Hyperlinked Librarian

Archive for September 2019

In order for the library to become “hyperlinked” – that is, connecting people and their communities together – the library must be an inclusive space, a space where all people and all communities are welcome.

Last year, the library district where I work, Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD), hosted Drag Queen Story Hour, a program that encourages early childhood literacy while promoting diversity and inclusion. My library district is located in Colorado Springs, a fairly conservative town. So, when one of our main library branches decided to host Drag Queen Story Hour, there was some pushback. One city councilman publicly demanded the library to cease support for the program before it began. Our library director, John Spears, responded to the councilmen in a professional, well-worded letter saying that the library is and always will be open to everyone. In his letter, Spears cited two sections from the ALA Bill of Rights:

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.

The ALA Bill of Rights protects citizens from discrimination when using the library. However, Spears also evoked a sense of leadership that libraries ought to have when promoting inclusion.

One of the readings that really resonated with me this week was Christian Lauersen’s “Do You Want to Dance?” keynote speech. Lauersen stated that “inclusion demands action, awareness, [and] responsibility” (p. 3). In other words, “inclusion” is a verb – it is something an institution must actively do rather than passively promote. For libraries, to be inclusive is to undertake “acts of inclusion [aimed] at improving the conditions for those who are disadvantaged by our social and historical structures” (Lauersen, 2018, p. 5).

The moment that PPLD decided to keep Drag Queen Story Hour, regardless of varying opinions, the library district engaged in a deliberate act of inclusion. In Spears’ letter, he reminded the public that the library provides a service that is “steeped in humanism, compassion, and understanding […] for all members of our communities, including the underserved” (Garcia-Febo, 2018, para. 5). Libraries have become spaces in which everyone is invited to participate, which charges libraries with the responsibility of being stewards of diversity and inclusion.

References

Garcia-Febo, L. (2018). Serving with love: Embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in all that we do. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/11/01/serving-with-love/

Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/

Picture References

Drag Queen Story Hour. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dragqueenstoryhour.org/

Hands. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://hewlett.org/committing-diversity-equity-inclusion/

Public libraries today not only provide access to materials, but also act as a community hub for learning and connecting. However, many people still view the brand of the library in limited terms of “library=books.” This narrow perspective is problematic for libraries, which actually have so much more to offer than books. How can we rebrand the library so that when people think of the library, they think of the many valuable services it offers? How can we show people that the library is “the place to be”? In other words, what can librarians do to get the library to catch on?

In his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger (2013) explains why some things catch on – or why things become popular, viral, and trendy – and other things fail to do so. Berger asserts that products and services that “go viral” tend to have six things in common when they are marketed: social currency, triggers, emotion, public visibility, practical value, and stories.

Libraries need to tap into Berger’s core principles that make things catch on. A focus on participatory culture could be the key to libraries’ success. If libraries partner with current users, more interest and popularity could be stirred up. The following paragraphs outline three examples of ways to make things go viral, which are paired with Library 2.0 principles. Fusing Berger’s tenets of virality with Library 2.0 principles has the potential to make library services catch on.  

Social Currency and Radical Trust

Part of participatory service includes “radical trust” (Stephens, n.d.). In this service model, users are encouraged to participate based on a foundation of trust. Radical trust can be observed in libraries experimenting with automated self-service technology, like Gwinnett County (Ga) Public Library (GCPL), which opens its doors to the public before normal hours of operation. The idea of self-service relates to social currency because of its exclusivity. Social currency refers to how we share things to make ourselves look interesting or “in the know” in social settings. Exclusivity makes people feel like insiders, which is a type of social currency (Berger, 2013, p. 51). Only people with library cards can get into the Gwinnett County Public Library after hours. Exclusivity therefore creates an incentive for people to get library cards and use library services before the library is open to the rest of the public. For this type of social currency to work in libraries, however, radical trust – a product of participatory service – must be present.  

Practical Value and Reaching New Users

According to Berger, “people like to pass along practical, useful information” (Berger, 2013, p. 158). Moreover, people like to share information that will help out a buddy or two (ibid). This is why YouTube videos that depict practical information often go viral. Not surprisingly, practical value also includes saving a few dollars (Berger, 2013, p. 160). A good example of libraries tapping into the power of practical value is Rock County Library’s (Mn.) receipts, which display how much money the patron saved by borrowing books from the library. Showcasing money saved is exemplary of Library 2.0 because it is a way to potentially reach out to new users (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007. p. 37). If someone shares how much they saved at the library – perhaps via text, Facebook, or Instagram – the library has effectively used its current patrons to advertise library services.

Stories and Participatory Culture

Berger states that “Stories […] give people an easy way to talk about products and ideas” (Berger, 2013, p. 189). The author describes a story as a type of “trojan horse” that transmits information (ibid). Thus, libraries need to encourage people to tell their stories relating to library services. The Pikes Peak Library District (Co.) (PPLD) tries to home in on this idea of storytelling through its website. On PPLD’s main page, there is a link that says, Share Your Library Story! Below the link there are blog entries of people who have participated in the website’s storytelling feature. By drawing upon participatory service, whereby consumers are transformed into participants, PPLD has created a space where people can tell their stories about the library. People who visit the library’s website who notice the stories will ideally be drawn in enough to try out a service at the library.

Libraries=People

Contagious provides a way for libraries to catch on, to become popular, to become the next new thing. If libraries can combine Library 2.0 principles, like participatory service, with marketing strategies like the ones Berger discusses, then they might be able to change their own brand from “library=books” to “library=people.”

References

Berger, J. (2013). Contagious: Why things catch on. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

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

Stephens. (n.d.). The hyperlinked library: Participatory service and transparency. [Lecture].

Picture Credits

Contagious book cover. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15801967-contagious

Gwinnett County Public Library (n.d.). Key to Library. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2019/09/03/automatic-people-self-service-libraries/

Hamaiti, B. (n.d.). Dandelion blowing. Retrieved from https://fineartamerica.com/featured/2-dandelion-blowing-bess-hamiti.html

Rock County Library. (n.d.). Receipt. Retrieved from http://rockcountycommunitylibrary.org/

Pikes Peak Library District. (n.d.). A million stories. Retrieved from https://ppld.org/whats-new/share-your-library-story

What I found most striking about the foundational readings was changing the approach to how library staff and administration operate. I started our readings with “Cultivating Complexity” where Mathews (2017) talks about utilizing different types of teams to achieve different types of goals. Mathews describes the new organizational environment as an “evolutionary ecosystem.” Like a natural ecosystem, change is ever-present and organisms must constantly adapt. Mathews says that the remedy for this ever-changing work environment is to adapt company’s organizational structures. The author asserts that “Rather than being bound by static job descriptions, strict reporting lines, and the territorial nature of functional units, employees [should] be free to act upon emerging situations” (p. 23). Mathews emphasizes that teams need to be fluid – without strict hierarchies – in order to cultivate creativity and readily respond to change.

In Library 2.0, Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk (2007) predict the type of organizational change Mathews discusses nearly a decade later. While Casey and Savastinuk’s main point is embracing participatory culture and putting the changing needs of users first, the authors also highlight the need for the library as an organization to make changes internally as well as externally. Casey and Savastinuk suggest the use of “vertical teams,” or teams that “include staff from all levels of an organization – from frontline staff to the directorial level and everyone in between” (p. 45). In the vertical team structure, all levels of staff are involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating current and emerging services, effectively flattening the “top to bottom” hierarchy.

The distinctively team-oriented aspect of the Library 2.0 model struck me because the library where I currently work has gone through immense changes in the past five years. In that time, I have seen some instances where change has been managed effectively and not so effectively. Case in point, last year the library’s “leadership team” (our head-honchoes) decided that the largest libraries in the district would benefit from merging staff desks (i.e. Circulation and Adult Services desks would be combined into a one-stop-shop for patrons). The first attempt at this desk merger was a huge disaster. Staff at the first test-library felt like the merger was a mandate rather than a choice and did not fully understand the need for such a disruptive change to their regular routine. Thankfully, the leadership team learned from their mistake. With the second test-library they decided to create a “Merge Herd” team dedicated to the smooth transition of merging staff desks. The Merge Herd is what Casey and Savastinuk would call a “vertical team.” Staff from all levels – from shelving to our regional manager – were involved. Not surprisingly, the desk merge at the second library was a huge success, staff even said that services and patron interactions were significantly better after the merger.

After reading Mathews in conjunction with Casey and Savastinuk, the wildly different outcomes at the two test-libraries makes perfect sense now. The Merge Herd was “free to act upon an emerging situation” – the desk merges – and make the situation a positive experience through vertical communication. Additionally, including staff from all levels worked to boost morale and made employees feel like they had a say in a decision that would directly affect their work-lives.

Personally, I’m thrilled to see that libraries (and other company’s) are starting to rethink hierarchical structures that often do not benefit anyone but the higher-ups. Many times, this type of hierarchical thinking does not even benefit the customer, whose experience may suffer based on a management decision that could have been re-thought had they only consulted employees who actually work with the customer every day. This is precisely why staff re-organization is so pivotal to the Library 2.0 model – a harmonic flow of ideas emerging from staff communication at all levels can only benefit the customer’s experience and their perception of the library.

References

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

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

Picture References

Lightbulb. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/What-is-important-in-teamwork

Plants. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/from-starting-lineup-to-game-winning-shot-whats-your-growth-strategy.html

Team circle flying. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/lee-colan/building-and-protecting-your-leadership-values.html

Team clip art. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.govloop.com/community/blog/the-foundations-of-teamwork/


Skip to toolbar