Reflection on Hyperlinked Communities : What If?

Professor Stephen’s web lecture on Hyperlinked communities synthesized many fabulous ideas from different libraries that support and connect diverse communities. Sleeping, eating, and meditating in a safe place decorated with multilingual signs got me thinking. What if instead of looking to libraries for innovative ways to meet community needs, we also took inspiration from spaces other than libraries that are designed for inclusion, diversity, and successful information navigation?

I had the privilege recently to take an international trip which necessitated  spending many hours in different international airport lounges between flights. The best one by far was housed in the Hong Kong International Airport. It had sleeping rooms, self-serve buffets, a tea room, a wide variety of lounging furniture with places to plug in, a meditation space, some impressive plants, and showers. This space was created to meet a plethora of human needs for people from all over the world coming from many different time zones and cultures.

This got me thinking about how libraries could easily be modeled on the airport lounge. Library users could also be considered travelers that defy space and time via hyperlinked services. My brain started to explode with the possibilities. I thought about the digital flight boards which require information to be displayed in multiple languages so that people from all over the world could understand when and where they needed to go without asking for outside help. What if instead of the library sign being in one language, which Christian Laurensen points out is unintentionally but nevertheless exclusionary, you could have a digital sign which fluidly changed languages? What if in the spirit of radical trust, people were allowed to program what the sign said? And what if that was translated into multiple languages? Welcome. Selamat datang. Bienvenidos. It would teach people how to say kind things in languages they don’t know, making them better informed world citizens. It could be considered participatory rebranding.

After considering the possibilities of creating a sanctuary that meets the needs of the whole person, I  found this repeating column from the NYT called, “Where We Are, a series about young people coming of age and the spaces where they create community” (Brinkhurst-Cuff, 2023).These are fascinating articles reporting how teens across the world are getting creative about defining what safety and freedom looks like for youth lacking ample societal support. There is a lot to be garnered about information behaviors here for the librarian who is looking to meet the needs of teens through their programming. This piece about teen, queer, female Nigerian skateboarders thrifting together depicts their collective ritual of gathering at an open market in Lagos to search through mounds of clothes.  At the thrift market, the clothes are not categorized along different age or gender demarcations, unlike a traditional store.  Instead of being bogged down by what section they should be shopping in, according to how society would organize their identity, they are only limited by pocket money and  personal taste. It’s a model of intellectual freedom.

A group of young women looking through tall stacks of books in an outdoor market. The woman in the center, wearing Crocs, black pants, a baggy button-down shirt and a baseball hat, holds a fitness guide.

(Tayo, 2023)

What if the library not only had showers, but it also had a thrift store? Similar to the community closet idea presented in our lecture,  a space offering different supplies that “travelers” need and can be sourced and chosen without restriction? This is perhaps a utopian concept, but I identify with Professor Stephens when he says our libraries need to take care of the whole person. Of course, architectural renovations require serious financial influx, and we know that this is not a reality for most communities. However, some of these ideas can be accomplished by simply repurposing existing spaces. Our local library had it’s own version of a community closet in the teen section that was a plastic hanging shoe rack filled with free toiletry items such as toothbrushes and feminine products. It wasn’t as private as a closet, but it was in a discrete corner that made it easy to access without much fanfare. There are accessible and achievable ways of showing concern for people that our libraries can model. As we struggle for innovative solutions in library spaces and services, we also need to be looking outside of these institutions. We will then be able to see what people are doing independently of and despite these systems, and then recreate these initiatives.


Brinkhurst-Cuff, C. (2023). Where we are: The thrift market. The New York Times.

Tayo, S. (2023). Teens thrifting at a market in Lagos, Nigeria. [Photograph]. The New York Times.


7 thoughts on “Reflection on Hyperlinked Communities : What If?”

  1. @mzrasmuson this is a great post that poses some great opportunities to reach underserved populations. I love that you integrated your experience with international travel. It is an exciting way to stretch our ideas of what a library can do for people. Great job!

    1. Thanks for the positive feedback Katie! Writing a blog makes me feel a vulnerable and makes a big difference when a fellow student decides to share a kind note about the content.

  2. Hey Michelle! I love the idea of modeling libraries after airports. Resting spaces, community sharing, and meditative spaces in libraries would be so cool.

    I’m going to Hong Kong and Japan in May so I’d love to hear about your experiences if you’ve got time to chat 🙂

    1. Dear Paige, I’d be happy to chat about your trip! Full disclosure though, Hong Kong was merely a layover, and my final destination was Indonesia. I have been to Osaka and Nagoya, but that was over 20 years ago, so I’m not sure I can offer much insight. Either way, it’s great to know you are in both of my classes. How’s your cultural event paper shaping up? I visited a Zen Center yesterday that was mind blowing, reenforcing the idea of how meditative spaces in libraries could be very helpful to people amongst the chaos of life.

  3. Hi Michelle! I love this idea because traveling always makes you feel like everything is different when you get home–and you are new and improved! Every little experience from the funny little croissant sandwich on the plane to dried olive slices in the hotel mixed nuts, to the funny little yogurt containers in the airport or hotel lounge or the extra glass of water served with your espresso, along with the modern vibe of new spaces, come home with you as inspiring finds you can’t forget. I love the idea of underserved people (or anyone) going into a library and coming out having experienced a special new hospitality touch here and there that refreshed life for them! It’s a great idea!

    1. Dear Cindy, You said it best! Libraries should be a place where anyone can leave feeling refreshed. Everyone deserves to feel taken care of, especially those who are the most downtrodden and without the resources to take care of themselves. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

  4. I am inspired by this:

    “This got me thinking about how libraries could easily be modeled on the airport lounge.”


    “What if the library not only had showers, but it also had a thrift store?”

    I like this thinking goes and the article you shared about thrifting teens. It all makes sense.

    PS: so glad you got to visit the lounges in all the airports!

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