A Whole New Mind and the Hyperlinked Library

This book has been in my TBR (to be read) pile for ages, so I was quite pleased to see it in the list of Context Book Report suggestions. Daniel Pink is a prolific writer of many books about work, creativity, and behavior.  He’s been an editor for several publications such as Fast Company and Wired and his articles and essays have appeared in Harvard Business Review and The New York Times to name a few.  Heck, he was even Al Gore’s chief speechwriter in the mid 90’s. While this book was published in 2005, it practically screams Library 2.0. The concepts, described by Pink as senses, offer a look at how important the connections (dare I say hyperlinks) are between “left brain” and “right brain” dominant traits. What are these senses and how do these senses relate to the Hyperlinked Library model?

Pink describes the 21st Century as the Conceptual Age where the main players are the folks who have mastered “right brain” or R-Directed Thinking (the previous two Ages being the Industrial and the Information Age, largely dominated by L-Directed folks whose traits were physical strength and high proficiency knowledge). As we move through this Conceptual Age, Pink suggests we keep three questions in mind:

  1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
  2. Can a computer do it faster?
  3. Is what I’m offering in demand in an age of abundance?

Keeping our focus on the hyperlinked library, I’d like to offer these questions, which I will dive into later:

  1. Can an Amazon-type retailer do it better?
  2. Can a computer replace a library?
  3. Is what the library is offering in demand in an age of information overload?

The Six Senses

A Whole New Mind outlines the six “senses” that Pink proposes will serve us well in this Conceptual Age: Design, Story, Symphony, Empathy, Play, and Meaning which at its heart is very R-Directed thinking.

This photo was taken at the Woodinville Library in the King County Library System.  Doesn’t it look inviting?  The chairs seem comfy and the windows allow lots of natural light and a beautiful view. Can’t you just see yourself settling down with a book here? This is definitely designed to make one feel that way.  Design is an important aspect in the hyperlinked library.  I’d even bring a nice throw blanket and get all hygge with it. This is a far cry from the utilitarian tables and uncomfortable wooden chairs and a scowling librarian shushing you from the circ desk. A user-centered, inviting design makes all the difference. Users will want to visit the library, and once they are there, they will learn about what else the library has to offer. “Today it’s economically crucial and personally rewarding to create something that is also beautiful, whimsical, or emotionally engaging” (Pink, 2005 p. 65).

“When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact” (Pink, 2005 p. 103). Also known as storytelling. It’s fairly well known that humans are wired for story.  Story is how we make sense of information. Using L-Directed thinking, we’re memorizing facts, but using R-Directed thinking we are hyperlinking these facts with context which increases understanding. What might this look like in a hyperlinked library?

What better way to learn about the real-life science behind the fictional Star Trek universe?  Dr. Wong, who is a Post-Doc at the University of Washington, studies planetary atmospheres, habitability, biosignatures and the emergence of life. All of this placed within the context of the Star Trek universe.

This sense focuses on combining disparate pieces into a whole and understanding one thing in terms of another. 

Here’s another Star Trek example: The Next Gen episode entitled Darmok. Our hero, Captain Picard, is captured and trapped on a planet.  He isn’t alone though; he is trapped with a captain from an alien planet.  This alien captain’s language is not compatible with the universal translator, thus Picard cannot understand him.  He speaks in metaphors and they both must learn to communicate with each other before the “big bad” kills them both. Spoiler alert: Captain Picard is able to focus on the disparate pieces of the alien captain’s language to understand what he is communicating to him and vice versa. The hyperlinked librarian will also need this skill/art to connect in a real way with the user. It’s as simple as that.

“What will distinguish those who thrive [in the Conceptual Age] will be their ability to understand what makes their fellow woman or man tick, to forge relationships, and to care for others” (Pink, 2005 p. 66). One of the most beautiful libraries in the world is in Aarhus, Denmark. The Dokk1 library and cultural center is located on a former industrial harbor.  Talk about design!  One of my favorite factoids I learned in this program was there is an art installation there known as The Gong. It isn’t just any ol’ piece of art – all the art at Dokk1 is meant to compliment the architecture of the building and its spaces.

This particular installation is a very special working gong.  Whenever a child is born at a nearby hospital, the parents can tap a button there which sends a signal that rings the Gong at Dokk1. This beautiful piece of art symbolizes new life. Can you imagine being there when it rings, knowing that a new baby has just entered this world? Seeing the reaction of everyone around you knowing the same thing and perhaps imagining how happy those parents are in the moment?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, right? Of course, there are times to be serious but Pink wants us to know “too much sobriety can be bad for your career and worse for your general well-being” (Pink, 2005 p. 66). I was recently at my annual back to school professional development where my principal said to us “be more dog”. Librarians are already good at this, I think.  Many libraries across the country already have programs in place for play. From toddler time to D & D night at the library.

As I stated earlier, humans are wired for story. Story combined with the other five senses can help us find meaning in our lives, which the hyperlinked librarian can help folks achieve. Pink discussed his experience walking a labyrinth and compared it to walking a maze. “Mazes are analytic puzzles to be solved; labyrinths are a form of moving meditation” (Pink, 2005 p. 228). As our world becomes more fast-paced, it is easy to imagine people losing meaning in their lives. Pink’s experience with a labyrinth illustrated how calming they are and how, after a time, one begins to think inwardly. 

The public library in Bozeman, Montana installed a labyrinth back in 2019.  It was designed by a homebuilder, David Kingman, from Minnesota who moved to be with his son after his wife passed away. During her illness, David found peace and solace in labyrinths, so David pitched the idea to the Bozeman library in 2016 and it was built in 2019.

“Labyrinth proponents claim walking a labyrinth can lead to deeper relationships, a stronger sense of community, a feeling of being on a spiritual journey, a sense of inner reflection and connection to sources of guidance, a sense of living in the present, greater creativity, and stress reduction” (American Nurse, 2010). How wonderful would it be if more libraries had labyrinths?

Final Thoughts

It is clear that an information professional who keeps the hyperlinked library in mind will be worth their weight in gold.  Revisiting those questions from earlier:

  1. Can an Amazon-type retailer do it better?  No, an information professional can do it better. That’s not to say the user won’t end up using Amazon to purchase a book or some sort of document. I’d like to think they received help from an information professional to inform their decision.
  2. Can a computer replace a library? No. Libraries are magical places thanks to hyperlinked information professionals who keep Pink’s six senses in mind. Yes, there are computers there, but the heart of the library is the information professional and the community they serve.
  3. Is what the library is offering in demand in an age of information overload? Yes, but the trick is to convince the stakeholders of this. The Hyperlinked Librarian always keeps the user in mind and is one of the best teachers and supporters around.

A Whole New Mind was an inspiration. Information will continue to bombard us, and it’s the job of the hyperlinked librarian to make sense of how to work with teammates, users, and stakeholders to create the best space for the information community at hand.


American Nurse article Walking the labyrinth: An exercise in self-healing retrieved from https://www.myamericannurse.com/walking-the-labyrinth-an-exercise-in-self-healing-2/

Bozeman Library Labyrinth photo retrieved from the article Lingering in the Library Labyrinth: https://bozemanmagazine.com/articles/2019/09/01/103300-lingering-in-the-library-labrynth

D&D at the library photo retrieved from https://slpl.bibliocommons.com/events/5aad540ceefe59260038d770

The Gong at Dokk1 photo retrieved from:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/aakb/sets/72157668074145883

Pink, D. (2005). A Whole New Mind. Riverhead Books. Cover photo from https://www.danpink.com/books/whole-new-mind/

The Science of Star Trek photo retrieved from: https://kcls.bibliocommons.com/events/5f99e67f9aadc72f00582f3a

Woodinville Library reading nook photo retrieved from https://foursquare.com/v/kcls-woodinville-library/4a94cb6df964a520772220e3

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