Monthly Archives: September 2019

Reflections on Participatory Service and Hyperlinked Communities

I want to address both Participatory Service and Hyperlinked Communities in this post because I feel like both of these modules really expanded my perceptions of what a 21st century library should be.

Before completing the readings for this module, I understood the value in creating spaces for all of our users and for finding ways to delight them.  What was new to me, however, was the emphasis on engaging users to create these spaces and programs in the first place. As Casey (2011) argues, “getting [people] to participate, at any level, will go a long way towards gaining their buy-in” (Casey, 2011).  Getting people to participate means that we need to bring together a diverse group that represents the community in terms of socio-economic status, including gender, ethnicity, language, and age. Stephens (2013) points out that inviting users to contribute their ideas and voices can lead to new programming or services or spaces that might otherwise be overlooked.  Chant (2016) echos Stephens (2013): “We as librarians know what we want and what we can offer. But when we go into the community to find out what they want, we end up with a much better space.”


Garcia-Febo (2018) asserts that libraries need to “incorporate the principles of diversity, inclusion, and intersectionality” throughout their services and Lauersen (2018) explains that diversity is having people of different backgrounds and abilities at the table and inclusion is having this diverse group add their voices and perspectives and make decisions at that table.  You can’t just ask for community members to come to a meeting so you can check off that diversity box; if you want to be inclusive, then those diverse voices need to be heard and part of the planning and decision-making. Inclusion will improve the library’s services.

I found Dana Boyd’s (2016) post about technology and inequity to be especially engaging.  Her discussion about social media, the digital divide, and statistical prejudice explored a new (to me), technical side to the creation of the information bubbles that we live in, how the tools and data that we use and create every day “are empowering to the privileged at the expense of those who are not” (Boyd, 2016, “The World We’re Creating”).

Technology is a tool that is necessary to participate in our democracy, to be interactive, to manage daily life, and to be social.  There is a digital divide in many communities that libraries can address by offering access to and instruction in technology to those who are inexperienced users (for whatever reasons).  Additionally, libraries can bring in emerging technology for digital natives, who want to do more, who can do more but don’t know what else is out there, and who want to create and connect with other people.

Weaved through both of these two modules was the discussion of trust.  I found Schmidt’s (2013) words to be especially relevant: “Without trust, it is impossible to connect to library members in a meaningful way.”  So, what does this mean in practice? What role does trust play in libraries? For a start, it means setting guidelines rather than rules and trusting your users to follow those guidelines (Casey & Stephens, 2008).  It also means bringing users into the discussion of how to create services, spaces, and programs that improve their lives and trusting that they know what they need. Librarians can empower these users asking the kind of questions that will “help your library learn about the lives of the people it serves” (Schmidt, 2016).  By inviting them in, listening to their suggestions, and following through with what we learn and addressing their needs, we foster the users’ trust in the library.

Libraries should use both/and instead of either/or when it comes to serving their communities.  A hyperlinked community can be both low-tech and high-tech, it doesn’t have to choose. And libraries are the place to make these connections happen.


Boyd, D. (2016). What World Are We Building?

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

Casey, M., & Stephens, M. (2008). Embracing Services to Teens

Chant, I. (2016). User-Designed Libraries – Design4Impact.

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

Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond.

Schmidt, A. (2013). Earning trust. The User Experience

Schmidt, A. (2016). Asking the Right Questions.

Stephens, M. (2013). Collection Bashing & Trashing. In The Heart of Librarianship, page 99.

BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google

In BiblioTECH, Palfrey discusses the role libraries can play in the twenty-first century, where many of us in the first world carry smartphones and are using Siri and Alexa to find information.  From the title, I thought that the book would be an argument for why libraries are better than search engines, why librarians are the navigation and retrieval experts in a world overwhelmed with information, and why we should support libraries and librarians.  Those points are briefly mentioned throughout the book as assumptions, but his ideas are intended for an audience of library managers and librarians rather than the general public. Palfrey’s book is written as a wake-up call to librarians that the world is going to move on without them unless they evolve and create new kinds of libraries to serve modern users.

People concentrating on phones

Denning (2015) concludes that “there is a need to rethink what services are possible with the new technology, as well as what is no longer needed.”  Palfrey and Denning are talking about the Library 2.0 model (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007), which “seeks to improve services to current library users while also reaching out to potential library users” (p. 5).  While Denning (2015) and Casey and Savastinuk (2007) redirect the library’s focus to the users, Palfrey turns his attention to the specific institutional challenges libraries face.

Palfrey writes that “the classic public library is long overdue for an update” (p. 3) and that people now have more choices in the information economy to choose from, and the library needs to adapt to stay relevant.  The author discusses the challenges libraries face as we transition from an analog world to a digital one. He proposes ten steps to a path forward for libraries and librarians (pp. 226-229):

  1. Recast libraries as platforms
  2. Libraries must network with other institutions
  3. Libraries must align with their community’s values
  4. Libraries must account for physical spaces (the “third space”) and analog formats
  5. Libraries should only do what needs to be done and create services based on public interest
  6. Librarians should seek common ground with authors, agents, editors, and publishers
  7. Some library spaces should function like labs and encourage co-production and innovation
  8. Librarians should adopt “hacker culture” to create a shared, open digital infrastructure
  9. Preservation needs to be more collaborative
  10. We need to pay for libraries to transition to this digital future

His last step seems to be the only one really directed to the general public.  He argues that libraries need serious investment from the government and donations from philanthropists like those of the early twentieth century to help libraries carry out these steps.

A former Harvard Law Library director, Palfrey brings his experience managing the largest academic law library to his discussion of the issues of digitization and access, copyright laws, and privacy.  He explores the advantages and challenges to digitization of materials and how copyright laws and privacy are impacted by moving to an electronic library. He discusses at length the differences between book lending and ebook lending and how those differences affect the library’s ability to provide access to users (see this WSJ article for more about the battle between publishers and libraries).

Besides increasing access to information by digitizing what we already have and addressing the ebook problems, Palfrey doesn’t have much to contribute to how libraries can become more participatory and hyperlinked.  He mentions labs and collaboration, but not how those innovations and actions can affect current library users and bring in new ones. He stops short of talking about other ways libraries can help users, outside of book lending and digitization; there is no mention of other services that can bring users in and keep current users, as discussed in the Hyperlinked Library model.

Palfrey believes that we are in a transition from an analog world to a digital world, and that libraries will need to straddle these worlds for a little longer but the digital future is coming, and libraries need to be prepared for it.  If they aren’t, then the private sector will lead the way in providing information services and libraries will be left behind. He argues that “libraries can offer important alternatives to the services provided by the corporate sector, which will always have incentives to offer biased, limited, and costly access to knowledge” (p. 128).  He stresses that libraries need to embrace the changes coming instead of living in the past. As Buckland (1992) states, “Library services have two bases: the role of library service is to facilitate access to documents; and the mission of a library is to support the mission of the institution or the interests of the population served” (“Foundations of Library Service”).  Palfrey echoes this statement and emphasizes the need for digitization, and outlines how library services can move from the analog to the electronic library that Buckland proposed.


Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto.  Chicago, IL: American Library Association

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

Denning, S. (2015, April 28).  Do we need libraries? Forbes. Retrieved from

Palfrey, J. (2015). Bibliotech: Why libraries matter more than ever in the age of Google. New York, NY: Basic Books

Thoughts about the The Hyperlinked Library Model

I worked my way through all of the readings from Module Three, The Hyperlinked Library Model.  I really connected with some of them and some of them I struggled to find the thread that would illuminate the author’s/’ view of the Hyperlinked Library.  I also struggled, initially, to see how Library 2.0 and the Hyperlinked Library are different.

I believe I’ve figured out that the idea of Library 2.0 has more to do with the participation of the users in the information seeking and creating process and the Hyperlinked Library has more to do with the way the organization functions internally and how its structure can interact with users externally to better serve them.  Library 2.0 says, let’s invite the users, see what they have to say. They Hyperlinked Library Model says, we can create networks to solve problems and find information; we don’t have to stick to the old way of being gatekeepers of information. Let’s see who can help and let’s create a partnership within or without our organization to find solutions or to create something new.

Libraries following the Hyperlinked Model have shifted their focus to the user.  I found Denning’s (2015) five questions for libraries helped me make the abstract idea of a “Hyperlinked Library Model” much more concrete and actionable:

  • How can we delight our users?
  • How can we manage the library to enable continuous innovation?
  • What will make things better, fast, cheaper, more mobile, more convenient, or more personalized for our users?
  • What needs could libraries meet that users haven’t even thought of yet?
  • What are the things that libraries are currently doing that users already love?

These questions turn the libraries’ goals outward, so that you’re not looking at what’s best for the organization, but what’s best for the users who make the library a vital part of the community?  It’s the connections and partnerships and learning that is created by asking the questions posed by Denning (2015).

I don’t currently work in a library, but even in the organization where I currently work, these questions and their answers provide insight into changes that need to be made but also leave space to continue doing what is working for the organization and its users or clients.


Denning, S. (2015, April 28).  Do we need libraries? Forbes. Retrieved from

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