The Hyperlinked Library

Just another #hyperlib Learning Community Sites site

Month: February, 2020

Reflection on Participatory Services & Transparency

“Libraries should keep stories, share stories, and make stories.” 

–Erik Boekesteijn, Doklab consultant

I’ve been thinking a lot about visiting the Netherlands recently – and the main driving force for that desire is DOKK1. I first heard about DOKK1 last semester and I’ve been fascinated with it ever since. Their models for participatory services are innovative, community-oriented, and hold true to essence of Boekesteijn’s quote: they keep stories, share stories, and make stories. Boekesteijn’s quote also brings me back Jonah Berger’s STEPPS method for creating contagious content. Berger’s sixth principle suggests that information is more effectively transmitted when tied to a story (Berger, 2013, p. 196). DOK, the Library Concept Center, has exemplified this storytelling principle through their Heritage Browser and Local Stories project. The Heritage Browser enables library users to retrieve historical images of the street they live on by simply placing their library card on an interactive touch screen. Local Stories enables users to become part of the storytelling project by uploading personal photos and exchanging their own stories with others.  

Other libraries are encouraging community members to tell their stories in a live setting, such as the Mill Valley Public Library’s The Naked Truth and the UCCS Kraemer Family Library’s Intergenerational Storytelling Contest.  There are also opportunities for libraries to use social media for digital storytelling. SFPL partnered with Storycenter, a Berkeley-based public program, to record local stories and upload to them to their Youtube channel. Storycenter offers workshops on story creation and digital storytelling.  

The full youtube playlist can be found here

Another storytelling playlist offered on SFPL’s Youtube channel is the Haight Ashbury Oral History Project. In 2005, SFPL went directly to the local community for their first-hand accounts of the hippie movement.  

The full playlist can be found here

My recollection is that there was awareness that there was an awakening happening, out there in the hinterlands, that there were kids out there that were freaks that didn’t know that there were others, and they knew that they were strange and different…and maybe our vision, or what I sensed, was that maybe they were kind of scared and alone. Part of the Human Be-In was to run a flag up the pole so high that said, “Hey, there are others of us here. You are not alone.”

Ann Cohen, San Francisco Oracle Haight Ashbury History (at 13:47) 

In this video Richard Honigman, Ann Cohen, Martine Algier, and Azul Robert Simmons share their stories about the underground newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle, and the 60s counterculture movement in San Francisco. They talk about everything from the origin of the words “beatnik” and “hippie” (at 4:47) to the performances held at the Avalon and Fillmore (at 12:30). Hearing this information directly from the source gives these stories an added meaningfulness. Like DOKK1’s Local Stories project, it recognizes that the best people to gather local history from are the community members themselves. As Michael Stephens says, “Preserving a community’s digital heritage is the work of both libraries and museums, but involving the community in these efforts is imperative as we move forward” (Stephens, 2016, p. 80).

San Francisco Oracle Cover Vol.1 No.5, January 1967.


A little side note 

At one point in the SFPL Oral History video, Azul Robert Simmons describes the collaborative artmaking process of the hippies: 

“Many people worked often on one painting or one page, and the Surrealists used to do that also, pass it on to the next person, pass it on to the next person…open creativity, because there was a lessening of the ego…we’re sharing a vision.” (at 25:40) 

While hearing Simmons describe this open collaboration, I was reminded of another video I had watched earlier on CPL’s Youmedia Youtube channel. The video tells the story of the teens who participated in Youmedia’s summer printmaking workshop. One teen describes how her favorite part of the program was a group project (at 2:30). It was strikingly similar to Simmons’ description, with each student adding their own contribution to one collaborative large-scale screenprint. It made me consider how participatory library services get the community to become involved and collaborate in a similar manner, whether it’s through sharing their own stories, or becoming involved in the planning/creation of services. Participatory services and transparency ultimately recognize this strength in collaboration. 


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

Stephens, M. (2012). In The Heart of Librarianship. Chicago, IL: ALA Editions.

Stephens, M. (2017). Telling stories. Retrieved from

Context Book — Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Infographic created with Canva

Jonah Berger’s Contagious: Why Things Catch On is an examination of how companies and organizations create contagious content. Berger asserts there are six key characteristics – which he refers to as STEPPS – that contagious products and ideas share in common. While many of the examples used in Contagious describe the success stories of for-profit companies, there are still many lessons that can be applied to hyperlinked libraries.  

On the one hand, Bergers STEPPS suggest innovative methods for making hyperlinked library contagious to the public. Reading this book encouraged me to think about how we can make the hyperlinked library go viral in our communities. How do we make the library (as an organization) contagious? It also led me to consider how we can make specific library services contagious. Are there currently services which embody the principles of STEPPS? Are they successful? What do we have to learn from them? In this blog post, I will discuss each principle in turn and then provide examples of several hyperlinked library services which exemplify their characteristics. 

Principle 1: Social currency (We share things that make us look good) 

Principle 1 delves into psychological motivations behind sharing. People want to share information that will make them seem interesting or part of something exclusive. They want to feel like insiders. Companies can leverage game mechanics to create symbols of status that people will want to share (Berger, 2013, p. 22).

The contagious library 

One example of gamifying the library is found at the University of Huddersfield Library. They have developed a social online game, Lemontree, which enables library users to earn points and rewards for borrowing/returning books, using online resources, and leaving reviews on borrowed items. Students are ranked by “top score.” By gamifying the library, we give users the potential to feel part of something exclusive. It also encourages them to share information about something that makes them sound interesting (being a “top scorer”) and attract other users to visit the library so they can participate, too. 

Principle 2: Triggers (Top of the mind, tip of the tongue) 

Triggers are the indirect, environmental reminders that a product or service exists. When ideas are more accessible, they are more likely to affect our behavior (Berger, 2013, pp. 69-70). Berger suggests that we “consider the context” and think about if our product or service can be triggered in everyday environments (2013, p. 78). 

The contagious library 

The “Tales on the Trails” collaboration between Stephenville Public Library and the Stephenville Parks and Recreation Department is a great example of using everyday environments to remind people of the library. It’s described as a “Walking Storybook Program” which enables families to travel along the Bosque River Trail and read a Pete the Cat storybook at various stopping points. It also serves as an environmental trigger to families who are visiting the trail as a destination. Unintentionally encountering “Tales on the Trails” may remind them to take a visit to their local library. It also might encourage them to spread the word about “Tales on the Trails” to friends or family (which serves as an additional reminder about the library!) 

Principle 3: Emotion (When we care, we share) 

Berger explains that whatever puts us in a state of “physiological arousal” will encourage us to share – this can range from positive emotions, like awe, or negative ones, like anger or anxiety (2013, p. 107). Overall, we share what excites us, inspires us, makes us laugh, or feel angry – anything that gets the body activated! 

The contagious library 

A common library stereotype is the shushing bespectacled librarian who demands silence. Silent spaces are certainly good for quiet contemplation and studying, but how much do these spaces encourage the “physiological arousal” that compel us to share? I think Creekview High School’s Unquiet Library provides a better model for the kind of environment that might get library users activated and engaged (and, consequently, sharing about their experience). A space that welcomes noise–such as laughter, conversation, debate—increases the potential for physiological arousal and sharing. 

Principle 4: Public (Built to show, built to grow) 

Berger uses the phrase “monkey see, monkey do” as a way to describe Principle 4. People will imitate what they see others doing; therefore, observability is a huge factor in whether something becomes contagious. The question companies need to ask is “how do we make the private public?” (Berger, 2013, p. 134) 

The contagious library 

Libraries are often thought of as a place, not a product, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create services which increase public visibility. People who never set foot in a library may not be aware of all the great services that libraries provide. If they’re not library users, then it’s out of sight, out of mind. The Oak Park Book Bike is a nice example of how we can make the library more public to those who never visit our brick-and-mortar space. If community members see others enjoying a library service like the book bike, then they might be compelled to visit the actual library. At the very least, seeing a library on a bike is an interesting story to tell! 

Principle 5: Practical value (News you can use) 

Principle 5 suggests that people enjoy sharing practical and useful information with others. Sharing makes people feel good and it strengthens social bonds. This “practical” information can be anything that saves us money or highlights incredible value (Berger, 2013, pp. 157-168). 

The contagious library 

Libraries are already great at helping community members save money, but there are ways to make our services even more practical and useful. An important component of library 2.0 is welcoming user participation in the creation of services (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007). The direct participation of users can enable hyperlinked libraries to create services that address their specific needs. By addressing users’ direct needs and saving them money, it increases the chance that they’ll speak to others about these valuable library services. I can’t help but think of practical services like the Oakland Tool Lending Library which exemplify Principle 5 by saving users money and highlighting value. 

Principle 6: Stories (Info travels better under the guise of idle chatter) 

Principle 6 states that stories can “act as vessels to transmit information to others” (Berger, 2013, p. 185). Information is more engaging in this form. Virality for virality’s sake won’t work. It’s more effective if the product or service is tied to the story (Berger, 2013, p. 196).  

The contagious library 

Hartford Public Library’s “Stories of Impact” page does an excellent job at showing how libraries can tell stories which highlight their services – we just need to ask our users to tell their stories. 

Hartford Public Library’s “Stories of Impact”


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. 

The Foundational Readings

When I enrolled in The Hyperlinked Library for my Spring semester, I’ll admit that I didn’t quite know what the course would be like or what I’d be learning (that was partly why it was so intriguing). After I spent some time with the foundational texts, I was led toward a better understanding of what the hyperlinked library is and what it holds for the future. I think my biggest takeaway from the texts I read was that we should constantly hold the future in sight. The process of envisioning new services, welcoming constant change, and empowering users seem to be at the heart of the hyperlinked library. They offer a rebuttal and solution to the naysayers who talk of “the death of the library.” 

Related searches to “death of the library”

One naysayer wrote in Forbes, 

“Let’s just close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription… More titles, easier access and quite possibly a saving of public funds. Why wouldn’t we simply junk the physical libraries and purchase an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription for the entire country?”  (Worstall, 2014)

Arguments like these seem to underestimate what libraries already do for their local communities, and also what they have the potential to do — libraries are more than book providers! But these anti-library opinions do exist, and it’s our duty to prove them wrong with our action. The downfall of libraries is easily avoidable if keep our view on the future. This involves assessing where the world is now and where the world will be several years from now. The world around us is in constant flux, so it’s necessary for libraries to get comfortable with change. Brian Mathews (2012) says, “Change is the new normal. Change is the only constant.” Mathews also asks, “What can we create today that will be essential tomorrow?…As we think about the direction of libraries, the focus can’t remain on how well we’re doing, but on where we should be heading.”

Leaving the “death of the library” in the rearview mirror

We can determine “where we should be heading” by consulting our users and our staff (from all levels and departments). Casey and Savastinuk (2007) lay this approach out in Library 2.0: “Find out what your customers want and need. Ask them for input about the services they would like to see. Make sure there is an easy way for library users to submit feedback. Also be sure that there is an easy way for staff to submit suggestions” (47).

This collaborative model is an exciting approach, because it doesn’t rely on input from one or two people, but from a multiplicity of diverse minds that can generate a larger source of feedback and creative suggestions. Who is a better group to ask about a service than those who implement it or those who use it? Having worked in corporate bookstores, I’ve known what it’s like to be on the receiving end of unexplained changes, and to witness management resistance to feedback from frontline staff or customers. Staff and customers would tell management exactly what the customers wanted without any implementation of those ideas (e.g., more seating, more events/book signings, etc). I don’t think it’s altogether surprising to see the declining share values of some of these corporate brick-and-mortar bookstores, and I don’t think all of it can be blamed on Amazon. The customers were ultimately looking for a community social hub and the upper management simply wasn’t delivering. I think this can provide a lesson. Libraries are in a good position to avoid their own downfall, and I agree that the willingness to hear feedback from staff and users will be the key to success. The community knows what the community wants. We just need to be able to listen.

Library 2.0 also suggests that we should “build the process of change into [the] organizational structure” (Casey & Savastinuk, 2007, 12). Getting used to constant change is what will ensure that libraries will never become redundant. This change should be “constant” but also “purposeful.” In other words, change for change’s sake won’t bring us closer to the future of libraries — it needs to be meaningful. I’m curious to see what meaningful changes that hyperlinked libraries will bring us, and I’m excited to learn what ways I can help bring about that change. It really is an interesting time to be studying library and information science!

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

Mathews, B. (2012). Think like a start up. Retrieved from

Worstall, T. (2014). Close the libraries and buy everyone an Amazon Kindle unlimited subscription. Forbes. Retrieved from 

Skip to toolbar