As this semester comes to a close, I still find it hard to keep my mind off of how radically different the state of the world is compared to January. The COVID-19 outbreak has altered day-to-day life in surreal, unfathomable ways and has highlighted the incredible fragility of our economy, our health care system, and our already-wavering sense of “normalcy.” News headlines express the emergence of a “new normal,” a designation which seems to imply that the world we had is irrevocably lost. I try to maintain a reasonable level of optimism — that if the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed weaknesses in our societal structures, it has also highlighted the need to work on these weaknesses to find solutions.
The outbreak has led me to reflect about my own role in the LIS field and what areas I should work on as I move forward in my career. I’ve learned to understand my role as a LIS professional in a more holistic way, especially in regards to how social concerns, participatory practice, and technology intersect. Moreover, the quarantine has led me to consider what areas that libraries need to strengthen. This is the first semester I’ve taken an elective course and it never occurred to me how relevant or timely the teachings of the Hyperlinked Library model would be. I took this course by chance, not knowing how immediately it would inform my beliefs about what libraries need. Writing the Director’s Brief on the COVID-19 enabled me to explore how the tenets of the Hyperlink Library model can help inform a crisis response. While enrolling for this course, I imagined that the Hyperlinked Library was a model for libraries in some far removed future. I learned that the far removed future I was envisioning is actually now.
Well, it’s been a long but fulfilling school year, and I hope everyone has a good end to their semester and a summer full of rest and rejuvenation.
TITLE: The Global Response to COVID-19: Keeping the Community Connected with Library Resources and Services
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY This Director’s Brief aims to provide an examination of how libraries have adapted their resources to serve quarantined populations during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. This brief will begin by exploring how COVID-19 has affected the world, and then follow with an exploration of its impact on library users. The Hyperlinked Library model will provide a framework to examine the COVID-19 response of public, academic, and government libraries. Care was taken to examine library services both within the US and abroad — a global overview ensures that a greater variety of approaches can be considered for future response efforts. This brief will conclude with an outline of the affordances and negative issues resulting from the global library response, and suggest approaches for successful future implementation.
I chose to focus on “Learning Everywhere” for the Infinite Learning module. One of the articles that stood out to me was R.T. Greenwalt’s “Embracing the Long Game.” Greenwalt suggests that libraries can “play the long game just as well as any other innovator out there.”
Experimentation is essential for playing the long game:
“Will all of these new ideas succeed? Of course not. It wouldn’t be library science without a little experimentation, and some of those experiments are going to fail. But occasionally, an idea is going to succeed. And when it does, it creates an opportunity to reshape the notion of what our libraries can do” (Greenwalt, 2013).
In the article, Greenwalt draws a comparison between OPPL’s participatory space, the Idea Box, and the evolution of Twitter hashtags. Hashtags began as a small idea and quickly became an indispensable tool for the organization of content. Today, it’s hard to think of Twitter without hashtags as a central feature. Similarly, libraries have the same capability to implement innovative ideas, such as the Idea Box, which provide the beginning infrastructure for groundbreaking services and programming — and somewhere down the line, those pioneering services might become integrated into the library so seamlessly that it would be hard to imagine the library without them. As Greenwalt says, “getting patrons involved with simpler participatory tasks projects can often do a better job of preparing your community for much larger endeavors” (Greenwalt, 2013).
Budgetary restrictions can impose limitations on what libraries can do — some might view these financial constraints as an impediment for innovation. As I was writing my Emerging Technology Plan, I found myself exploring what augmented reality can achieve for libraries and I was impressed by the possibilities offered by this emerging tech. I was introduced to Miami University’s ShelvAR, an AR inventory management app. There’s also the MylibrARry app, which enables users to scan the cover of an item to retrieve IMDB trailers, Goodreads ratings/reviews, audiobooks, and the library’s catalog. It also provides the option to share the content via Facebook. The SCARLET project has explored how to use AR technology to access secondary source material while library users are accessing special collections.
These developments in AR offer much potential for bringing a library’s collection alive and animating a user’s educational experience. Imagine a student using an AR app while reading a heavily annotated text like Ulysses or Paradise Lost. Small scripts of annotations on the bottom of pages could be supplemented with photographs, video content, analysis, or reviews from other library users. AR apps can also expedite tasks related to inventory management, which frees up time for librarians to service users in more meaningful ways.
These developments in AR are exciting for libraries and I see this being a natural next step which utilizes physical collections while taking advantage of current technology. I also recognize that these projects require large amounts of funding and not all libraries have the resources to create an AR app. I think this is why Greenwalt’s suggestion to embrace the long game is an important point to keep in mind. Libraries can test the waters through free or low-cost AR apps while keeping the long game in mind (that is, the future which AR potentially holds for libraries). This also provides the added benefit of allowing library users to become habituated to using AR technology in library spaces, rather than launching a costly app from the get-go — one which they may or may not be ready to use.
As Greenwalt says, “Our services aren’t fixed points—they’re vectors, constantly moving our organizations and patrons in a specific direction. With that in mind, I urge you to think strategically about how you can get your community ready for more participatory library services. Let’s use 2013 to build the library of 2023. All it takes is the right idea” (Greenwalt, 2023).
In 2014 a Pew Research canvassing called “the Future of the Internet” asked 1,606 experts to answer the following question: “As billions of devices, artifacts, and accessories are networked, will the Internet of Things have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025?”
83% of the respondents answered “yes” (Anderson & Rainie, 2014).
Even in 2020, many might say we’re already there. Smart phones, smart TVs, smart watches, and virtual assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are widely available on the market. It seems we aren’t too far removed from the hyperconnected, tech-saturated worlds once predicted in science fiction — in many cases, we’ve surpassed those predictions.
Last Sunday’s season premiere of Westworld included a forecast of what the next stages of the Internet of Things (IoT) might look like. CNET gave an interesting breakdown of the different IoT tech used in the show.
The Internet of Things is clearly where the world is heading — in fact, it’s the direction the world has already headed. The question of libraries adopting more advanced iterations of IoT technologies is not a matter of if, but when. It would benefit libraries to begin considering the implications of offering this tech to the public prior to its widespread adoption. Another IoT theme identified by the Pew Research canvassing revealed that most experts were concerned about data privacy:
“The realities of this data-drenched world raise substantial concerns about privacy and people’s abilities to control their own lives. If everyday activities are monitored and people are generating informational outputs, the level of profiling and targeting will grow and amplify social, economic, and political struggles” (Anderson & Rainie, 2014).
The IFLA Trends report also highlights data privacy concerns as an area libraries need to be mindful of:
“The number of networked sensors embedded in devices, appliances and infrastructure nears 50 billion by the year 2020. This “Internet of Things” leads to a further explosion in recorded data with major implications for future public services and data-driven policy-making, as well as new challenges for individual privacy.”(IFLA, 2016).
“What responsibilities do libraries have to protect their users’ data? If libraries are mere conduits for access, with content creators and distributors able to exploit the personal data of library users, have libraries become part of the new information mining business model?” (IFLA, 2016).
As we move forward with exploring the IoT in library spaces, I think it’s essential to keep in mind how Confidentiality/Privacy are inbuilt in our professional core values.
The time to explore these issues is now. I agree with Daniel Obodovski, author of The Silent Intelligence, that libraries have a role to play in “being advocates for transparency when it come to data collection and privacy” (OCLC, 2015). We can also learn valuable lessons from the data privacy and transparency failings of social media giants like Facebook.
The Internet of Things provide so many wonderful possibilities for libraries, but it’s essential that we hold true to our core values as we explore these new territories.
Michael Stephens, in The Heart of Librarianship, recommends the use of participatory spaces for library services — it is in these spaces where learning and growth can occur for our library users. Stephens says that “technology doesn’t solve our problems, but it can be a conduit to [make] change and [promote] progress” (Stephens, 2016, p. 81). I couldn’t agree more.
Augmented reality (AR) has been on the forefront of major trends emerging from the technology sector. Technological innovation and rapid advancements in hardware and software capabilities have led to astronomical progress in terms of what AR can achieve. The popularity of Pokemon Go and FaceApp indicate the growing ubiquity of AR apps in the lives of smartphone users. Libraries have numerous opportunities to adopt this emerging technology into their programs and services to make change and promote progress for both users and staff.
A Pew Research Center study from 2019 indicates that 81% of Americans own a smartphone. A further demographic breakdown shows that 96% of 18-29 year olds own smartphones, as well as 92% of age 30-29, 79% of age 50-64, and 53% of age 65+ (“Mobile Fact Sheet,” 2019). Two of the tenets of the hyperlinked library is that “the most powerful information services to date are probably found in the palm of everyone’s hand” and that “the path forward will always be an evolutionary one” (Stephens, 2016, p. 2). The use of AR apps in the library capitalizes on growing trend of smartphone ownership, but also situates the library as an early adopter of an emerging technology which is projected to have evolutionary growth in the coming years. In regards to the future of AR, author Nicholas Carr says: “the virtual world will have blended with the physical world; to speak of them as separate spheres will seem anachronistic.” Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody,” also projects that the “fusion of data and physical space will succeed” (“Scenario 5,” 2008).
Goals/Objectives for Technology/Service:
Currently, there are numerous possibilities for the adoption of AR services and programming within libraries; staff can benefit from using AR for inventory management and creating library tours, while library patrons can use AR for library navigation, educational experiences, creative participation, and exposure to emerging tech. The adoption of all these AR service would be difficult and costly to implement simultaneously, so I’d like to begin by focusing on one service which can introduce our user and staff to the use of AR in the library space. My longterm goal is that the successful implementation of this initial AR service will lead our library to consider further AR initiatives.
I would like to propose the adoption of a participatory service for our patrons utilizing the WallaMe app—an AR Idea Library. This concept drew inspiration from the Oak Park Public Library’s Idea Box, but reframes it with a tech-oriented spin by using the WallaMe app to hide virtual messages throughout the library. Each month will have a different theme, ranging anywhere from creative free play to community suggestions for the library. The goal is to increase community engagement/participation, bring in tech-curious library users, and introduce the use of an emerging tech to both staff and users — the last point is especially important, since one of the longterm goals of this project is to get staff/users acquainted with AR tech in the library. I believe further more advanced AR initiatives could be very beneficial to both patrons and staff, and it is therefore important to expose them to this technology through a fun, low-pressure service that engages their participation and allows them to leave their mark on the library. The short-term and long-term goals of this service align with SFPL’s mission to provide “free and equal access to information, knowledge and independent learning.” The goals of this service also align with SFPL’s core values to “support and build our communities through the creation of innovative services” and “promote an inclusive environment that reflect the people of San Francisco” (“SFPL Five Year Strategic Plan,” 2017).
Description of Community to engage:
I hope to engage SFPL library users of all ages and demographics, as well as tech-curious community member who will be drawn to the library to participate in the service. Initial engagement may focus on younger demographics (30 and under), but with the longterm intention to engage all library users.
Action Brief Statement:
Convince SFPL users that by using the AR Idea Library they will be exposed to an emerging technology which will enable them to learn, express their creativity, and voice their opinions, because SFPL cares about providing their users innovative services, opportunities for learning, and community participation.
Convince SFPL staff that by utilizing the AR Idea Library they will engage with an emerging technology which will introduce them to the use of AR in the library, because future AR initiatives can increase opportunities for unique educational experiences, library tours, inventory management, and participatory services for patrons.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology/Service:
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology/Service:
The policies of the AR Idea Library will need to be created in a collaborative process with the library administration and the SFPL staff who will be involved with monitoring the service. I recommend an open participatory dialogue with staff for the determination of both the policies and guidelines. The resulting policies and guidelines must align with the preexisting policies established by SFPL.
Funding Considerations for this Technology/Service:
The WallaMe app is available for free download by IOS and Android users so costs should remain relatively low. 81% of Americans currently own smartphones (“Mobile Fact Sheet,” 2019) so most library users will use their own devices. Library users without their own devices will be able to rent tablets in order to participate in the service. Additionally, the library can hold fundraisers or request donations in order to acquire additional devices for use. The initial adoption of AR services in the library should focus on utilizing the many free apps available to users.
Future AR library services may require greater funding if they utilize specialized AR apps developed solely for SFPL’s use. Many of the costs can be potentially reduced through collaboration with local start-ups willing to volunteer their time and expertise.
Action Steps & Timeline:
Initial prototyping of the AR Idea Library can be accomplished with a task force of staff volunteers (2-3 people). This group can provide feedback in order to fine-tune the final plan. Library administration will have to approve the plan before the launching of the service. If the plan is not accepted by administration, then a re-evaluation process will take place to address any criticisms or concerns. Once the revised plan is approved by administration, then the launch of service can take place.
Project pitch to administration: 1 day
Administration review and approval: 2-3 weeks
Device set-up: 1-2 days
Website updates (instructional page with links, videos, general information): 4-6 weeks
Creation of staff instruction manual: 1 week
Staff training: 2 weeks
Total time until launch: 2-3 months
Staffing Considerations for this Technology/Service:
Staff members will be expected to answer general questions about the service, but will not be required to re-direct significant hours from their usual duties. A two-week training session will take place to introduce staff to the use of the app and the proposed service model. Staff will be encouraged to participate in the service by leaving their own hidden messages throughout the library. It might be beneficial to create a small task force of staff volunteers (3-4 people) who will act as the resident experts for any difficult questions. Additionally, the library website will provide a how-to guide with instructions for set-up and demo videos. Library users will need little oversight since they will be engaging with the AR app through their personal devices as they explore the library. That being said, staff should be prepared to answer general questions if they arise.
Training for this Technology/Service:
All staff members will be trained in the use of WallaMe. They will be encouraged to download the app in order to participate in the service, but this will not be a requirement. The training will largely be done online over a two week period. Staff will utilize slow hours to read instructional guides, watch how-to videos, and gain a general understanding of how the apps function. The instructional guide will be developed by the service plan initiator and a small task force. The library can also recruit a graduate student intern for implementation of the project.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology/Service:
Promotion and marketing of this service will be done primarily online. The SFPL website and social media media pages will promote the service on a regular basis. Youtube videos can be created which show staff members and library users revealing their hidden messages throughout the library. This could generate a great amount of intrigue by people who see these videos online (they might ask themselves, “what kind of hidden messages can I find if I take a visit to the library?” Signs will also be necessary to advertise the AR service within the library — these message are invisible without the app, so if library users don’t know about the service, they won’t know they are there. A spot should be designated within the library to advertise each month’s theme/question. Staff will also be encouraged to tell library users about the existence of the service to generate interest.
The evaluation of service will be measured by community feedback and usage statistics. Community feedback can be monitored through the library website, Facebook, and other social media. A feedback box can be placed near the designated site for the AR Idea Library display. Staff should also take note of comments by library users about the service. Staff feedback about the success or failure of the service should also be taken into consideration. Usage statistics can be tracked on the library website by looking at analytics of the WallaMe instructional page. Special attention should be paid to the number of users who access the download link from the SFPL website. Another way to track usage statistics would be to see the number of message that tag SFPL as their location. The overall number of WallaMe messages hidden at the library indicate whether the service is being utilized as intended.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how the technology sector is impacting the hyperlinked library, specifically in regards to the creation of new library services and policies. While looking over several studies from Pew Research Center, I started to notice several distinct trends emerging.
-The number of U.S. adults who own smartphones has risen from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2015.
-The number of U.S. adults who own a computer has stayed relatively stable with 71% in 2004 compared to 73% in 2015 (Anderson, 2015).
Implications for libraries:
A vast majority of U.S. adults have smartphones and computers which enable them to access the internet. It’s fortunate that we are in a digital age where it has never been easier to communicate with the community members who never step foot in a library. Libraries are no longer bound by their physical brick-and-mortar spaces. These digital devices provide an opportunity to virtually bring the library into peoples’ homes. This overabundance of connectivity highlights a tenet of the hyperlinked library — the library is everywhere. Retail giants have long acknowledged the power of e-commerce for reaching out to customers in their homes. For instance, 78% of internet users agree that online shopping is convenient and 68% agree that it saves them time (Horrigan, 2008). If we can extrapolate from these consumer findings to the experience of library users, we can assume that people value two things: convenience and their time. While libraries will always have an important function as community spaces, I think it is equally important to acknowledge the amazing potential to reach users through the digital devices in their homes. The ubiquity of digital devices enables libraries to connect directly to users who may not come into the library because of busy schedules, physical disabilities, or other factors limiting mobility. Libraries can increases services which provide e-book access to library materials and streaming services. Furthermore, this can be a great way to engage in long tail marketing strategy since digital repositories aren’t confined by the physical limitations of shelf space, and therefore can offer a greater variety of niche content which attracts new users.
-Facebook is the most popular social media site for adult internet users. 72% of adult internet users have a Facebook, compared to 31% who use Pinterest, 28% who use Instagram, 25% who use LinkedIn, and 23% who use Twitter
-70% of Facebook users log on daily and 43% log on several times a day (Duggan, 2015)
-92% of teens go online daily and 24% go on “almost constantly”
-Facebook is the most popular social media site among teens; 71% of teens use the site. 52% of teens use instagram, 41% use Snapchat, 33% use Twitter, and 14% use Tumblr (Lenhart, 2015).
Implications for libraries
Social media use is on the rise and Facebook is leading the way as the primary site people use to connect. What does this mean for libraries? While reading over these reports I recalled a post from Tame the Web, “Embracing Service to Teens.” In this post, Michael Casey and Michael Stephens discuss how a library in Mishawaka, IN, banned Facebook because of “fights, lewd language and cars being blocked in the parking lot by teenagers.” Presumably, banning Facebook would discourage the teens from coming to the library and causing a “disturbance.” This decision highlights what libraries shouldn’t do. This library made an accurate observation — teens seem to come to the library to use Facebook. Instead of embracing Facebook’s popularity as a way to bring in or maintain teen library users, they banned it and eliminated a valuable resource that teens were coming into the library to use. Furthermore, since Facebook is the most popular social media among all age demographics, they may have discouraged a visit from older library users. Bringing people into the library, no matter what their reason, is an altogether good thing. A library user, whether they are old or young, might pay a visit to the library to check their Facebook messages, but then also decide to check out what new graphic novels came in, or run into a friend who recommends them a good book or DVD to check out. Bringing people into libraries should be our aim, not eliminating the access to services which might encourage them to visit in the first place.
“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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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 exactlywhat 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.