M. (2014, July 10). Fight the zombie librarians. The Digital Shift [blog]. School Library Journal.

Wolff-Eisenberg, C. (2017, April 3). U.S. Library Survey 2016. Ithaka S+R. https://doi.org/10.18665/sr.303066

Ziegler, T. (2006, December 13). Chris Anderson calls for “radical transparency” in media. Brick Factory [blog].

Zulkey, C. (2019, Sept. 3). Automatic for the people: Are self-service libraries a threat to the profession or an opportunity to better serve patrons? American Libraries.

Two of the three Infinite Learning course modules spoke to me equally: Learning Everywhere and Personal Learning Experiences. The overall ideas that appealed to me personally and professionally were: 1) serving local needs and purposes, 2) creatively using technology, 3) self-learning, 4) play as the best learning vehicle.

The hyperlinked library works best when patrons are already able to use new technologies or have a librarian to teach them how. If hyperlinks are people, too, then it’s exciting times for librarians to involve themselves in access to and use of information, training in information evaluation, strategic planning, non-continuous rolling out of new tech In the library, and trend-spotting.  

Some of the hallmarks of the hyperlinked library are transparency and participation. And transparency can be any opening up of the library to its users’ needs and wishes, such as a post-it wall with notes about books patrons have read. Small projects that invite participation can “surprise and delight” patrons when they walk in the library (Greenwalt, 2013): “We can play this long game just as well as any other innovator out there.”


Remaking a High School Library

At the beginning of the course, Brian Mathews encouraged us to innovate by not following predictable strategic plans and by not being a “copy and paste profession.” Instead he recommended “delighting patrons, anticipating user needs, transforming how scholarship happens, and denting the universe” (Mathews, 2012, p. 9)

This is what chief librarian Joan Ackroyd did at The Learning Commons with a massive remake of the Monticello (VA) High School library. She turned storage spaces and library offices into music and tech studios and study rooms, moved books against walls and created open spaces, used glass walls to create some sound barriers while maintaining an open participatory environment where everyone can see what others are doing; allowed food and drink and phones; put librarians in the center of the library where they are be more accessible and helpful and inviting; and created comfortable reading areas and used moveable furniture (Vangelova, 2014). The space wasn’t refreshed, it was revitalized with new purposes, not just new stuff.

Monticello (VA) High School Library

It was an attitude change that made it all happen: Ackroyd and her staff turned a traditionally designed library space into one that was visually and functionally student-oriented. The goal was to boost engagement, and the library’s usage increased 1,000 per cent. The “new” library created a need for an attitude change on the part of students, too. It took more than a year for the new “freer” environment to settle down, with students eventually “socially learning” responsibility from each other (see video; ASBJ, 2012).

Micropublishing in the Library

I have been waiting for decades for someone to say this out loud:

“ . . . imagine a future where libraries gather, produce, and curate content in ways only beginning to be explored that bypass the traditional author-to-publisher-to library-to reader model we’ve worked with for decades” (Stephens, 2016, p. 56)

Desktop publishing has been around for 20 years and high-speed printers even longer, so micropublishing in the library was inevitable.

Sacramento Public Library’s I Street Press book titles

Librarians from Sacramento (CA) Public Library saw a book machine at an ALA conference. Then they purchased a machine through a grant and set up FlashBooks! Their original purpose was to save money on interlibrary loan and to speed up delivery (Koerber, 2012). While those goals were not realized, FlashBooks! offers a way for patron authors to self-publish their own books, and that has turned out to be the biggest benefit (unintended) of the program.

The Espresso Book Machine at the Brooklyn Public Library also is very popular. A 400-page paperback can be printed in five minutes. “The technology isn’t Maker in nature, but the personalization and democratization of the process are” (Koerber, 2012). Koerber quotes Chris Anderson from Wired (2010): “Transformative change happens when industries democratize, when they’re ripped from the sole domain of companies, governments, and other institutions and handed over to regular folks.” The Economist also wrote a special report (2012) about a Third Industrial Revolution, toward hands-on creation, customization, and the ability to easily manufacture just one of something.

Brooklyn Public Library’s Espresso Book Machine. Photo credit: Philip Greenberg

The Robots Are Coming, The Robots Are Coming

I love the robot mascots some libraries have. Some of them are programmable by staff and patrons. Robot Norma in the video below led a meditation at a Next Library conference in her tinny, robot voice (Stephens, 2017) – it works for me. If she can connect people to themselves and to others, then she can be part of the Infinite Learning team.

Robot Norma leads a meditation at the Next Library Conference in 2017.


Back to Basics and Connected Learning

We learned in INFO 200 about basic life needs driving patrons’ information and library behavior: competency/mastery, autonomy/independence, connection/belonging. Those are needs libraries help to satisfy, with and without technology, for patrons and also for professionals.

When we address those needs for librarians in their learning, they can then be addressed for patrons.

As an old-fashioned example of basic connected and participatory learning: The Mechanics Institute Library in San Francisco has had a separate room for the Chess Club since 1854, and it is still very busy seven days a week.  

“What would it mean to think of education as a responsibility of a distributed network of people and institutions, including schools, libraries, museums and online communities?” (Jenkins, 2012).” He says “learning is most resilient when it is linked and reinforced across settings of home, school, peer culture and community.”

Henry Jenkins’ 2016 book (#3 in Connected Youth and Digital Futures series)

All the 23 Things programs (7 of them from our Infinite Learning readings) derive from the first one created by Helen Blowers in 2006, and have expanded to more than 500 individual programs in 17 countries. Blowers created 23 Things for her library staff of more than 500 people, when she realized she needed a learning program, not a training program (OCLC, 2017). 23 Things and other self-learning programs are successful because they are self-paced, there is evidence of a cumulative effect over time after participating, and there are outcomes of positive gains in knowledge, confidence, use of the tools in the library, and ongoing exploration after the program ends (Stephens & Cheetham, 2012, p. 61).

The Summer Sandbox program at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism presents new media literacie (USC, 2013). One science teacher who took the program decided to start teaching science through art (since art was no longer available at her school), through the use of animated cartoons and other art formats. Her first thought was to use art media as a fun teaching aide here and there, but then decided to revamp her whole science program using art as the starting point.

This USC development program asked the students (some teachers, some students) what skills they thought they needed, and as they went through the program they realized what was needed by working with each other. A long list was developed, including judgment, negotiation (the ability to navigate in varied groups and understand the norms), play (experimenting with your surroundings as a form of problem-solving), transmedia navigation, co-creation with others, etc. In doing this, they developed the curriculum together.

In addition to tech skills and competencies, the so-called soft skills (I like “human skills” better, or the old-fashioned term “people skills”) and competencies include: active listening, lifelong learning in the ability to see how change can address user needs, creativity and risk-taking, motivation toward equity and diversity, leading a team with transparency and trust, mentoring, and managers making opportunities and time for staff to explore. That is a lot of personal skills to develop, and we see them now more and more frequently in job descriptions for librarians. To retain their new skills, librarians must be able to use and practice them. A culture of experimentation is necessary to hone skills and to make the library relevant. All parties must be willing to redefine both the library and the librarian. Learning needs to be everywhere and all the time.


Play is learning, and learning can be play, so long as it is voluntary and involves some choice (Lawley, 2013). Lawley describes dandelion-pulling during her summers off from teaching. She said everyone in her life thought she was nuts, but for her it was sanity-making. After my first full-time semester in iSchool, I completed three picture puzzles over the holidays. I worked on them every day for weeks (I was still working as well). After feeling so challenged every day in school for four and a half months, I wanted a sense of total mastery – these pieces will fit together and make something whole and beautiful. It relaxed me and I could feel my brain going back to normal (maybe not completely).

What do my puzzle completions have to do with Infinite Learning? It’s about what works for you, how you learn best, what you need to balance out working, learning new things, and making sure somewhere in there are things that satisfy basic needs and also creativity needs – I chose a New Yorker magazine cover of a bustling winter scene in Central park with skaters; autumn trees; and a Frank Lloyd Wright abstract design with some gold foils. By the time spring semester started, I was excited about being challenged again and learning new things.

The 23 Things programs become play with the rewards, badges, milestones, and timelines that are built in to the process (game). This can be a very individual program with lots of autonomy and independence, but it can also become connected learning when a group at a library or group of libraries goes through it together roughly in the same timeframe (or a librarian facilitates it for patrons).

In playing and gaming, the pleasure “does not come from some extrinsic reward value” but from the “experience of competence” (Deterding, 2011). If it is not voluntary, it is not fun (Lawley, 2013). Personal learning experiences can be play and can be fun and they should be designed that way. One way is for participants to be involved in the design as much as possible.  

Learning through play is also about being a witness to the process, developing creative confidence, and reflecting and documenting the process, according to Lego conference facilitator Amos Blanton (2016). In the Lego Idea Studio, workshop participants are encouraged to reflect on the experience of learning through play and how it worked for them.

Floor plan of my local library in legos created by a patron.

“Taming the culture of perfect can be done with a different mindset, one that involves play and experience” (Casey & Stephens, 2007). Experimentation is part of the mindset of a successful library. Learning is the identity of a librarian, and if the library can be everywhere, then learning can be everywhere.


ASBJ. (2015, May 1). Making it real at Monticello High School. American School Board Journal. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilQwPzy6mos

Anderson, C. (2010, January). In the next Industrial Revolution, atoms are the new bits. Wired.

Blanton, A. (2016). What do we mean by learning through play? . Lego idea conference workshop.

Casey, M., & Stephens, M. (2007, May 1). Turning “no” into “yes.” Tame the Web [blog]. Library Journal.

Deterding, S. (2011). Gamification by design: Response to O’Reilly. http://gamification-research.org/2011/09/gamification-by-design-response-to-oreilly/

Economist. (2012, April 21). A third industrial revolution [special report]. The Economist. https://www.economist.com/special-report/2012/04/21/a-third-industrial-revolution

Greenwalt, R. T. (2013, February 21). Embracing the long game. Public Libraries Online.

Jenkins, H. (2012). Connected learning: Reimagining the experience of education in the information age. Confessions of an ACA-fan [blog]. http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2012/03/connected_learning_a_new_parad.html

Koerber, J. (2012, October 1). The makings of makerspaces, Part 2: Espress yourself. The Digital Shift [blog]. Library Journal. https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/infinite-learning-learning-everywhere/

Lawley, E. (2013, September 30). Gameful design for libraries [Powerpoint]. https://www.slideshare.net/mamamusings/gameful-design-for-libraries

Matthews, B. (2012). Think like a startup: A white paper to inspire library entrepreneurialism. http://www.brainmatthews.com

Next. (2017). The library as retreat space. Workshop at the Next Library Conference 2017, Aarhus, Denmark.

OCLC. (2017, March 13). 23 Things – 10 years later. Library Journal. https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=23-things-10-years-later

Stephens, M., & Cheetham, W. (2012). The impact and benefits of learning 2.0 programs in Australian public libraries. Evidence-Based Library & Information Practice, 7(1), 53-64.

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship. ALA Editions.

Stephens, M. (2017, August 24). What’s next [Office Hours blog]. Library Journal.  

USC. (2013). Create circulate connect collaborate. University of California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/ Vangelova, L. (2014, June 18). What does the next-generation


Pressure ridge and melt water at the Geographic North Pole.
Photo credit: Christopher Wood. Source: Shuttershock

There is a beauty in isolation (when it is temporary), giving time for reflection and connection with the rhythms of nature (which the Stoics recommend for a quality life). This week I edited an article about alignment of ancient sacred sites (to compass and other directions), and found out that there have been at least four North Poles over the last 100,000 years, some on different continents. This got me thinking about the librarian’s compass and how we use it to help our patrons and ourselves navigate the world of knowledge and the “incoming world” of new things.


Among the directional and grounding tools, librarians have their code of ethics and values, which includes privacy for example. In using artificial intelligence learning systems and other activities, librarians can choose to follow the Apple model (where data gathering and searching is local and private, with reduced data vulnerability) or a Facebook model which is nonlocal with no privacy (Griffey, 2019). Just because people are willing to trade privacy for convenience (Terdiman, 2018) doesn’t mean librarians can’t advise their patrons about the risks.


Librarians can bring context, meaning, and a way to think about what we know and what is happening to us and our environment. The content is not as important as what we think about it and how we use it. Context can be everything. On the other hand, the quality of the content is important and always has been to librarians, so there is a balance between delivering good quality content and being available to put it in a context. For example, the useful and ubiquitous technology Blockchain creates an unbreakable record that cannot be changed, engendering trustworthiness, and is used in education, medical records, smart contracts, etc. But that trustworthiness “should not be confused with the quality or value of the contents” (McArthur, 2018). For example, medical records in this format cannot be tampered with—however, over time biological beings change, and the record may need metadata to be useful such as a timestamp.


No one tool can do everything (yet). Some fancy new tools hardly get off the ground. GoogleGlass lasted barely two years. My hiking group was climbing a mountain when a stranger with a GoogleGlass joined our group. He was meeting his fiancé at the top, when he would propose and capture the moment. Our group of six hikers universally felt something wrong—it turned out that we were there for the big “moment,” and it did not go well. The “gear” interfered with good eye contact between the couple, and he ended up recording a refusal. This aesthetically pleasing wearable technology did not fit with the human need for intimacy for that occasion. As we evaluate new technologies for our patrons, we must ask: Does it solve a problem, improve a life, add convenience, is it human friendly? And when the answer is yes, we still need to be ready to let go when it no longer serves. 

We must also not fear new technology, not fear not having it, and not fear our own ignorance about it, but own it and move forward with constant learning (and thereby constant change). Learning is a librarian’s identity (Raine, 2016). Media hype things, including library media. But the truth is that much change is evolutionary and not revolutionary. Not all disruptions are catastrophic ones. I am saying this during the current pandemic, for which we cannot predict the final outcome. So far this year, more people have died of flu in the U.S. than have died of coronavirus worldwide. We need to be vigilant, but perhaps not panicky. Here is a great video from an ICU doctor at a COVID-only hospital talking about tools and safety (sorry it is 45 minutes long, so when you have time it could be informative and empowering).


I so appreciate Professor Stephens’ great attention to vocabulary in his writings and lectures (Stephens, 2019). In several of the recent readings he assigned to us, we are cautioned that the Internet of Things is not really about things, but about the platforms that support communication to and from things (Borowicz, 2014; OCLC, 2020). But “The Data of Things” just doesn’t have the ring to it that “The Internet of Things” has. Things are not smart—the platforms are.

While things aren’t smart, we do have “machine telepathy” in a way—defined as communication without wires over long distances. Machines do not have imagination and intuition. This is what librarians bring to the new technologies and what they want to engender in patrons. Again, how and why do we want to use new (and old) tools? There are no rules about that nor should there be. Just as Professor Stephens frequently advises allowing patrons to use libraries in ways that work for them, so too for technology. If we approach new technology not necessarily as something to be mastered—instead explored by librarian and patron–but as something that may help us master our lives, then libraries and their services can be truly functional.


What librarians bring is context to knowledge and information, and how to think about and use new things. Virtual reality and artificial intelligence provide potential new experiences but not how to incorporate them. Giving patrons the experience in a library or librarian setting (outdoors even).

One of things that improves lives is widespread infrastructure—indoor plumbing is my number one, electricity, highways, medical facilities, and of course the Internet. Libraries as part of the social infrastructure will probably last. “Libraries don’t need reinventing per se,” says librarian Matt Finch (Parashiv, 2017). He advocates a storytelling approach, discovering voice and place for your community, and what is unique and compelling about it.

My local library, built in 1985 and almost unchanged since then except for a well-used meeting room, has always looked a little sad to me (although the librarians make it vibrant). During the California wildfires last fall, library visits doubled—relocated residents spent their days in the library (and nights at shelters), kids were being homeschooled, government services were dispensed, etc. Now with the pandemic, the website has had a great facelift, offering 24/7 services and an upbeat, welcoming array of offerings online.   

I can’t wait to try some virtual reality and artificial intelligence devices—especially the ones with good instinctual interaction among hands-eyes-voice, such as the HoloLens 2AR headset. Librarians need to feel how it is to use some of these devices and see how useful and fun they can be. But information literacy is not just tech skills, it is also critical thinking and reflection, and “the more mindful use of technologies” (NMC, 2016). Librarians can only use technologies mindfully if they explore them personally and know their community. We need to be willing to do beta tests (Stephens, 2020), and not wait for universal adoptance.

We don’t need to do everything individually, but our team needs to get its feet wet in different areas. Shana Ratner in 1997 wrote in Emerging Issues in Learning Communities “Do what you do best and link to the rest” (Raine, 2016).

Librarians need only be curious, not experts, says Jann Holmquist (2020). He says use the right tool, which can be no tool, or not using a particular new tool in your library. We should be empowered by technology not intimidated. I admit I am moving along that spectrum throughout this course.

An important goal for information professionals, according to Michael Stephens, is “delivering easy-to-use, unique, and just-in-time services to the palm of a user’s hand” (Weinberger, 2012, p. 8). How do we know unless we try them out ourselves or a colleague does? Not only are more services delivered more frequently, but transparency becomes more attainable.    


If your library’s unique collection can engender global interest, great, share it. If not, and you are serving your community, that’s great, too. Decide for yourself what aids your library needs—it’s good to know what other libraries are doing, but you don’t have to follow them (Stephens, 2020; Holmquist, 2020). “Hyperlocal” (Stephens, 2020) is just as good, serving focused local communities in an intensive way.

Photo credit: Matt Finch

Once the community is known, through active listening, librarians can enable others to build the library of the future (Weinberger, 2014). Again, we are seeing libraries as infrastructure and as problem-solvers:

“Platforms, linked data, and a library graph all move libraries in the direction of becoming an essential part of the new networked infrastructures of knowledge and ideas, not by insisting on being the center of the universe, but by becoming a part of its fabric.”

Our True North is understanding and addressing true needs. Technologies assist librarians and help fulfill the five foundational concepts of networking knowledge outlined by Weinberger in Too Big to Know (Stephens, 2015, p. 4):

1.  open up access

2.  provide the hooks for intelligence [metadata]

3.  link everything

4.  leave no institutional knowledge behind

5.  teach everyone  

Librarians can do all these things, and when using the appropriate new and old tools they can do them with more beauty and ease and joy and success.


Borowicz, W. (2014, July 19). Why the Internet of Things narrative must change. TNW. thenextweb.com

Griffey, J. (2019, March 1). AI and machine learning. American Libraries

Holmquist, J. (2020). Jann Holmquist guest lecture for INFO 287. San Jose State University School of Information.

McArthur, D. (2018). Will blockchains revolutionize education? Educause Review.

NMC. (2016). Horizon Report 2016: Higher education edition. New Media Consortium.

OCLC. (2020). The Internet of Things. NextSpace, 24. OCLC.

Parashiv, P. (2017). Creating a voice for the library: Storytelling, experience, and play: Interview with Matt Finch.

Stephens, M. (2015). Serving users when and where they are: Hyperlinked libraries. Draft of chapter for the book An Introduction to Today’s Information Services edited by Dr. Sandra Hirsh

Stephens, M. (2019). Webinar: Heart of Librarianship for ALA [2019].  https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/blog/webinar-heart-of-librarianship-for-ala/

Stephens, M. (2020). Module 10 lecture INFO 287 . San Jose State University, School of Information.

Terdiman, D. (2018). Fast Company.

Weinberger, D. (2012, September 22). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room. Basic Books.

Weinberger, D. (2014. Let the future go. The Digital Shift [blog]. Library Journal.  

INFO 287 Emerging Tech Engagement


When I printed out my tax return that I filed online, the type size was larger than usual. Looking closer I saw that I had filed a 1040 SR, which stands for 1040 Senior (the online tax program must have chosen the form automatically because of my birth date). It got me thinking again about what my library offers seniors, which is a large demographic in Petaluma and the fastest-growing one in the U.S.

In our readings and resources this semester and the excellent student blogs, we have talked about transparency, participatory service, and people as hyperlinks. Stephens spoke of the library as an “evolving vision of space and inclusion,” and quoted Eric Klinenberg defining social infrastructure as a “set of physical places and organizations that shape our interactions” (Stephens, 2019). With one in three seniors over 70 living alone (Institute on Aging, 2013), library ‘spaces’ and ‘places’ should be a welcoming resource for this large segment of our patrons.   

Petaluma Public Library (PPL) serves a city of 60,000 people in a rural county library system of 19 libraries, with only one other city larger than 25,000: the county seat, population 175,000, with 4 of those libraries. In Petaluma, 24% of the population is 60 or older, and 17% is 65 or older. This is 25% higher than for the rest of California (Census Reporter, 2018), but similar to the U.S. population rate of 15% of people being 65 or older (ACL, 2018).

PPL has signage in the library for spaces dedicated to children, teens, veterans, Spanish-speaking, book clubs, local history buffs, but no space for seniors. Older adults tend to hang out in the periodicals section, which has comfortable seating, big windows, and is in a quiet corner. There are 50 to 100 programs a month, none of them targeted for seniors. One of my favorite places in the library is the veterans’ CD movie collection holders. I am not a veteran but I like war movies and knowing there is a place just for that. And there is a table labelled for Veterans (but also for the homeless I think) with tools, mailing supplies, stationery, etc., where they can prepare letters and packages and get assistance.

I propose the PPL dedicate space, a Senior Services Librarian (could be part-time), free guest lectures, equipment, and devices, and plan programming and events specifically for its senior population.

Planning Document

Project Goals

With programming and space dedicated to seniors, we hope to:

1.  Reach the senior population.

2.  Bring older adults into the library.

3.  Give back to the demographic that has supported the library through scores of years of taxes.

4.  Welcome seniors better by giving them their own space, and their own classes and events.

5.  Serve their needs to learn how to find health and other high-quality information.

6.  Give them a sense of belonging in the library they built.

7.  Show that tech is for fun, too, not just for learning and information-finding.

8.  Satisfy real and important daily needs of seniors.

9.  Acknowledge skill sets with badges or stickers when seniors reach specific tech competencies (Rudaí, 2018).

10.  Demonstrate the relevance of the library to the senior community.

11.  Support the social engagement of seniors.

A case could be made for services for seniors being even more important than job services, which is an important part of patrons’ lives (and seniors are job-searching more and more), but not more important than life itself. Older adults need access to good health information, access to technology training so they can engage with health information, and more people interaction.    

Cornog et al., 2013

Seniors and older adults can be defined anywhere from 55 and older to 65 and older. Petaluma has many senior housing developments and communities that start at 55.

I would like to persuade the Branch Librarian and County Library Director that by making a “tech place for seniors” they would be providing access to things seniors need for quality of life and for fun, and obtain new skills and library devices to make their life easier, which will improve their life and enjoyment, because the library wants them to have the best life they can have and because this is what libraries are for.

I would also like to persuade the local community and seniors that by having a “tech place for seniors” they would have priority access to a librarian, equipment, classes, and socializing around technology that will improve their quality of life and fun, help them learn new skills from a teacher and each other, because the library values them and wants them to have the best life they can have and because this is what libraries are for.

Evidence and Resources to Support a Senior Services Program

ALA. (2008). Guidelines for Library and Information Services to Older adults. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 48, 209–212.

McDonough, S. K. (2013, June 26). Lifetime Arts: Delivering arts education programs for today’s older adults. Public Libraries Online, May/June. Public Library Association. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/06/lifetime-arts-delivering-arts-education-programs-for-todays-older-adults/ and https://www.youtube.com/user/LifetimeArts

NHK. (2019). National Reminiscence Library. NHK World Japan. https://www.nhk.or.jp/archives/kaisou/en/

NNLM. (n.d.). Making your website senior friendly. National Institutes of Health, U. S. National Library of Medicine. National Network of Libraries of Medicine. https://nnlm.gov/mar/guides/making-your-website-senior-friendly

Schadt, E. M. (2016, March 21). Library spotlight: Senior programs at Westerville Public Library. Webjunction, OCLC.org. https://www.webjunction.org/news/webjunction/westerville-senior-outreach-programs.html

Senior Observatory. (no date). Senior Outlook: Video games are thought to reduce the risk of dementia by 29%. http://www.seniorobservatory.com/video-games-are-thought-to-reduce-the-risk-of-dementia-by-29/

Stringfellow, A. (2018, April 18). Seniors and video games: Gaming isn’t just for millennials. SeniorLink. https://www.seniorlink.com/blog/seniors-and-video-games-gaming-isnt-just-for-millenials

W3C/WAI. (2018). Developing websites for older people: How web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 applies in older users; and Web accessibility: Meeting the needs of ageing web users. Web Accessibility Initiative. https://www.w3.org/WAI/older-users/developing/

Xie, B., & Bugg, J. M. (2009). Public library computer training for older adults to access high-quality Internet health information. Library & Information Science Research, 31, 155–162.

Xie, B. (2011). Improving older adults’ e-health literacy through computer training using NIH online resources. Library & Information Science Research, 34, 63–71. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2011.07.006

The mission statement of the Sonoma County Library is: “Our mission is to bring information, ideas, and people together to build a stronger community.” The vision statement includes: “.  . . . We use technology to make things easier, more accessible, and more fun. . . ” (Sonoma County Library, n.d.)

Resource Allocations

Costs. A Senior Services Librarian position could be created, or a current staff member could dedicate a set number of hours to senior programming and appointments. A grant application could be made to the local Buck Institute for Research on Aging Foundation. Other local philanthropists could be approached who are interested in seniors.

High quality programming can be acquired from the National Institutes of Health (NNLM, n.d.) and other government websites. Some programs will cost money: Zoom Text and JAWS screen accessibility software. Zoom Text allows users to easily enlarge any part of the screen content, and JAWS enables a laptop to read selected sections of screen content aloud. The library’s collection of laptops, iPads, e-readers, and other devices may need to be augmented with a larger volume.

Library hours could be extended to open an hour earlier in the morning one day a week (just for senior programs). As Klinenberg says, libraries are “tragically” not open the number of hours they need to be (Peet, 2018). Seniors prefer first thing in the morning for library visits and learning.

Time Schedule. The timing may be fortuitous for such a program, since the library will be emptied soon and moved to a warehouse while upgrades are made. Without changing the design, a portion of the periodicals section could be allocated for seniors. Since the library will be closed for 6 months this year, that could be the time during which the program is approved and developed. The refurbished library could open with signage (and maps), for the first time welcoming seniors in this way.

Staff. A Senior Services Librarian is a real need in a community that is 24% seniors. Before that happens, a staff member could dedicate a half-day a week to a senior program to get it started. Some libraries have Tech Tuesday. PPL could have Tech Half-Tuesday. Volunteers are numerous at PPL, and this would be a good program for them to work on, as what is needed most is patience.

Training.  Librarians are already trained for many of the services that would be provided. There is free online training from government websites for librarians to learn how to deliver programs to seniors (NNLM, n.d.). There would be training of volunteers that would take librarian time.

Other resources: Petaluma ParaTransit is a free city service to take seniors to doctor appointments. Perhaps the library could be included as a destination. You make an appointment ahead of time for pickup and return pickup. This is doable because the library is in the center of the city so most residents are 10-20 minutes away.  

Marketing and Metrics

To market the program, give it a fun name. Call it the 20/20 Tech Place (like 20/20 vision), it helps you find things. In Kinosha (WI), they call their program Tech Toys for Seniors (Miatech, 2019).

Circuit-ride by taking flyers to all the senior center and senior living communities and housing developments (Cornog, et al. 2013).

One of the signs of success will be attendance at programs, how busy the Senior space is in general, and whether seniors are earning badges or stickers or whatever we call them as they gain competencies. Opinions in the feedback box are equally important– are they having fun, learning how to find important resources, and feeling competent in new areas? Do they feel welcome and want to come back. Are they meeting up with other seniors and other patrons? A mixture of qualitative and quantitative data will give a robust picture of program outcomes.

If successful, reaching more seniors may mean investigating taking the show on the road and bringing some aspects of the program to older adults where they live (Yarrow & McAllister, 2018). And possibly offering the same skills virtually for those who have the infrastructure at home.


ACL. (2018, April). 2017 profile of older Americans. Administration for Community Living; Administration on Aging. https://acl.gov/sites/default/files/Aging%20and%20Disability%20in%20America/2017OlderAmericansProfile.pdf

Census Reporter. (2018). Petaluma, California. American Community Survey Census Data.   https://censusreporter.org/profiles/16000US0656784-petaluma-ca/

Cornog, M., McPeak, J., & Ray, T. (2013, May 10). The Free Library of Philadelphia’s senior center: Comfy and stimulating. Public Libraries Online, September/October 2010. http://publiclibrariesonline.org/2013/05/the-free-library-of-philadelphias-senior-center-comfy-and-stimulating/

Institute on Aging. (2013). July/August 2013 newsletter. Retrieved from https://www.ioaging.org/aging-in-america

Miatech, J. (2019). How to hold a successful tech outreach program for seniors. Demco Ideas and Inspiration. Kenosha Public Library (WI).

Peet, L. (2018, October 3). Eric Klinenberg: Libraries and social infrastructure [News column]. Library Journal.

Sonoma County Library (n.d.). Mission and Vision. https://sonomalibrary.org/about/mission-vision

Stephens, M. (2019). New Models [Module 8 lecture for INFO 287 The Hyperlinked Library].

Yarrow, A., & McAllister, S. (2018). Trends in mobile and outreach services. Public Library Quarterly, 37(2), 195–208. https://doi.org/10.1080/01616846.2018.1436365


The Rudaí 23 program from Ireland–rudaí means “things” in Irish Gaelic–“23 Things for Information Skills course,” is an international badges program about library technology and more. It appeals to me for multiple reasons. 1) It includes everyone—librarians and patrons—and is free. 2) It is international—anyone anywhere can participate if they can get to the website and read English. 3) It is about learning many different technologies in a step-by-step fashion. 4) It includes a reward system of colored badges for each of four groups of Things: Visual Communicator, Online Networker, Critical Thinker, Engaged Professional. 5) It is fun. 6) It is progressive and geared to neophytes. 7) You get feedback (when the course is running live).

This collaboration of members of the Western Regional Section of the Library Association of Ireland have written this program without jargon, and in a clear and engaging way. Suddenly I want to learn all these tools some of which scared me before. I did not grow up with computers. In high school, I was in the pre-college typing class—on typewriters, manual.  

The 23 areas of expertise you acquire in the program are taught in groups: Getting Starting, which includes Thing 1 and Thing 2, setting up a blog and then writing your first blog. Sounds like iSchool doesn’t it? There are 8 Things under Visual Communicator, 4 Things under Online Networker, 5 Things under Critical Thinker, and 5 Things under Engaged Professional. By Thing 19, you are making a podcast and evaluating podcasting equipment.

We Don’t Learn from Experience

4 of the 23 Things have “Reflective Practice” in the name, one in each of the 4 sections after Getting Started. Reading these reflective practice Things and the lessons and tasks for them helped me understand why I am writing these blogposts in INFO 287. John Dewey quote:

This 23 Things program may be like kindergarden for people who learn new software easily, but I liked being shown how to set up an account, how to save my work, what similar programs are about. Here is an example of some of the tools users of the course can get familiar with:

In Thing 4, detailed directions are given on how to find images in different image libraries that can be used for a library’s social media campaigns.

There are poignant and powerful lessons in every “Thing.” In Thing 12, we are reminded that preservation of new information is critical because “online documents are more fragile than physical documents and can easily be deleted.”

“Mrs. God”

In Thing 20, Advocacy and Engagement, some of Ray Bradbury’s quotes are pictured (he was advocating for public libraries in his 90s):

The Adulting 101 classes at South Bend Indiana library also take a practical approach to teaching basic life skills (Ford, 2018), and I think that 23 Things also teach basic life and professional skills in a way that anyone can learn them. Both these examples show us how libraries (and librarians) can address daily life.

This 23 Things program gives me hope and a programmed way forward to learn some of the “tools [that] can lead to the best way of doing the job and serving users” (Stephens, 2017). Even though the program is not currently active (with feedback to students), all the lessons, tasks, and assignments are there on the website for anyone to do. I look forward to when Rudai 23 might update their program to include AI—especially for healthcare, AR, VR, etc. (Sullivan, 2019). In the meantime, when I have time, I want to do the whole program as it is passively shown.  

For those naysayers about the dangers of new technologies, Stephen Pinker (2010) says this:  

“Critics of new media sometimes use science itself to press their case, citing research that shows how ‘experience can change the brain.’ But cognitive neuroscientists roll their eyes at such talk. Yes, every time we learn a fact or skill the wiring of the brain changes; it’s not as if the information is stored in the pancreas. . . . Far from making us stupid, these technologies are the only things that will keep us smart.”


Conrad, L. Y. (2020). Humans are the loop: Social solutions to technological challenges. Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2020/03/02/humans-are-the-loop-social-solutions-to-technological-challenges/

Ford, A. (2018, May 1). Adulting 101: When libraries teach basic life skills. American Libraries. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/05/01/adulting-101-library-programming/

Pinker, S. (2010, June 10). Mind over mass media [Opinion]. The New York Times.

Rudaí 23. (2018, April 4). 23 Things for information skills. Rudaí 23. Western Regional Section of the Library Association of Ireland. http://rudai23.blogspot.com/

Stephens, M. (2017, January 4). Adopt or adapt? [Office Hours column]. Library Journal.    https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=adopt-or-adapt-office-hours

Sullivan, M. (2019, January 3). The biggest tech trends of 2019, according to top experts. Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/90463408/explore-digital-transformation-in-marketing

INFO 287 Blog Post #2

Hyperlinked Communities and Continuing Participatory Service and Transparency

“Hyperlinked” continues to be an attitude of engagement with users, even of treating them as equal partners (Ingle & Pewhairangi, 2014, quoting Michael Stephens) in the ongoing creation of the library. There is no typical user, say Ingle and Pewhairangi, and you have to reach out to important groups however you find them and try to anticipate their needs. They would agree with Aaron Schmidt who says that asking users what they want is shifting our burden to them. Instead, we should be asking them about themselves and their lives, their weekend, their hobbies, their travel and other dreams (Schmidt, 2016). He says going about your research in this oblique way will lead to surprises for everyone concerned. We see enormous creativity this week in the examples where librarians reach out to “surprise and delight” patrons.

A male librarian in Northern Ghana wanted to do something about the high mortality rate among mothers and babies in the region. So he paired up with midwives and medical professionals to set up a program of regular text messages to pregnant women telling them what to expect at each stage of their physical progress and what to talk with their midwives about, gradually educating them and teaching them to stay in touch with medical professionals (Baute, 2013). Women in the program have so far had a 0% infant and maternal mortality rate.

Along with the creativity revealed in this week’s readings are some strong statements that need to be said: Michael Stephens: “. . . lead from the heart, learn from the heart, and play from the heart” as quoted by Garcia-Febo (2018), and “Technology is not an add-on. Digital skill sets are the norm, not the cutting edge” (Stephens, 2017). West finds the digital divide growing in some ways even as there has been progress: “The digital divide won’t be solved by someone building a better website about computer skills. So stop giving them money to do it” (West, 2014). The point is that the people who need that information can’t get to that website. She reminds us that 47% of U.S. libraries are rural (and small). She has been teaching social media and email classes for decades and even then has to offer herself as a social media friend, because some of her library students have no one to Facebook with. “We really have the power to help a lot of people get over what ever it is they have to get over, to be where they want to be.” But she is also saying we have to be real about it. Almost a million people in America still have no Internet available at their home—not available in their neighborhood! As she says, it’s a small percentage but a lot of people.

Chris Lauerson talked about two unique programs in a diversity speech he gave: Human beings checking themselves out as books; and welcoming dinners for international students. “The ‘books’ are not experts, they are just themselves,” in The Human Library, where the books are people who are available to talk one-on-one about their lives as people who are Muslim, have HIV, are non-binary, etc. He also describes library candlelight dinners for new international students and their mentors (Lauerson, 2018) that create an intimate, meaningful experience for them that also shows them they have a home at the library within their new country.

Bhaskar says curation is making a comeback because users want more than just correlation with their interests, they also want a story of why it’s important, a perspective for choices made (Bhaskar, 2016). A good example of this is the Nashville Public Library’s Civil Rights Room, where the history of the civil rights movement is told along with the history of Nashville itself, where both histories are debated and told as a “tale of our town” (Dixon, 2017). Libraries need to reach way out into the community, like they did in Ferguson (MO) after the police shooting, telling people to come to the oasis of the library “. . . the library, my meadow of contemplation and healing” (Stollis, 2014). Libraries are presenting themselves as neutral, common ground, where meaningful conversations can take place on very difficult topics.  

Maybe the most out-of-the-box thinking happened in Troy, New York, where to encourage voter turnout for a library measure, the library used social media to send out invitations to a book burning party, when they saw that they were being outspent on the voting campaign: “Troy’s library may not have money, but it has books to burn” (Burnett, 2011)! They got the public’s attention and its outrage, and the library tax measure passed.

Moving through this program, I have come to the realization that libraries and information are about something else and more porous than in the past: I agree with Ingle and Pewhairangi that “the principal currency today is no longer information, products, or services; it is human attention” (2014, p. 8). And how do libraries get attention? Not through “rebranding or rejigging structure,” even though the platform must work. Their radical answer is excellence in all things: vital customer intimacy, don’t treat everyone the same, use the Pareto Principle and concentrate on an important 20% of the users, make sure you look at heavy users even if they don’t have library cards, etc. This sounds like the opposite of trying to be all things to all people. Creativity is specific, and we have seen dozens of examples of this over the last two weeks of readings.

Here’s my summary: The library is an infrastructure that the community moves through to succeed. And that infrastructure will constantly change. We need to let librarians loose with their creativity to try things they think might be intriguing.

Westbury-sub-Mendip, England, lost their weekly mobile library, then opened this 24/7 telephone booth library.
Magdeburg, Germany, made a 24/7 library out of 1,000 recycled beer cartons.


Baute, N. (2013, November 26). How a modern library keeps mothers healthy in Ghana. Maternal health care by phone.

Bhaskar, N. (2016). In the age of the algorithm, the human gatekeeper is back.

Burnett, L. (2011). Save the Troy Library: “Adventures in reverse psychology.”

Dixon, J. (2018, October 23). Convening community conversation. Library Journal.

Garcia, Febo, L. (2018, November 1). Serving with love: Embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in all that we do. American Libraries.

Ingle, M., & Pewhairangi, S. (2014, May). A beautiful obsession. Heroesmingle.wordpress.com https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/WEVE_May_2014.pdf

Lauerson, C. (2018, June 7). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Keynote talk at the UX in Libraries Conference, Sheffield, England.

Schmidt, A. (2016, May 4). Asking the right questions.

Stephens, M. (2017, April 20). Libraries in balance [Office Hours column]. Library Journal.

West, J. (.2014). 21st century digital divide. http://www.librarian.net/talks/rlc14/

Stollis, A. (2014). The healing power of libraries. National Endowment for the Arts.

Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future by Corey Doctorow, 2007. Tachyon.

“The demand signal won’t go away” (Doctorow, 2007, p. 50). The public does not want managed services and limited rights, or to use only approved devices in approved ways. This is something librarians wrestle with, for instance with limits on e-books, but the optimistic Doctorow says that it cannot last.

Doctorow is an entertaining wordsmith who sees not only the future but also the present clearly. In fact, he says the only future we can see is the present more clearly, even for a futurist like himself. This collection comprises 23 magazine articles, three company talks, one blogsite post (not his blog), and one self-published paper. Most were published in 2007, the rest between 2001 and 2006. Almost all of them are of great interest today.

Free e-Books

Doctorow gives away his e-books for free, which he says increases the market for his print books. His publisher is Tor, the largest science fiction publisher in the world and part of the giant German publisher Holtzbrinck. “They’re not patchouli-scented info-hippies who believe information wants to be free” (p. 72). He optimistically says that “you can’t force a reader to pay for access to information anymore” (p. 74).

Technology Giveth and Technology Taketh Away

One of themes in his book is that there is pain with new technology, and not just learning it – people get edged out of previous markets and professions. One example was the vaudevillians who could not transition to radio — he calls them charismatics.

Copyright was a way to decentralize who gets to make art (before the 1702 copyright statute was passed to settle a disagreements between Scots and Brits about who could print a book, there was patronage from King or Pope and that was your best hope). Today the Internet is decentralizing further who can make and sell and distribute art, and this can destabilize the previous control that markets were given over creativity. All shifts in technological production are good for some and not as good for others.

 As Michael Stephens says “Technology doesn’t solve our problems, but it can be a conduit to making change and promoting progress” (Stephens, 2016, p, 81). Technology is not something libraries offer; it’s “something we do,” says library director Bryan Kenney (2014).

A recent example of something that causes fear among some librarians is the self-service library (Zulkey, 2019). This unstaffed option extends library hours and in some cases adds locations. She says that before adding new technologies, engage stakeholders early, especially your more “procedurally minded staffers.” I think that anything that serves patrons, extends services, and creates more patrons has to be good for the profession.

The Copyright Conundrum

Copyright is perennially out of date because its latest version addresses the last generation of technology (p. 130). As a writer, Doctorow says his greatest good is freedom of expression, not copyright. “Being well enough known to be pirated [is] a crowning achievement” (Doctorow quoting Tim O’Reilly, p. 73). “When someone buys a book, they are also buying the right to resell that book, to loan it out, or to even give it away if they want. Everyone understands this” (Doctorow quoting Jeff Bezos, p. 63). He says everyone already operates under this assumption, which might make it more difficult for some business models going forward. I would say this is happening to journals publishing and the big publishing houses are trying to control the use of their journal content even over the objections of their authors and to restrict how much can be open access (even if paid for!). By not adapting, I think their business model will come to an end as open access journal articles become ubiquitous especially in science. Here is another one-liner from Doctorow: “It is in the nature of computers that it copies what is put on it” (p. 86).

Social Contracts and Social Action

Henry Jenkins was an influence and great mentor for Doctorow. As we learned in Professor Stephens’ Module 4 lecture, Participatory Service and Transparency, Jenkins coined the term participatory culture. Doctorow says we participate in many kinds of social contracts that we don’t think about, but which involve trust, and this relates to the radical trust from Michael Stephens lecture mentioned above, which he says is necessary for transparent processes, in talking about the future of libraries. When Professor Michael Stephens asked Library Director Louise Berry what he should be training library students for, she said to be leaders and innovators, “watching and planning for the future.” This can happen through the development of transparency and participation by all (Stephens, 2016, pp. 42–43).

Doctorow said in an interview: “When we wire ourselves together, we lower the cost of our collective action. And the more energy we have to spend on projects and the less for institutions” (Interrobang, 2015). “Conversation, not content, is king” (p. 81), and this from a writer! “The least substitutable good in the Internet era is the personal relationship” (p. 81).

Throughout this book, I think Doctorow is espousing one of Karen Schneider’s memes: “The user is the sun” (Schneider, 2006). In a book full of descriptions of complex technological developments and legal cases, he says “I think our social contracts are stronger than our technology” (Doctorow, p. 209).


Doctorow, E. C. (2007). Content: Selected essays on technology, creativity, copyright, and the future of the future. Tachyon.

Interrobang. (2015). What is the best way to destroy the internet before it destroys us? Cory Doctorow and Alan Brough [Video]. The Interrobang: A Festival of Questions. The Wheeler Centre. Melbourne, Australia. https://www.wheelercentre.com/events/what-is-the-best-way-to-destroy-the-internet-before-it-destroys-us-cory-doctorow-and-alan-brough

Kenney, B. (2014, January 27). The user (still) is no broken. Publishers Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/libraries/article/60780-the-user-is-still-not-broken.html

Schneider, K. G. (2006). The user is not broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto [blogpost]. Free Range Librarian [blog]

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive and purposeful change. ALA Editions.

Zulkey, C. (2019, September 3). Automatic for the people: Are self-service libraries a threat to the profession or an opportunity to service patrons? Academic Libraries.