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.