Participatory Service

Librarian Shushing

Librarian Shushing from Northern California Association of Law Libraries Blog

Libraries have an image problem. According to a 2010 OCLC study, people perceive libraries with books (Stephens, 55). While this image illuminates libraries as a place where one can gain knowledge and entertainment through books, it also pigeon-holes libraries as vast book repositories with cardigan-wearing librarians acting as both shushers and gatekeepers to knowledge. Today’s libraries offer so much more, like access to databases, computer and information literacy classes, and programming for children and teens, but this bookish image persists. So how does one change a library’s image from a sedentary book warehouse to an active environment that anticipates and meets the needs of the community it serves? By bringing in the community and having them be active participants in the planning and evaluation of library services (Casey, 2011).

Makerspace Image

Makerspace: Missoula Public Library

To me, participatory and transparency measures that bring in the public or the library’s user community as active members in the structure of services are still a novel concept. In the mid-2010s, we saw the rise of makerspaces in libraries as participatory spaces that allowed library users to create unique, ingenious, and desirable items. As a result, library users not only learn about new technologies but also provides an opportunity to collaborate and share knowledge with other community members.

The Mix Learning Lab

The Mix Learning Lab: San Francisco Public Library

The idea of library participatory spaces, such as makerspaces, does not materialize out of thin air; as Candice Mack (2013) pointed out in her article, it requires a collaboration of both the library’s community it serves and the library staff. One example of this collaboration is the San Francisco Public Library’s YOUmedia Learning Labs. As dedicated spaces for teens, these labs allow youth learners to access and use cutting-edge technology and new media tools. Unlike other library spaces, teens were involved in every aspect, from the design process through construction, allowing them to feel that they have ownership of the space (YOUMedia, 2015).

Participatory and transparent services are the way of the future for libraries to remain relevant. We are often constrained by our image of what a library is, a place with books. We must imagine our libraries without walls, which takes not only the needs and wants but also the input of the communities we serve. Even though some library administrators and old-school librarians struggle with the concept of a participatory and transparent service model, I feel that libraries are starting to see their communities less as users and more like partners and collaborators. Collaboration and partnership with the community will fulfill a library’s mission statement to discover, create, and share ideas and information.


Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting participatory service in trying times.

Mack, C. (2013). Crowdsourced design: Why Los Angeles is asking the public to create the library of the future.

Stephens, M. (2011). “Stuck in the past” in The Heart of Librarianship.

YouMedia, (2015). In San Francisco, Teens Design a Living Room for High-Tech Learning at the Public Library

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Hyperlinked Library Post 1: Changing Informational Needs Requires a Change in Services

Libraries and how they serve their communities as a place for learning and development have changed ever since their inception. We had seen librarians’ roles change from gatekeepers of knowledge to information facilitators when libraries opened their stacks to be more easily browsable to their patrons. With the advent of the Internet and the growth of misinformation, it was incumbent on libraries to instruct the communities they serve on the importance of information literacy to critically evaluate text, audio, and visual images. While open stacks and information literacy instruction constitute only a minor fraction of services libraries provide to their users, they are only enhancements to services that libraries already offer to their patrons. Instead of improving and tweaking the services they already have, libraries need to “think outside the box,” innovate, and anticipate the needs of their users. But how does one know what library users need and desire from their library? The authors of the Hyperlinked Library’s Foundational Readings, Buckland and Casey & Savastinuk, lay out ideas and concepts that libraries can use to adapt and evolve to meet and anticipate the changing needs of the communities they serve.

The first of our Foundational Readings is Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto by Professor Michael Buckland. Professor Buckland’s scholarship spans over fifty years as a premier information and library science expert. In Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto, Buckland (1992) argues that the evolution of technology will change the library’s services by making information more accessible (5). While today’s libraries offer many services, Buckland’s manifesto focuses on the library’s acquisition and dissemination of information in its collection.

To remain relevant, libraries must evolve from strictly paper libraries to electronic libraries to meet the needs of the communities they serve. According to Buckland, while marvels of their time, paper libraries created barriers to information by having the user consult separate bibliographic and location information sources to gain access to the needed information, let alone having to visit the library itself. While in the electronic library removes most of these barriers by having all the needed information contained in one location called the Online Public Access Catalog or OPAC for short. As a result, library users can access needed information anytime and anywhere. The OPAC catalog represents a small fundamental change in how libraries can better serve their users. However, libraries still need to keep evolving, eventually shifting the focus of information access from a library-centered view to a more user-centered one (Buckland, 65).

Even though I did not read the whole book, I skimmed through Library 2,0 by Michael E. Casey and Laura C. Savastinuk and read the chapter, A Framework for Change. The chapter closely relates to this module’s discussion topic, adapting and anticipating the changing needs of library users. Not only facilitating change in library services but also setting up the processes that allow for review and evaluation is needed to see if library service remains effective or needs to be supplanted by something else (Casey & Savastinuk, 38). Libraries that offer many types of services tend to become complacent with them and fall into the “Plan, Implement, and Forget” cycle (39). Within this cycle, library services risk being considered outdated and sometimes unusable, which provides a disservice to the library and its users. In order to not fall into this trap, Casey & Savastinuk suggest that libraries continually evaluate their services to ensure that the service meets their users’ needs. If not, it is time to scrap that service for something that will excite users and meet their anticipated needs.

We must start thinking differently about how our users seek information and what they want from their library. I asked my student assistants what they would like to see offered from their library. While most wanted better technology, others suggested more open spaces conducive to social learning and idea sharing. Hearing about their wants and needs leads me to believe that the library is more than a place where our users gather and consume information. It is changing into a gathering area where users discuss and share ideas. As a result, libraries should continuously improve our services and not be afraid to take a chance to create services our users want but do not know it yet.


Buckland, Michael. Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto.  (Read Preface, Introduction, The Electronic Library, & The Challenge)

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today. (Provided by the instructor as PDF)

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Introduction, “Hello Everyone”

Hello Everyone,

My name is Derek, and I am starting my third year of the MLIS program. I live in Anaheim, CA, and work as the evening and weekend circulation assistant at Southwestern Law School’s Leigh H. Taylor Law Library. The law library is located in Downtown Los Angeles inside the historic Bullocks Wilshire building. Anyone familiar with the Bullocks Wilshire knows it is one of the city’s most iconic buildings. Being able to work inside a historic building is a delight.

Before becoming one of Southwestern Law School’s circulation assistants, I worked as a student assistant for four years at the university library at Cal State Fullerton, where I received a bachelor’s degree in History and a minor in Mathematics. While at CSUF, I excelled in both History and Library Services. These experiences helped me get my first article published in the university’s history journal, land my job at Southwestern Law School, and solidify my pursuit of a career in librarianship.

During the first year and a half of the program, I was unsure what type of librarianship I wanted to pursue. My first impulse was to follow the reference librarian track because of my excellent customer service skills and librarian recommendations during my undergrad. But while I have been in the program, I have found that technical services, especially cataloging, appealed to me more than reference librarianship. While providing patrons with the information they need and teaching them information literacy skills, it is also important to ensure that the information we provide is correct, properly cataloged, and easily accessible.

I like to travel when I am not working or taking MLIS classes. Traveling usually means going to conferences, but sometimes they are just for fun. Before the pandemic, my wife and I were able to Cuba and then spent New Year’s in San Antonio, Texas. We are hoping to start traveling again in the foreseeable future.

We also recently adapted two animals, a guinea pig, and a chihuahua. The chihuahua, Tippy, who is old and blind, and had been neglected for years, has found new life at our house. The guinea pig, Shela, who was skittish and hid from everyone now, is a princess who expects carrots, lettuce, and cucumbers whenever she sees me. Photos of both the animals are below.

I am looking forward to this class and learning more about the Hyperlinked Library and how theories of user-centered library service, the use of technological tools, the creation of collaborative communities collection, and how cataloging and technical services add to the continued development of library services to help support and inform the communities they serve.

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