The format of my virtual symposium submission is a mixture of a standard Instagram post and presentation animations. I have been inspired lately by how much information is being shared through Instagram posts that are multiple pages with users swiping to read all of the text. Many of the posts are text-heavy and address a variety of topics (e.g. gender pronouns, covid restrictions, voting rights, etc.).

The link to my full virtual symposium post is here.

Creativity & Curiosity: Final Reflection

A story:
In 2017 I started taking pottery classes because I knew I needed to do something completely new to me where I was guaranteed to fail repeatedly. I was terrified of trying new things because I thought I would be “bad” at them and this fear was really holding me back in every aspect of my life. I was bad at pottery. Three years later I’ve learned so much, tried new things (with clay and without), and I’m still failing regularly. More than anything else, pottery has constantly challenged me to be more adaptable and problem-solve creatively.

Here’s a video of some pottery mishaps from the past three months.

This modulethe Can You Teach Creativity? video specificallyreminded me that there was a time before I knew how to work with clay. When I only considered myself a “student” or “athlete” and thought I that’s all I was. And there will be a time, maybe three years from now, where I’m again reminded of all the new things I learned because I followed my curiosity.

This article by Jane Cowell suggests ways to implement creativity into everyday library practice. The first thing listed is time set aside “for learning, play, investigation, fun, with the eventual outcome being innovation, maybe a pilot and new skills” (2017). I wholeheartedly agree. Creativity helps me maintain the balance talked about in the Reflective Practice lecture and approach my work in libraries through a more innovative lens.

Three years ago I didn’t know that I wanted to work in libraries. I have learned so much during this course, from peers in this class and others, from my coworkers at the library, from #librarytwitter. I can’t wait to find out what I’m going to learn in the next three years.

ArtsandArch. (2012, August 26). Can You Teach Creativity? – Chris Staley, Penn State Laureate 2012-2013 [YouTube].
Cowell, J. (2017). A Challenge to Library Managers: Embed Creativity in Your library.
Stephens, M. (2020). Reflective practice [Lecture].


During the Infinite Learning modules, I was reminded of a mini conference session I attended about a month ago. The conference was focused on sustainability in libraries and the session provided ideas for using programs to teach sustainability in public libraries. Sara Whitaker, the presenter from the Gwinnett County Library, hosts monthly informational craft sessions where participants learn about an element of environmental sustainability and then make a craft with trash. The finished crafts are then donated to a group in the community. This program is magnificent for so many reasons: it’s group connection, creative thinking, use of recycled materials, participatory education, and it ends with functional service to the community. 

The program is typically run with the learning portion at the beginning so people haven’t left the room by the time it happens. It is brief, engaging, and can be related to the art project of the day. In one particular example provided, the group learned about the over-production of plastic bags, the impact their presence has on the environment, and some statistics about the use of plastic bags locally. Then, with previously used plastic bags, the group made mats that were given to people experiencing homelessness to use as a ground barrier. 

Sara Whitaker also shared about their educational displays and learning programs for World Ocean Day where they designed and created trash sculptures of marine life. They have participatory stations set up for hands-on learning and games to keep the learners engaged. Also mentioned are more informal types of education, like talking to the teens about the recyclability of pizza boxes when they finish eating the pizza they’ve ordered. (Cardboard is only recyclable if it does not have food grease on it, but it can always be composted!)

Some of my own experiences with sustainability education have come from free programs through city departments. I have attended composting workshops at the local recycling center and was given a free compost bin at the end of the information session. It’s served me well for four years and now I can educate my family and friends about composting.

An otter I spotted at the Aquarium on Parkside.

Not library-related, but in the same vein of education, participation, and creativity with the use of recycled materials is a front lawn installation in my neighborhood called the Aquarium on Parkside. Back in April, the family began constructing a front yard aquarium filled with animals built out of recycled materials. Many of the animals are accompanied by facts about the animal so passersby can learn while they look. They have small cardboard cutouts of many of the animals for community members to decorate and return, as well as a basket of recyclables out on the lawn so anyone feeling inspired can build an animal to add to the aquarium. The Aquarium on Parkside is the perfect example of a participatory, educational display that engages community education in sustainable way. 


There are so many opportunities for libraries to form educational, participatory programming that engages users by challenging their ingenuity. Sustainability education can be woven into the fabric of library service, take place inside or outside of the library, show up formally during a special program or informally in conversations with users. I am inspired by the work other libraries have done and the unique ways my community members provide educational service to others.


Stephens, M. (2020). Infinite learning: Library as a classroom [Lecture]. https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=671a2e9a-2353-4f21-be3c-aaef01310760
Stephens, M. (2020). Infinite learning: Learning everywhere [Lecture]. https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=e38d4a22-9626-4b29-a038-aaef0124ee52
Whitaker, S. (October 15, 2020). Sustainability in libraries [Video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBm18jp72CQ&feature=youtu.be


When I saw the links to the Human Library in the Power of Stories module I knew it sounded familiar. Back in August, my Aunt Colleen had shared a Facebook post with me that had information about the Human Library. At the time, I didn’t seek out any additional information and simply “liked” the post—now I’m intrigued. The Human Library is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: a collection of humans, volunteering to answer questions and share their stories for the sake of education and connection. The organization’s tagline is “Unjudge Someone.” They strive to help people move beyond biases, first impressions and assumptions. Checking a “book” out of the Human Library ensures access to space for truthful accounts of lived experiences, straight from the source. 

This semester I am taking two classes along with the Hyperlinked Library, one of which is Cultural Competence (INFO 281 seminar—highly recommended). In the class, I have taken many implicit bias tests and an in-depth test to assess my cultural intelligence. I have begun critical self-reflection of my biases and how they impact my job as an information professional and my everyday life as a human. Like myself, many individuals and groups are looking to increase their levels of self-awareness, empathy, and cultural competence. It can be really difficult figuring out where to start and what action steps to take. Access to the Human Library—people volunteering to answer questions from others curious about their lived experiences—is a tremendous resource for strengthening cultural competence. One volunteer for the Human Library says, “It’s easy to hate a group of people, but it’s harder to hate an individual, particularly if that person is trying to be friendly and open and accommodating and totally non-threatening” (Elsesser, 2020). Putting a name and a face to a cultural identity can lead to success of the Human Library’s mission for its readers to “unjudge someone.”

Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Not only does the presence of a Human Library afford people the opportunity to grow their cultural intelligence, it fills the inherent need for human connection through storytelling. “Hyperlinks are people too” (Stephens, 2020). Libraries offering a physical space (or virtual space) for people to gather, bridging cultural gaps, makes for a stronger community bound by a newfound shared experience. I cannot recall the last time I sat down with a true stranger and asked them intimate questions about their identity, but I know it would leave a profound impact on me.

The Human Library has made its way to the United States after growing roots in Denmark in the early 2000s. In my information gathering, I discovered that the organization is currently holding events via Zoom, some even in my time zone! The format is similar to the regular in-person process, where you sign up to check out a “book” and meet with them in a breakout room. It’s officially on my list of Things to Do.

Elsesser, K. (2020, July 13). The human library is tackling diversity and inclusion one person at a time.
Human Library. (2020). About the human library.
Stephens, M. (2020). The hyperlinked library model [Lecture].


disco balls

For over a year, I have been stuck on the idea of a “Library Spirit Week” at the Burbank Public Library, similar in likeness to the spirit week that leads up to the Homecoming Football Game and Homecoming Dance at most American high schools–complete with a theme, events structured with the theme in mind, community gatherings, and celebration. Recently added to my future plans for Library Spirit Week is a Silent Disco, presented as the culminating event geared towards the teen population. The Silent Disco would be one of many events offered during the Burbank Library’s Spirit Week, all in line with the theme chosen for the particular year.

The Burbank Public Library is a three-branch library system that serves a city population of just over 100,000 people. In reviewing their community conversations from the fiscal year 2018-2019, it is clear the community is seeking “programs that bring people together, both inside and outside Library facilities” (Burbank Public Library, n.d.-a, p. 8). The Burbank Library currently offers a diverse range of programming for children, teens, and adults, with a majority of those programs created for younger learners in the children’s population. With the assistance of the Teen Advisory Board (TAB) and youth services staff members, the Burbank Library will host an annual Silent Disco to celebrate community and promote sociability, movement, creativity, and participation.

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service: 
The primary goal for the Silent Disco for teens is to invite library users and non-users to participate in a unique community experience. The Silent Disco promotes health literacy through movement, participation, and engagement. Let’s Move in Libraries is an organization, inspired by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, working to increase physical activity, health literacy, and health equity in libraries. In the organization’s research, it has been shown that “the most consistently reported impact of these programs is new library users” (Lenstra, 2017, p. 214). Physical activity offerings in libraries bring people back to the Library to use the other services or attend other programs. Giving one of Burbank’s communities the option to participate in a free, movement-based activity may draw non-users into the library space and convert them into users.

Description of Community you wish to engage:
The community aimed to engage in this program are library users and non-users in the 12-18 age range. Teens at the Burbank Library, are underrepresented in library programming. Out of the 617 total programs hosted at the Burbank Library in 2018-2019, only 58 of them were for teens, which is less than 10% of all library programs (Burbank Public Library, 2019). From this statistic alone, it is apparent that young adults and teens are a neglected patron community with regard to programming. A Silent Disco is being proposed to engage this community because it provides low pressure social engagement. As participants are not required to speak with each other, they still maintain a common experience that creates social closeness.

Action Brief Statement:
For participants: I plan to convince teens that by participating in a silent disco they will build connections with their peers and have fun, which will bring them back to the library to participate in other events/services because of the newfound knowledge that the Library as much to offer beyond the physical collection.

For staff: I plan to convince staff that by providing the opportunity for teens to attend a silent disco, the Library is promoting health literacy, social wellness, and community participation through movement-based service, which will bring more users to the Library because they will realize the organization has much more to offer outside of the physical collection.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:
Other Library Silent Discos:
– Enterprise staff. (n.d.) Silent Disco Comes to the Library.
– Town Planner. (2018). Lake County Public Library – Silent Disco for Teens.
– Kadosh, M. (2018, January 29). Belleville Library’s Silent Dance Party for Teens.

Health-Based Research:
– Woolhouse, M.H., Cross, I., & Tidhar, D. (2016). Effects on Inter-Personal Memory of Dancing in Time with Others.
– Tarr, B., Launary, J., & Dunbar, R.I.M. (2016). Silent Disco: Dancing in Synchrony Leads to Elevated Pain Thresholds and Social Closeness.

– Silent Disco Party UK. (n.d.). How to Host a Silent Disco.
– Verde, A. (2017, October 2). How to Throw a Silent Disco.

The Burbank Public Library’s Silent Disco won’t take place in the stacks, but could look a little something like this… [The Student Hub Live. (2016, September 21). Library silent rave. YouTube.]

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:
The Silent Disco will follow all BPL standard Rules of Conduct for library operations. The event will be utilizing equipment owned by a rental company, and therefore, the Library may want to place additional rules or boundaries on the event (e.g. the headsets do not leave the Community Room where the event is being held). Example of a procedure that ensures safety of materials: when the participants arrive, a staff member will write down their library card/school ID number and the headset number they take to keep track of which person checked out which headset. In the case of a missing headset, the library staff will know which patron to contact. The youth services staff will also review past events of a similar size (e.g. murder mystery parties) to determine the appropriate level of staffing for this event. The age range allowed to participate in the event will align with the standard for all of the Burbank Library’s programming for teens, which includes those ages 12-18 years old only. After staffing, procedures, rules of conduct are examined by the youth services staff, Library administration will review the plan, offer any suggestions or amendments, and submit their approval.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:
While I plan to implement the Silent Disco with the use of a rental company that will provide the headsets, transmitters, and other necessary technology, this event can be done with little to no funding if necessary. The Library will use the Community Room at the Buena Vista Branch for the event, which needs no adjustments and has a full kitchen for refreshments and full technology room for all DJ needs. The room may be decorated for the event with the help of the Teen Advisory Board. The funding for decorations, refreshments, and technology will come out of the youth services programming budget, supplemented with funds raised by the Friends of the Burbank Public Library. The main cost of the event is going to be the rental of the technology. The price will vary depending upon how many headsets will be needed for the event, as well as the number of transmitters needed. Each transmitter controls one channel of music and many companies provide the option for multiple transmitters (multiple channels), so participants have a variety of music to chose from. If budget becomes an issue and funding cannot be provided or raised for the event, there is another pathway to Silent Disco. The Merrillville Branch of the Lake County Public Library hosted a silent disco for teens without renting equipment. Participants used their own music-playing device (iPhone, iPod, smartphone, etc.) and their own headset (wireless or not) to listen to their own music (Town Planner, 2018). The Merrillville Library did offer wired earbuds to participants who were unable to provide their own. Opting to have participants provide their own device allows them to choose their own music, ensuring that they enjoy what they are listening to, but it does not necessarily introduce them to new technology.

Funding for staffing will also need to be covered; no less than three staff members will be present and their hours must be compensated. If a library monitor is requested for the event, their presence will need to be calculated in the total budget as well. No outside staffing will occur.

Action Steps & Timeline:
Reasonable implementation of this program is two to three months:
1. Plan is pitched to the Youth Services Supervising Librarian for approval.
2. YS Supervising Librarian approves plan, budget is solidified, and our team pitches to Administration for approval. (1 week)
3. Administration approves funding and YS team makes reservation for technology rental. (1 week)
4. YS team collaborates with Marketing to begin promoting the event on social media. YS team works with local groups to promote the event (PTA, local schools, parent groups). (6 weeks)
6. Teen Advisory Board (TAB) meets to plan decorations and details of the event, make suggestions, devise action plan. (1 week)
7. The day of the event the TAB arrives two hours early (4:30pm) to start setting up for the event. Refreshments are picked up by staff member.
8. Evaluation of the program. (up to 1 week)

**There is buffer time built into the planning stage (before administration approval) in the case of a “No” from the Youth Service Supervising Librarian.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:
As mentioned in the Funding section, no less than three staff members must be present for the event. At the very least, the Youth Services Librarian, Library Assistant, and staff member from Digital Services will be present at the event. Administration may also require that a Library Monitor be present. The staff member from Digital Services will be acting as “DJ” for the night and will be present to quell any technological issues with the rental equipment.

Training for this Technology or Service: 
All staff members present on the night of the event need to be trained to operate the headsets and other rental equipment incase a problem arises. Larger scale problems may be solved by the Digital Services staff member. Training can be scheduled for the day prior to the event, ensuring that all headsets work properly and the event is staffed with capable hands.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:
Many marketing tools can be used to promote the Silent Disco. All Library social media accounts will share information about the event including:

– Both the Library’s main Instagram page, as well as the Burbank Library Teen’s Instagram. Information can be shared as a post on Instagram and multiple posts on Instagram stories. Posting on IG stories provides opportunity for feedback from users; they can post a prompt on their story to be answered by users like “I promise to attend if you play this song _______.” This promotes pre-event participation, and can help the Library staff with information gathering (curating a playlist).
– Information about the event will also show up on Facebook, Twitter, in the Library’s monthly newsletter, on the Library website, and will be mentioned at the end of other programs.
– The Library can share video clips of staff members dancing (silently) on social media prior to the event to create excitement.
– Members of the TAB can share information about the event with their peers, and in other clubs or organizations.
– The Youth Services staff will share the information with staff at local middle & high schools, and attend the two Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings prior to the event to help promote the event and answer any parent questions/concerns.
– The Youth Services staff can also reach out to non-profit organizations in Burbank like the YMCA, the Boys & Girls Club, and local Scout troops.

– Participation statistics will be used to determine the baseline of success for the program. Library staff will track how many participants registered in advance for the event and how many showed up on the night of the event. These numbers will be compared to previous teen programming.
– As the participants return their headsets at the end of the night, they will be directed to a white board to voluntarily answer a three-question survey. They will make a check mark for “Yes” and X for “No” under each question. Questions: Was it fun? Would you Silent Disco again? Would you recommend this event to a friend?
– New library user sign ups as a result of the event will also be used as an evaluation tool.
– Staff observations from the event (Were the participants dancing? Were they smiling? Were they socializing?).
– Feedback from parents/caregivers based on their teen’s experience at the event.


Burbank Public Library. (2019). Annual report, 2019 [Internal document].

Burbank Public Library. (n.d.-a). Burbank public library planning process. https://burbanklibrary.org/sites/default/files/2020%20summary%20of%20Burbank%20PL%20information%20gathering.pdf

Burbank Public Library. (n.d.-b). A plan for today, a vision for tomorrow: Burbank Public Library 2020-2023 strategic plan. https://burbanklibrary.org/sites/default/files/Burbank%20PL%20Strategic%20Plan%202020-23.pdf

Burbank Public Library. (n.d.-c). Rules of conduct. https://burbanklibrary.org/sites/default/files/Library%20Rules%20of%20Conduct.pdf

Lenstra, N. (2017). Movement-Based Programs in U.S. and Canadian Public Libraries: Evidence of Impacts from an Exploratory Survey. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice12(4), 214. https://doi.org/10.18438/b8166d

Stephens, M. (2020). Participatory service & transparency [Lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=35b4e981-cd58-479a-96d3-aab3011b0f24


As someone mostly interested in youth services and working with teens in a public library setting, this YouTube video of YOUmedia at the Chicago Public Library blew my mind. Teens excited and enthusiastic about the offerings at the library? Wow. I know YOUmedia is not the only space of its kind, but having never seen something like this in person I am deeply intrigued. 

Introduction to YOUmedia.

I looked at YOUmedia with the four space model in mind. The model was first introduced by Dorte Skot-Hansen, Henrik Jochumsen and Casper Hvenegaard Hansen to “describe the transformation of the public library from a passive collection based space to a more active space for experience and inspiration and a local meeting point” (Laekes, 2016). 

The Four Spaces of the Public Library (Laekes, 2016):

  1. Inspiration space: opens you up for the irrational, emotional and chaotic.
  2. Learning space: discover and explore the world through unrestricted access to information, play, artistic activities, courses.
  3. Meeting space: open, public space to meet others who are both like them and differ from them.
  4. Performative space: supports involvement and innovation–access to tools that support their creative activities through interactive games, writing, sound, video, workshops, and provides space to display/stage their work.
The four spaces by Dorte Skot-Hansen, Henrik Jochumsen and Casper Hvenegaard Hansen

These four spaces help support the four goals of the public library (experience, involvement, empowerment, innovation).

YOUmedia succeeds at acting as each type in the four space model. Inspiration is found through games, art, instruction, and their peers. Learning is available in the shape of the physical collection and hands-on during workshops (in person and virtual). Meeting is inherent as teens from different neighborhoods of Chicago utilize the space for their various interests and interact with one another. Performance occurs through displays of users’ work, live performances of music, poetry, dance, and other expressions of creativity. 

On CPL’s website, they have linked another YouTube video with a more extensive look into the space–Mark Nieker, the president of Pearson Foundation (which is one of the organizations supporting its funding), talks about how the library was formerly thought to be a space where people take information home with them, but YOUmedia is a space where teens can bring their knowledge and distribute that information to their peers within the space (CPL, 2009). 

Since opening the first YOUmedia space at the Central Library in 2009, CPL has opened mini centers at some of their branch locations bringing the total to 23 in 2020. Currently, only two of the 23 YOUmedia locations are open due to COVID-19. They are continuing to offer many virtual programs that cover a wide range of topics: podcasting for beginners, virtual gaming, a haunted escape room, journaling session, intro to improv comedy workshop, coding 101. 

In past blog posts, I’ve reflected upon how the library can maintain its status as a necessary Third Place and make its way into the community beyond the physical space. I am unsure how statistically successful the programming has been, but I think YOUmedia is a good example of innovation within the public library space (with the help of adequate funding, of course). I’m curious how smaller library systems with less funding can implement a space that aims to do the same–invite teens to inspire, learn, meet, perform.

Laerkes, J.G. (2016). The four spaces of the public library.
Leferink, S. (January 24, 2018). To keep people happy… keep some books.


One of the first things that came to mind for me when I was listening to the Participatory Service lecture is Disneyland. Sounds strange, but! Disneyland was built with the ultimate user experience in mind. The employees are known as “cast members” and the visitors are the “audience,” and I think of the whole thing as one big interactive play. Because there is interaction between the employees and the visitors, the audience is participating in the show and influencing its production. Each day and each person’s experience at Disneyland is unique because they influence the interaction and the events that occur. The same is true in libraries–visitors utilize the space and influence the environment. 

Photo source: 2018 Disney Enterprises, Inc/TASCHEN

Participatory services invite library users to shape their surroundings. An example from Stephens’ (2020) lecture that creates both participatory service and transparency is the addition of a public comment board available for users to read, add comments/questions, and receive answers from staff members. Users influence the space by submitting their own thoughts and feelings that become a part of the physical surroundings. The allowance for response from library staff continues the conversation initiated by the user. 

The library I work at has been in the information gathering stage on its way to building a new Central Library. Last Fall, we asked library users to write their vision for a new building on slips of paper shaped like leaves; we added them to a tree form that was housed in the lobby of the current building. This interaction provided the staff with information about the user’s needs and desires, and their participation aided in the formation of a piece of public art.

Burbank Public Library circulation statistics
(September 2020).

Maintaining a transparent environment lends itself to more open participation from users. It is common for our library system to included circulation statistics in the monthly newsletter (available online and in physical form). Since opening for curbside pickup in June, the statistics made their way into the September newsletter. Opening communication and inviting users to actively participate in the library will lead to more successful and satisfying experience–the question that must stay in view is: “How will we open the door and invite everyone inside to participate?” (Stephens, 2016, p. 81).

Stephens, M. (2020). Participatory service & transparency [Lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=35b4e981-cd58-479a-96d3-aab3011b0f24
Stephens, M. (2016). The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change [eBook edition]. ALA Editions.

Palaces for the People (Even When the Palace is Not Open to the People)

Photo: screenshot from Amazon.com.

Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life paints libraries—public libraries specifically—as the great equalizer, the space that will catch humanity in its downfall and lift communities back up. I do not disagree, but I do not fully agree. As we have seen in the last seven months since physical library spaces closed all over the country due to COVID-19 (and many remain so), libraries are losing funding, jobs are being cut, and they are fighting to keep themselves relevant as essential “third places.” Library workers have continued to adapt to changing needs and circumstances, but there are remaining unmet needs deeply embedded in the structure of some communities that cannot be fixed with a library service or program.

“The accessible physical space of the library is not the only factor that makes it work well as social infrastructure. The institution’s extensive programming, organized by a professional staff that upholds a principled commitment to openness and inclusivity, fosters social cohesion among clients who might otherwise keep to themselves.”

(Klinenberg, 2018, p. 36)

Klinenberg focuses on the social impact of libraries early on in the book and then transitions to highlight various types of infrastructure, commenting on their influence on the communities in which they reside. In the chapter about college campuses, the juxtaposition of Ivy League schools and the surrounding area is described as isolating and exclusive. The architecture of the campuses physically keep outsiders out and insiders in, not allowing for social intersections. The example of the Silicon Valley technical hub is similar—the private tech campuses offer their employees access to green spaces, restaurants, athletic facilities, childcare, as well as other various spaces to expand their social network. But these amenities are off-limits to neighboring residents, visitors, and sometimes low-level temps and contractors. While the campuses bring boundless opportunity for social interaction for those who have access, they close themselves off to the neighbors that exist directly outside their walls. Libraries act in opposing fashion. Their buildings and services are influenced by community input and conversations; there are no requirements for entry (although there are still barriers to access). Libraries blur lines of social class and allow for natural interaction among diverse groups, explored in Klinenberg’s example of the Wii bowling tournament at the New Lots branch library.

Queens Library response to Hurricane Sandy. Photo from
the Urban Libraries Council.

Libraries do not only provide a space for people to gather—they provide a space for people to access support and assistance. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, a New York City branch library that had escaped major damage began offering basic necessities to neighbors whose homes had been damaged by as much as 16 feet of water. They initially provided the basics (food, water, power) and within a couple of days started helping fulfill larger needs (connecting people to the Red Cross, helping residents fill out online FEMA applications). In this instance—and many others—library staff helped satisfy the communities needs by connecting them to local resources. 

Reflecting on the assistance provided by library workers after Hurricane Sandy reminded me of the early shutdown days in March 2020. The three-branch system I work at closed our doors to the public, but maintained a small staff of people answering phones each weekday. I was given the opportunity to work what we called “The COVID Hotline” without any previous reference experience. I am grateful we were there, although not in person, to provide resources and support to the members of the community. Speaking with people on the phone connected our staff to the community and vice versa. In times of fear and uncertainty, the library remains a familiar space that can provide a necessary sense of comfort.

As demonstrated, physical spaces are not the only pathway to social connectedness. Klinenberg mentions danah boyd’s book, It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, which I read last year for INFO 200. Much of the anecdotal information boyd (2014) provides focuses on parents’ strict restrictions on their teens—how much time they are allowed to spend outside of home, where they can go, and what they can do. Instead of fighting with their parents for more time spent socializing outside—at the mall, park, or other public space—teens turn to their smartphones and computers, connecting to each other via social networking sites like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. Even though many prefer in person interaction, these modes of connectivity afford teens with limited physical mobility the advantage of staying present with each other through the online world. Libraries have the potential to act as a champion for teens as a “third place,” offering up a physical space with no expectations to provide anything in return. They also have the ability to offer up virtual space by providing free Internet access, virtual programming, and access to online databases/resources. 

The Hyperlinked Library

Klinenberg’s positive affirmations and rosy stories of libraries as gathering spaces, bringing diverse groups together for Wii bowling or story time give me hope—but these events are not always realistic possibilities. We know libraries provide a physical space for people to gather, explore their interests, work, play, experience community. They also provide digital access that allows for further exploration, connection and information seeking. Where do we go from here? In my neighborhood, we are currently looking at communities with large numbers of job loss, business closures, health concerns, people transitioning to online learning and working from home. How can the library’s social infrastructure help support these community needs? I do not have all of the answers. And I do not know what libraries are going to look like in the next couple months (or years). Uncertainty still hangs in the air, but I’m choosing to cling to the hopefulness I feel when I hear: “The library is everywhere—not just a building or virtual space” (Stephens, 2020).

Virtual connectedness. Illustration by Briana Gagnier.

boyd, d. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press.
Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people: How social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. Crown Publishing Group.
Leferink, S. (January 24, 2018). To keep people happy… keep some books. OCLC. https://blog.oclc.org/next/to-keep-people-happy-keep-some-books/
Stephens, M. (2020). The hyperlinked library model [Lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e
Stephens, M. (2016). The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change [eBook edition]. ALA Editions.


The Hyperlinked Library Model has the ability to transform libraries as they are traditionally perceived as it strives to move beyond the building and virtual spaces. Libraries connect people to each other and people to spaces and people to materials. The Hyperlinked Library Model means moving beyond the belief that the library is a house for books and into a more open, adaptive, and nimble understanding of the ways in which the library can grow to challenge the creativity of its users and meet their ever-growing needs. 

Photo: outside the Burbank Public Library Spark! Lab (digital media lab), which opened in January 2020.

When the library system I work at closed to the public in March, I noticed how much our service is connected to the building itself and how much opportunity for expansion lies outside of the building and digital spaces. Some of the adaptations that have been put in place include: curbside pickup for physical items, wifi extended to cover the parking lots at each of the three branches, programs now hosted on Zoom, librarians sharing S.T.E.M. videos and craft projects on social media, a teen-hosted video news show as the result of a summer program, business mentoring on Zoom, plus many others. The past six months have been chaotic in the library, working to adapt to changes–but these changes have only strengthened our ability to connect with the communities that utilize the library’s services. 

While I am excited about this growth, I see so much more that can be done to bring the library to people in the community. The Leferink article introduced me to the idea of Third Places, which  “provide opportunities for a community to develop and retain a sense of cohesion and identity” (2018, para 7). How can we adapt the library’s services to maintain a strong presence as a Third Place when users cannot enter the building? How can we show up for the community to encourage learning, facilitate creativity, and foster growth? How can we continue to be a social hub when people are staying home?

The Hyperlinked Library Model got my brain gears moving. I’m excited to discover and create innovative ways for the library to serve its purpose as a transformative space for the community. 

Leferink, S. (January 24, 2018). To keep people happy… keep some books. OCLC. https://blog.oclc.org/next/to-keep-people-happy-keep-some-books/
Stephens, M. (2016). The Heart of Librarianship: Attentive, positive, and purposeful change [eBook edition]. ALA Editions. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1350356&site=ehost-live&scope=site&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_A
Stephens, M. (2020). The hyperlinked library model [Lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e