The audience for my Director’s Brief is the Director of the Lansing Community Library (LCL) and the Board of Trustees. LCL is a small rural library with limited space, staff, and finances. Up until now, LCL has not has not acquired any significant pieces of makerspace technology-related equipment. The Director’s Brief is my attempt to make the case for the purchase of a mini 3D Printer for use by anyone in the community. I consider this “gateway tech” for LCL – an ideal way to get the staff and the administration comfortable with providing the public with access to this type of technology, before we pursue creating a more full-fledged makerspace.
I hope this Director’s Brief convinces you of the value and importance of providing the members of the Lansing community access to cutting-edge technology such as a 3D Printer.
One of the readings that was a part of the Learning as Classroom CYOA in the Infinite Learning module really resonated with me. In the article Where Reference Fits in the Modern Library, Brian Kenny (2015) says that the library users of today “want help doing things, rather than finding things.” Based on my experiences at a public library, I have to say I agree. The typical, traditional type of reference questions that involve locating an answer to a question using the correct reference resource doesn’t happen very often anymore. Instead, users need help navigating various websites in order to submit job applications, applying for health insurance using online Marketplaces, getting copies of state and federal tax forms and instructions, creating email accounts, printing return labels, and using their devices (tablets, phones, eReaders). And, yes, “doing these things” involves assisting people with technology because they can no longer do things the way they used to. It is almost impossible to exist in today’s society without an email address; one can no longer “drop off” a job application and resume at a business; you can’t get tax forms at the post office anymore; finding a phone number can be almost impossible without access to the internet since telephone books are far and few between. Even contacting services of any kind – doctors, airlines, banks, insurance companies, Amazon, the DMV – are very difficult and frustrating to do via telephone, sometime even impossible. As Kenny says, the reference desk at the library has become more of “the help desk for the community”.
A resource that was shared in the Library as Classroom CYOA is DigitalLearn.org. Not only is this a site I can share with some of my patrons who need help getting up to speed using computers, job searching, word processing, and learning how to protect themselves out in cyberspace, DigitalLearn.org also has “tools and resources for trainers”. In my case, “trainers” are librarians and library staff. I am self-taught when it comes to most of the technology I use on a daily basis, so having a resource such as DigitalLearn.org may help improve my ability to teach others how to become more proficient using some of these tech tools.
In his blog piece, Libraries, Hackspaces and E-waste: How libraries can be the hub of a young maker revolution, Cory Doctorow(2013) points out that we all “need to master computers — to master the systems of information, so that we can master information itself.” This is obviously true today and will certainly be true tomorrow. There is a lot of useful information out there on the internet, but there is also a lot of useless, worthless, and downright dangerous “information” out there. While many of us live with and work with computers on a daily basis, have 24/7 access to the internet, and have gained a certain level of information literacy and savvy – many in society do not and have not. These individuals are being left behind and are the ones who need libraries and librarians.
“That is to say that society has never needed its librarians, and its libraries, more. The major life-skill of the information age is information literacy, and no one’s better at that than librarians. It’s what they train for. It’s what they live for” (Doctorow, 2013).
Digital Learn – Public Library Association. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.digitallearn.org/
Each and every person really does have a story to tell. And sharing our individual stories can be extremely important, because I think the thing most people are craving today is to be seen and to be heard. Sharing one’s story can be cathartic, can be unburdening, can be a way to connect, can be validating, and, can sometimes be a way to reach out for help without explicitly asking for help. These benefits of sharing one’s own story are reasons enough to share, but we know that a shared story can do more than just benefit the person telling the story. Many of us, as readers, know this to be true – and not just from reading non-fiction and biographies, but from reading fiction, too. We have always known, anecdotally, that reading even fiction helps us to become more empathetic individuals, and thankfully, there is now research to back this up (Kaplan, 2016).
Since 2003, StoryCorps has been demonstrating that everyone does indeed have a story to tell. In Telling Stories, Stephens points out that the “StoryCorps mission is to “preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.”” (2019, p. 93). StoryCorps is wonderful, in my opinion, for a number of reasons: the interviewer is someone close to the person being interviewed, making for a more intimate, personalized, and emotional interview; we, as listeners, get to hear real people telling their own stories in their own voices; and StoryCorps is preserving and archiving the stories of the “average Joe” – unknown, unsung, ordinary everyday people. And in the process of recording and sharing, StoryCorps reminds us that in actuality, no one is just average or ordinary.
If listening to a person tell the story of their own life isn’t enough of a moving and emotional experience, imagine sitting down with a complete stranger and looking them in the eye while they tell you about their life experiences and answer any questions you might ask. Libraries have been enabling people to do just this when they host a Human Library. A patron or “reader” can check out a human or “book” much like they would borrow a reference item. Sitting face-to-face and listening to another human being who wants to share their story with you can be a profound and life-changing experience for both “the reader” and “the book.” Similar to the StoryCorps, a goal of the Human Library is to allow people to “get beyond assumptions and stereotypes, to “unjudge someone”” (Ray, 2019).
Storytelling efforts like StoryCorps and the Human Library have been shown to “increas[e] listeners’ understanding of a variety of groups, demonstrat[e] the value of everyone’s experience, and remin[d] listeners of their shared humanity” (Stephens, 2019, p. 93).
I would like to share another powerful example of storytelling that, unfortunately isn’t an example related to libraries, but one that has brought a great many people together in support of the individuals whose stories have been shared. (I’ll apologize right here if everyone in this class already knows about this.) I have been following Brandon Stanton’s “Humans of New York” (HONY) Facebook page since it began in 2010. As Stanton says, HONY started out as a photography project and the “initial goal was to photograph 10,000 New Yorkers on the street and create an exhaustive catalogue of the city’s inhabitants” (Humans of New York, 2021). But he soon began to post quotes and stories about the people featured in the photos. People were mesmerized with the glimpses into the lives of random New Yorkers and his following grew so that HONY now has over 20 million followers on social media. Here are just two of the stories: Grandma Dawn, who created a literacy center called “Grandma’s Place” in the heart of Harlem, who then connected through HONY with Tony Hillery of Harlem Grown, a program to teach the children of Harlem how to grow and cook their own fresh vegetables, and together they are creating small libraries on Tony’s urban farms and launching a Mobile Teaching Kitchen. This was all possible because of over $300,000 of donations from HONY followers; the epic story of Stephanie, a little black girl who grew up in Albany, NY, and made her way to New York City where she became a go-go dancer, eventually becoming a stripper known as ‘Tanqueray’. As Stanton tells her story, the life of this now 70something year-old woman who has fallen on some really hard times, compounded by some serious medical issues, sees her life begin to change. Millions of people are hanging on to her every word. HONY begins a fundraiser for Stephanie to help with her housing and her medical care. She is reunited with her estranged son. In the end, a trust is created for her because $2.6 million dollars were raised. Stephanie had much needed hip replacement surgery and is beginning to enjoy life again. HONY has gathered together so many people who have gone on to use their connections, their words, their money, and their time, to help change the lives of the people that Stanton introduces his audience to. The ‘kindness of strangers’ have helped those featured on HONY: to get jobs, to get homes, to get lifted out of poverty, to kickstart businesses, to reunite family members, and the list goes on and on.
In a weak and transparent effort to segue this reflection back to storytelling at libraries, Stanton has written two books about Humans of New York and done similar short-term projects all over the globe, highlighting different countries and their problems, and how life is for people living day to day under difficult conditions. Look for the books at your local library.
One of the things I’ve tried to do for the past ten years at my library is to get patrons to open up and tell me about their lives. It is amazing and rewarding to see how people change, how people react, when you make a connection with them. The connection is often about something small and insignificant at first, but over time, with increased familiarity and trust, people open up. Sometimes, I help them; sometimes, they help me. Sometimes we make a solid, long-lasting connection, and sometimes it is fleeting. As I said earlier, I believe that the one thing most people desperately want is to be seen and to be heard – for their heart to be seen and heard, not just the superficial trappings on the outside.
I have tried, in the past, to get patrons to allow me to “feature” them on the library’s social media and website. To allow me to tell their neighbors a little bit about them. But almost everyone refused. They were too shy, or embarrassed, or ashamed. They didn’t want their picture used or they didn’t want to divulge too much. Or they insisted that they didn’t have a story to tell, or that their story wouldn’t be of interest to anyone. Maybe it’s time to try again? Maybe I should reach out to the Human Library Organization for suggestions and direction?
The library has always been filled with stories, what better place for people to share theirs?
Community 3D Printer at the Lansing Community Library
In the Spring 2021 semester I took the class Library Services and Tools for the Digital Age with Ellyssa Kroski during which I was introduced to an amazing resource – Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians (Burke, 2018). During this same semester, my library Director at the Lansing Community Library (LCL) asked me to put together a survey to gauge the community’s interest in having the library acquire a 3D Printer. While LCL has offered numerous craft classes, Take & Make activities for teens and adults, coding classes, Lego and Snap Circuits building sessions, etc., we do not have a dedicated “makerspace” nor do we have any high-end tech for hands-on use by our patrons. There are, of course, a number of reasons for this current situation – limited budget, space, and staff. However, there may also be a bit of “technophobia” that is hidden under the guise of avoiding “technolust” (Stephens, 2008). The Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians showed me that it is possiblefor any librarian in any library to take small, but meaningful steps, towards providing hands-on access to emerging technologies, and the results of our survey showed that our patrons were interested in using a 3D Printer. This planning assignment gives me the opportunity to begin creating a plan to convince the community and the library staff that having a 3D Printer will be a useful and beneficial acquisition, while assuming that the cost of purchasing, running, and maintaining the equipment is in place. This is an excellent opportunity to begin creating a makerspace and learning as we go before attempting too much at once. This is also an excellent way to incorporate and embrace the participatory culture that is so integral to the role of today’s libraries (Casey, 2011) (Stephens, 2016).
Burke, J. J. & Kroski, E. (2018). Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians ( 2nd ed.). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield
Stephens, M. (2016). The age of participation. The heart of librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. (pp. 79-82). Chicago: ALA Editions.
Objective & Goals For 3D Printing
To provide the members of the Lansing community an opportunity to use a 3D Printer as a means to create, learn, explore, share, and collaborate. A 3D Printer is a tool/resource that aligns with the mission of library: to maintain and improve the quality of life for the citizens of the Lansing community by providing access to information, cultural resources, and opportunities for personal enrichment through our library resources, programming, and events; the library provides expertise and access to current technology to ensure equal access to high-quality library services, materials, personnel, and facilities.
Increase individual and/or collective participatory opportunities at the library
Increase opportunities for learning STEM-related skills and concepts
Increase opportunities for active, collaborative, cooperative, problem-based learning
Improves equity of access to emerging technology
Encourage the “non-user” population to interact with the library
Encourage innovation and prototyping by entrepreneurs, inventors, businesses
Encourage serendipitous learning, exposure to new interests, and enjoyment for all
Initiate the creation and expansion of a “makerspace” or “civic laboratory” at the library
Community To Engage
The 3D Printer will be available for use by the general public.
Action Brief Statement
For Patrons: Convince community members that by utilizing the 3D Printer at the library, they will learn a variety of new skills, find new ways to be creative, and experience a fun and open community of makers, tinkerers, and lifelong-learners which will improve their confidence in their ability to learn new things and to communicate with others, while fostering the creation of new relationships because the library is a welcoming place for everyone to learn, grow, and connect.
For Staff: Convince staff that by providing access to a 3D Printer they will be supporting and encouraging the members of our community to learn new skills and create new relationships which will improve and enrich their lives because that is how the staff helps to fulfill the mission of our public library.
Policy, Guidelines, and Mission Statement For 3D Printing
For assistance in creating policy, guidelines, and a mission statement related to the use of the 3D Printer, I will rely heavily on the American Library Association (ALA), on examples from other public libraries that are available online, as well as contacts at local libraries and the local school district.
The library Director and the staff will draft the initial policy, guidelines, and mission statement and then present it to the Board of Trustees for consideration and discussion. The guidelines, policy, and mission statement must be approved by the Board of Trustees.
The ALA suggests that the policy should:
identify those eligible to use the library’s 3-D printer;
outline all rules and regulations concerning user access, fees, and training requirements;
bar use of the library’s 3-D printing facilities for illegal activities;
include a statement informing users that all other library policies apply when using the library’s 3-D printer or printing services, including policies addressing user behavior, acceptable use, cybersecurity, copyright, intellectual freedom and user privacy.
Guidelines will include:
The responsibilities of the user, including but not limited to, adhering to the use policy; attending training prior to use; following safety guidelines and behavior guidelines; proper format, size, and editing of the file submitted; abiding by the timing, frequency and length of printing allowed; fees for plastics and materials; finished product must be picked up by the individual who printed it by a specified date.
The rights reserved by and responsibilities of the library, including but not limited to, refusing any print request; library is not responsible for any damage, loss, or security of data arising from the use of its equipment or network, nor the functionality or quality of objects produced on the 3-D printer; library is not responsible for matters related to copyrighted, patented or trademarked material; library does not guarantee complete customer privacy during the 3-D printing process as printing is done in a public space; no refunds given for the cost of materials.
The library provides 3D Printing services to our community in support of the library’s mission to improve our users’ quality of life, to promote personal enrichment, and to enable the freedom to create. Access to 3D Printing encourages a participatory maker-culture at the library, improves users’ digital literacy, engages users in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and introduces users to manufacturing, engineering, and design as viable career options. Access to 3D Printing can stimulate and support local innovation and business.
Grant money will be used for the purchase of the 3D Printer, a year long service contract, necessary software package, a dedicated laptop, rolling cart for equipment, and supply of plastic printing material for staff training purposes and user training purposes. The training and printing will be done in the library’s Community Room. Staff will be paid for their time spent training. Money could be reallocated from the Travel & Training budget. At this time, additional money will be allocated from our Programming budget to cover dedicated staff hours to supervise printing on Saturdays (4 hours). We anticipate Saturday being a popular time for users. There will be limited printing times available during the week (one to two hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday). All printing will be by appointment. There will always be at least one trained staff member working during appointment times and a volunteer to cover the circulation desk.
Action Steps & Timeline
We anticipate being ready to have the public creating 3D printed items in 5-6 months following approval of the policy, guidelines, and mission statement by the Board of Trustees.
Project Manager (me) become proficient printing basic items: 4 weeks
Training of staff (and volunteers?) by Project Manager: 4-6 weeks
Recruitment and training of “beta testers” (3 or 4 testers): 4 weeks
Promotion and generating interest in Open House/Demo Days/New Tech Nights/Printing Pep-Rally: 2-3 weeks
Hosting of demo events: 2 weeks
First public printing appointments: 5 months out
The weekday printing appointments will be supervised during the staff member’s regular shifts. Saturday appointments will be supervised by a staff member dedicated to printing. The Saturday printing duties will rotate on a weekly basis among staff members. Project Manager/Library Assistant (me) is salaried and will not be compensated for Saturday printing shifts. The two hourly staff members will be paid for the additional Saturday hours.
Training for the Project Manager will consist of watching training tutorials produced by the company providing the 3D Printer, watching other available training videos on YouTube and WikiHow, working with the high school engineering teacher, and a local library makerspace manager.
The Project Manager will then create a training document/program (and possibly a video tutorial) and teach/train the library staff (and possibly volunteers) how to maintain the printer, use the software to run the file, and load the plastic material.
Training may be one-on-one or as a group, depending on the schedules of all involved.
Promotion & Marketing
There will be a concerted effort to create awareness and build excitement long before the public printing appointments begin. Access to 3D Printing at the library will be promoted in the library’s monthly newsletter and on the library’s Facebook page, Instagram account, and website. Promotion will include examples of possible uses, projects, and applications. Stories of others’ accomplishments will be highlighted: beak for a Toucan, shell for a Tortoise, touchable artwork for the blind, prosthetic limbs, chess pieces, props and costumes, etc.
Promotional information will be shared with local schools, town recreation department, community groups (Boy/Girl Scouts, CosPlayers), local listservs (community, business, crafters).
Promotion will then begin to focus on events to get people into the library to see what a 3D Printer can do and possibly try it. (3D printing is slow and not very flashy but people might want to check it out in person). We need to come up with catchy, fun names for the events – Open House/Demo Days/New Tech Nights/Printing Pep-Rally. There will be a couple of iPads or laptops running slideshows and stories of what has been done using 3D Printers (see References).
The “beta-testers” will be asked for feedback about the training and the printing experiences. This should help us to adjust our approach to teaching and supervising early in the process of coming up to speed and before we interact with the public.
The users will be asked to answer some questions about their experience regarding training and how the staff provided assistance before and during the printing appointment. We will want to get “the story” behind what they are printing, why they are printing it, and who it is for. We will want to record their likes, dislikes, and suggestions. The library staff will take pictures of each item made (with permission) and a “scrapbook” of the items made will be posted on the website.
The staff will also be asked to answer a few questions after each printing experience. Staff will meet periodically and go over their answers as well as the answers collected from the users. This will allow the Project Manager to assess how the printing service is progressing from the point of view of the users and the staff. Does the staff need additional training? Do the users need different training? Should the hours for printing appointments be adjusted? Are there ways we can improve the experience for the users? Are we reaching all the possible user groups out there with our promotion; are they coming in to print? Why or why not? Are we tapping into the non-user library population?
My “Choose Your Own Adventure” choice for this reflective blog is Public Libraries, which, I’m sure, comes as no surprise. By this point, we have all heard the common refrain, “Libraries are more than just books” and this is quite true, but it then begs the question, “What are libraries?” I believe that libraries should be welcoming and comfortable places in our towns and cities that, ideally, reflect the particular community it serves. As such, they will tend to be unique in their own ways. However, there were two points that stood out for me in the readings and videos for this CYOA that I feel all libraries should have in common: 1) the public libraries of today and tomorrow must strive to satisfy the needs of their users, and 2) one of the best ways to achieve the first point is to actually ask those users what they need.
The Ideal Public Library – Dokk1
A stellar example of what a 21st century library can be is the Dokk1 public library in Aarhus, Denmark. Before I go on to talk about how Dokk1 epitomizes the two points I mentioned, I want to take a moment for a personal aside. I took INFO 200 – Information Communities back in 2018 and our current INFO 287 professor, Michael Stephens, was one of the instructors. When he first told us about Dokk1, I was blown away and fell in love with this library – it is on my bucket list of places to visit. The image/concept from Dokk1 that has stuck with me through all of these semesters is that of The Gong.
If you don’t recall, The Gong hangs in a main space, “is 7.5 metres long and weighs three tons and it is the world’s largest tubular bell. When a child is born in Aarhus University Hospital at Skejby, the parents can press a button at the hospital, which sends a signal that releases the arm that rings The Gong at Dokk1. The Gong is engraved with a sun motif and an infinity symbol illustrating new life” (Dokk1, 2021). If this isn’t an amazing symbol of the individual, the community, the future, and connection – I don’t know what is.
Dokk1’s seven core values summarize what this library represents:
The citizen as key factor
Lifelong learning and community
Diversity, cooperation and network
Culture and experiences
Bridging citizens, technology and knowledge
Flexible and professional organisation
Sustainable icon for Aarhus
And the vision for Dokk1: Dokk1 should be a flexible and dynamic sanctuary for everyone in search of knowledge, inspiration, and personal development – an open and accessible learning environment supporting democracy and community.
It is clear that this library values its users – the citizens – and seeks to be a democratic place that supports the entire community. This project – from beginning to end – sought out and encouraged “citizen involvement” because those involved understood that this would be a placed used by the citizens and therefore, should consider and implement their “ideas and wishes”.
Model Programme for Public Libraries
The Model Programme for Public Libraries, also conceived in Denmark, understands that the roles of libraries have been changing and must continue to evolve. “The development has gone from the classical librarian-controlled book library to a library concept that takes its starting point in the needs and interests of the citizens, and which organises offers and activities based on a far wider understanding of information than the classical general education concept.” The Model Programme describes this trend as “having more life at the library” – an abundance of programming and interaction among citizens, volunteers, and staff. A library is not a space for just books and computers, “[t]he library is intended to be a public space with a personal dimension and great flexibility in terms of accommodating local needs.”
Beyond the ‘Third Space’
There has also been much talk about libraries being a ‘third space.’ The ‘first space’ is our home, where we live; the ‘second space’ is our workplace; the ‘third space’ is a community hub. However, according to the 2016 World Library and Information Congress, libraries can move beyond the ‘third place’ and become “Visionary Libraries” that focus on “Space and Users” (Morehart, 2016). Morehart quotes Marie Ostergaard, head of community engagement at Dokk1, as describing Aarhus’ Public Library as “the living room of the city” a place that is “less focused on books and more focused on human needs” (2016) – such a warm-fuzzy, friendly image. In the video Public Libraries 2020 Tour – Denmark – Dokk1: A Knowledge Hub for the Community we have the opportunity to hear Ostergaard talk about Dokk1 and how it was built upon community engagement to be a “democratic space covered by a roof”… “where magic happens when minds meet.”
Four Space Model
So, what should be done within these “library spaces”? According to Skot-Hansen, Jochumsen, and Hvenegaard Hansen, a public library can be transformed “from a passive collection based space to a more active space for experience and inspiration and a local meeting point” by employing the Four Space Model (Laerkes, 2016). The four spaces are not necessarily concrete, physical divisions with mutually exclusive uses. Theses metaphorical “spaces’ are designated: Inspiration, Learning, Meeting, and Performative. The goals they are to help achieve are: experience, involvement, empowerment, and innovation. According to Rolf Hapel, the former Director of Citizens’ Services and Libraries in Aarhus, Denmark, libraries must “regard the user as a resource” – the user doesn’t “come in to use our resources, they come in bringing resources to the library.”
As libraries continue to evolve and adapt and respond to all of the changes occurring in our world, Hapel suggests that one of the ways libraries can ensure that they remain relevant and useful is to answer this question: “What are the problems in society that the library is the answer to?” And more specifically, “What is it that we can only experience at the library?” Hapel suggests that we look at the physical library space as a medium in itself because “information and data themselves are not interesting, but giving meaning and significance to data is interesting.”
Public libraries should be of the people, by the people, and for the people. As librarians, we need to keep this at the forefront of our minds and remember we are there for our users, our communities. We are no longer the gatekeepers of information, rather, we are guides. We are there to enhance a user’s experience interacting with the library and to help them in satisfying their information needs. We are there to help address the problems of society by working to improve the lives of our community members. Libraries are more than just books. Libraries provide more than just technology. Public libraries should be spaces where all are welcomed by librarians who function as guides and facilitators to improve and enrich the lives of their users.
I really enjoyed this week’s readings and watching the videos chosen for us about Hyperlinked Communities and how libraries can be part of this concept. It was so encouraging and refreshing to see the love and the optimism expressed by those involved with libraries – everyone from the past-President of ALA, Loida Garcia-Febo, to Michael Spelman of the Madison Public Library in Wisconsin, to Ciara Eastell of Exeter Library. I find these individuals and their initiatives inspiring, and their stories help to reaffirm my commitment to being a librarian at a public library.
There is, of course, a lot of work to be done to bring many of our public libraries closer to the ideal of what a library can be when it comes to supporting and enriching their communities. But what I loved about this week’s materials, was the awareness of the issues that libraries face and the willingness of librarians to confront them and make change happen.
Christian Lauersen’s (2018) keynote speech from The UX in Libraries conferences entitled Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyondstruck a few nerves with me. I found myself nodding – in agreement, in frustration, in excitement – as I was reading. I wholeheartedly agree with Lauersen in believing that “libraries, public and academics, are important and crucial institutions in creating a more equal and inclusive world” (2018). But…these institutions are made up of librarians – people, humans – who must remain vigilant when it comes to our personal hidden biases and our blind spots, especially when it comes to inclusion/exclusion. And inclusion isn’t only about race, it also refers to an individual’s (or group’s) sexuality, religion, gender, disabilities, political views, or being different in some way. I appreciate that Lauersen admitted his own failures when it comes to his own biases and blind spots, but mostly, I am thankful for the reminders he provided for me. He reminded me that “‘Inclusion’ is a process, Inclusion demands actions” (Lauersen, 2018). More importantly, he highlighted a crucial point, an important distinction: “Inclusion is often used in the same sentence as diversity and those two are closely related but are not the same” (2018). Diversity is important and must be fostered in the library (for both workers and users), but it means nothing if the culture of the library doesn’t change to become more respectful, equitable, and genuinely inviting. As Lauersen says, “Diversity is being invited to a party. Inclusion is being asked to dance” (2018). Diversity doesn’t accomplish much if inclusion isn’t actively promoted.
Lauersen also addressed something I’ve tried to express myself, but he did it much more eloquently than I can. He acknowledges that, as a rather privileged, well-educated white man who has not been persecuted for the color of his skin, religion, or beliefs, one could justifiably ask “Is this white dude the right one to stand here today and talk about ‘Inclusion’, diversity, social justice?” (2018). Obviously, there are others whose lives have been seriously adversely affected by exclusion and racisim/misogeny/homophobia etc., but Lauersen says it is important not to” disqualify his voice” concerning inclusion and social justice because he believes that “it is the sum of voices debating and advocating inclusion, diversity and social justice that does the impact and there is a great chance that other white guys will not listen to people” who are not like them and we “tend to only listen to our defaults – and their default is me because I’m male and white like them” (2018). I believe there is value in speaking up and modeling inclusive behaviors and actions on behalf of those who have suffered from institutionalized racism and exclusionary policies because of who they are, even if one has not faced obvious and overt racism and exclusion themselves.
Lauersen says that diversity, inclusion and racial justice are values that are part of “library DNA” (2018). Thankfully, they are in today’s libraries, but this has not always been the case. There are examples from the not-so-distant past, that many of us in the libraries of today find shameful and embarrassing. But when we know better, we do better. Lauersen says “Support and promotion of democracy, enlightenment, diversity, inclusion, openness and intellectual freedom” tend to be the values of librarians – just take a look at the American Library Association’s LibraryBill of Rights and the Code of Ethics. I feel as Lauersen does, “Really, if you can’t read ‘library’ in to this definition of inclusion you might be in the wrong business” (2018).
Technology has made it possible to free information from its age-old constrains – that of the physical realm – thereby resulting in a radical shift in power. A shift in the control of information away from organizations, businesses, and institutions and into the hands, hearts, and minds of the individual user.
In the book Everything is Miscellaneous (2007), author David Weinberger describes the changing perspectives on “information” – how it’s defined, who controls it, how it is used, and who uses it.
To understand how everything has become miscellaneous, one must first understand the three orders of order. The first order of order is that of the physical, of objects made up of atoms, such as paper, photographs, and books. Books take up space and can only ever be in one place at a given moment. As one collects more and more books, they take up more space and get more difficult to keep track of. The second order of order is that of organization, cataloging, and description. The card catalog is an example of second order organization – cards with a limited description of an object and its location. It is information about another piece of information, essentially metadata. This second order of information must be described by “someone” and organized by “someone” so that at least “some” people will be able to locate the first order object when it is needed. Then, there is the third order of order – that of the digital realm, of bits and bytes. Here, content itself is digitized and stored as bits, and the information about the content is also stored as bits. This “digital world thereby allows us to transcend the most fundamental rule of ordering in the real world: Instead of everything having its place, it’s better if things can get assigned multiple places simultaneously.” (p.14).
This digital world thereby allows us to transcend the most fundamental rule of ordering in the real world: Instead of everything having its place, it’s better if things can get assigned multiple places simulaneously.
Weinberger, “Everthing Is Miscellaneous” p. 14
As Weinberger says, “Now we know that not everything has its place. Everything has its places…” (p.45), and it is this concept, this understanding, that has radically affected how information is now organized. Remember I mentioned that “someone” has to describe and organize the first order information to create second order information? That “someone” – whether it is Dewey, the Library of Congress, newspaper editors, museums, or businesses – confers upon themselves the authority and expertise in arranging, organizing, and presenting certain information in their own preferred way. “We have entire industries and institutions built on the fact that the paper order severely limits how things can be organized” (p. 22), says Weinberger. And, he notes, “Second-order organization, it turns out, is often as much about authority as about making things easier to find” (p. 22).
We have entire industries and institutions built on the fact that the paper order severely limits how things can be organized.
Weinberger, “Everything Is Miscellaneous” p. 22
So, up until information became part of the third order of order, some entity/institution that had enough power and influence would take control and declare “a standard classification scheme” (p. 91). Melvil Dewey believed that his way of cataloging books was a huge step towards “democratizing libraries” when, in fact, what he did was to “solidif[y] “a worldview and knowledge structure taught on the Amherst College campus between 1870 and 1875”” (p. 53). Dewey, and most of the institutions involved in organizing information, believed that they could create a universally acceptable way of shaping and presenting information, and then “maintain this knowledge framework” (p. 101). We now realize that this is not possible because “knowledge itself is unfixed” (p. 56) and “reality is multifaceted” (p. 82) since each individual user has their own point of view. As a direct result of this realization, we no longer need or want “experts” who are subject to “corrupting influences“…filtering” (p. 101) information for us.
When objects and information become “free of their old structure” (p. 95), everything becomes miscellaneous. Essentially, the “third order takes the territory subjugated by classification and liberates it. Instead of forcing it into categories, it tags it” (p. 92). Tagging is a way for the individual to remember things in their own way, and place it within their own relevant organization. Over time, numerous individuals tag information in ways that make sense to them for their own purposes. These “tags may become more useful, meaningful, relevant, and clearer the more there are” (p. 168). These tags will overlap, intertwine, and connect to create a web.
This is what we now have, a hyperlinked “web of knowledge, communally constructed, ever shifting, and frequently extraordinarily useful” (p. 100). It is extraordinarily useful because all of the information is now out there as bits and bytes in a miscellaneous third-order state – yet “everything is connected and therefore everything is metadata” (p, 105). It is this perfectly imperfect jumble of digitally interconnected information that allows an individual user to sort out information when he wants it and how he wants it. This miscellany is “fundamentally different from previous miscellanies” (p. 171) because the user, the researcher, the customer, can “bring any set of content next to any other” (p. 171) creating their own unique way of browsing, seeking information, and finding answers. ‘Miscellaneous individuals’ can also find others in the digital world to “form real social groups…because they’re talking with one another” (p.118) and sharing their own information and commonalities.
Now that we, as individual users no longer need experts and authorities to filter and organize information for us, those experts and authorities are in a bit of a panic. They have realized that the balance of power is shifting, and shifting rapidly, away from them and into the hands of the individual. Businesses, institutions, and organizations (and dare I say, libraries) know that “[i]f they don’t allow their users to structure information for themselves, they’ll lose” them (p. 133). As Weinberger points out, “In a truly miscellaneous world, a successful business owns nothing but what it wants to sell us. The rest is ours.” (p. 228).
Businesses, institutions, and organizations know that “[i]f they don’t allow their users to structure information themselves, they’ll lose” them.
Weinberger, “Everything Is Miscellaneous” p. 133
This has opened a whole new world for the individual user – a participatory, content-generating, social world that exists in the digital realm. There is Wikipedia, Flickr, Delicious, TikTok, Reddit, and YouTube. There is the meteoric rise of “meta-businesses” – “a new category of business that enhances the value of information developed elsewhere” but that also indirectly benefits the original creators of the information. Examples of such businesses are Expedia, Travelocity, FareCast.com, DPReview.com, Zillow, and Dabble.com. But most importantly, these meta-businesses allow users to search, organize, and use information in the way that best works for them.
And what does all of this mean for libraries? Well, they are certainly not immune to the effects of everything becoming miscellaneous. Libraries must accept that their control over information is diminishing and it is the user who is in control. Steve Denning asked the question “Do we need libraries?” (2015). If libraries are to survive and flourish, they must shift from being part of the Traditional Economy to operating within the Creative Economy. In the Creative Economy of today and tomorrow, “the customer becomes the center of the organization’s universe” and the organization must “delight its users and customers” (Denning, 2015). Denning’s perspective echoes that of Karen G. Schneider, better known as the Free Range Librarian, and author of “The User Is Not Broken: A meme masquerading as a manifesto.” (2006). Many of her statements are extremely relevant to this discussion and remain true to this day.
You fear loss of control, but that has already happened.
The user is the sun.
You cannot change the user, but you can transform the user experience to meet the user.
The most significant help you can provide your users is to add value and meaning to the information experience, wherever it happens; defend their right to read; and then get out of the way.
If we continue fetishizing the format and ignoring the user, we will be tomorrow’s cobblers.
And last, but not least…
Information flows down the path of least resistance. If you block a tool the user wants, users will go elsewhere to find it.
Libraries must provide tools, services, and programs that the patrons of their community want, need, and enjoy. Tools, such as, websites, catalogs/OPACs (online public access catalogs), and databases that are intuitive and easy to use and that help to make their lives simpler and easier. Services, such as, online reference assistance, access to local social services, and bookmobiles. Programs, such as, citizenship classes, computer classes, and resume and job search assistance. Programs and services must be continually assessed to ensure that they are actually meeting the needs of those in the community. And it is not enough to “delight” those who are already using the library, we must find out what we need to do to entice new and potential users to interact with and benefit from their local library. Those who work in libraries must always remember “The user is not broken” and “The user is not “remote.” You, the librarian, are remote, and it is your job to close that gap” (Schneider, 2006).
Libraries must become the “hyperlinked libraries” that Michael Stephens (2016) speaks of if they are to remain relevant in today’s socio-technological landscape. And, according to Stephens (2016), hyperlinked librarians must understand that:
The library is everywhere—it is not just the building or virtual spaces.
We must reach all users, not just those who come through our doors.
The path forward will always be an evolutionary one.
But even most importantly, the hyperlinked librarian must remember that we are about people and not books. We provide services to our users/patrons/customers. And, in my opinion, to be a successful librarian in today’s world, we must lead with our hearts and show empathy and understanding whenever possible.
To return to Everything Is Miscellaneous, Weinberger understands that “How we organize our world reflects not only the world but also our interests, our passions, our needs, our dreams” (p. 40). And “[n]ow we can see for ourselves that knowledge isn’t in our heads: It is between us” (p. 147). This is a very exciting and unprecedented time. Information is now of the people, by the people, and for the people. And we, as librarians, can assist in providing access, encouragement, and guidance when our users wish to sift and search the ever-growing swirl of miscellaneous information.
How we organize our world reflects not only the world but also our interests, our passions, our needs, our dreams
Weinberger, “Everything Is Miscellaneous” p. 40
Yet, in the end, Weinberger reminds us, “[t]he world won’t ever stay miscellaneous because we are together making it ours” (2007, p. 230).
What do I mean when I say librarianship is about “the heart”? Quite a few things, actually.
I mean my heart is happy and content when I am working at my town’s public library where I can be of service – to my patrons, my neighbors, my community. I’ve been told that I “wear my heart on my sleeve” as if this is a distasteful thing. I happen to believe it is a good quality. With my heart, I strive to empathize or sympathize; show genuine kindness, concern, and interest; try to listen with my ears (and heart) in an attempt to understand. And then – as a human in the role of librarian – assist, guide, and facilitate. I was so excited to see similar ideas and thought processes in the foreword, preface, and first chapter (The Hyperlinked Librarian) of The Heart of Librarianship (Stephens, 2016). It is this concept of “heart” that drew me to this class. For example, “the library should be human. It means that behind the keyboard, behind the blog, and behind the Facebook page, there’s a person ready to have a conversation: ready to help, ready to listen” (Stephens, 2016, p. 26). It was exciting to me to see these sentiments reflected back at me in the foundational readings.
Back to what I mean when I say librarianship is about “the heart.” I also consider “the heart of the library” to be the people that use the library. The people – patrons, users, customers, guests – (call them what you want), are why we, as librarians, are there. Some might think that books, or reference material, or the catalog – are “the heart” of a library. I could see how a case could be made for that, but I firmly believe that it is the users. As we see, libraries are constantly changing, in constant flux. Many libraries no longer have that many books or reference material in print, and the catalog can now be accessed from outside of the library. A library is not without a “heart” because it does not have books. The heart of a library is its users. As Stephens (2016) says, “We must always keep working to be there, to be present, to be at the edge of what’s happening, and to be very visible while focusing on people, not technology, not the collection” (p. 26). And Denning (2015) reminds us that we must figure out “How can we delight our users and customers?” for this is what librarianship is about.
I also like to envision the public library as “the heart” of its community. Public libraries today, often strive to be “the hub” of the town, city, or county it serves. I really like that analogy, as well. Maybe it could be “the hub with a heart”? A public library should be the place where the people it serves want to come for information, entertainment, relaxation, conversation, assistance, and lifelong learning. All of it – given with heart, from one heart to another.
I do want to veer slightly off topic for a moment, and mention The Three Scary “Cs” – change, creativity, and chaos. To me, anyway, these are somewhat scary concepts that were discussed a great deal in The Hyperlinked Librarian. I am trying to change my mindset about the three Cs and see them as exciting challenges (oh, another “C”!) that are integral aspects of librarianship – for today, tomorrow, and the future. I am hoping my “heart” will guide me: to help me remain open and positive in the face of change, to spark creative solutions and services that truly make our users’ lives better, and to keep me centered and focused while working within the chaos.
Just this past week, I was encouraged that my “heart” may indeed help guide my decisions and choices as a librarian. A patron I have known for many years now called the library asking for help in finding a cookbook for a “renal diet.” She is caring for a 92 year old family member whose kidneys are failing. She herself is in her mid-70s and is commuting two hours round trip to visit him daily. She said she looked in the library system’s catalog but did not see an appropriate cookbook and thought I might have better luck finding one. Well, I didn’t – there was not a single book in the system focused on recipes for a renal diet. So, this is what I did. I located some websites that were targeted towards people with kidney problems that had some appropriate recipes. I also found a couple of free PDFs of renal diet cookbooks that had been put together by organizations and by individuals who realized there was a need. I sent my patron an email with this information, but I also asked her to go to Amazon.com, where there are many renal diet cookbooks for sale, and to choose two she really liked. I made the decision, then and there, to tell her the library would purchase the books, give them her when they arrived, let her keep them as long as she needed, and when she was done with them, she could bring them to the library and we would catalog them and put them in our collection. She was so appreciative and relieved – she thanked me up and down for the recipes I sent for her to use now, and for the library’s willingness to step up and order the books to help her with an information need and to fill a need in the system’s collection.
I did what I did because that is what I would want the library to do for me if I needed something they couldn’t provide. And I could do this because I work in a small library (a director, two full time staff, two part-time staff) with a director who allows me to take initiative and trusts me to make some decisions without having to run them by her first. I made this decision from my heart – I could sympathize with the situation she was in and came up with a solution that would help her, and was also acceptable to my director. Maybe leading with my “heart” can help me to be a better librarian?
I guess my definition of librarianship does, in fact, begin and end with the heart.
Hi all! Just want to introduce myself. My name is Michelle Calupca and I started taking classes at SJSU for my MLIS in the fall of 2018. I have been taking two classes a semester and INFO 287 – The Hyperlinked Library, is one of my two final classes, before taking the portfolio class. I have been looking forward to this class since meeting Professor Stephens in INFO 200. If The Hyperlinked Library isn’t already the library of today, it is definitely the library of tomorrow and the future. I hope that this class will teach me how to use current and emerging tools to be a better librarian and expand the ways in which I can communicate with users and librarians, alike.
I am calling this blog “Librarian of Late” because I have been working in a small, rural public library near Ithaca, New York for 10 years and just started earning an MLIS at the age of 48. So, I’m coming to the profession somewhat “late” in life and it is what I’ve been doing “lately.” I am interested in continuing to work in public libraries even after I complete my degree.
I have a B.S. in Biology from Cornell University and a PhD in Anatomy and Neurobiology from the University of Vermont. After finishing my PhD, I decided I wanted to start a family and put my career on hold. I have two amazing sons, ages 19 and 16, who I have been raising as a single-parent since 2011 – the same year I began working at my local library. Life has taken a number of unexpected twists and turns, but it has led me to public librarianship – something I am truly passionate about.
I want to say hello to all of my INFO 287 classmates and I look forward to working with you and leaning with you this semester, and I apologize for my blog not being completely fleshed-out and developed at this point. I will be working on it in the coming days. The beginning of my classes has coincided with my older son going off to his freshman year in college. It’s been a busy and emotional few days.
I am excited to begin Exploring The Hyperlinked Library!