Reflection Blogging- Hyperlinked Communities

My thoughts are kind of scattered this week, but I have lots I want to share. First of all, I love the quote from the Stolls article where she writes,

“librarians and others who serve their communities are to be commended, especially when they go above and beyond their duties … But there’s also something extraordinary about the existence of libraries themselves – more than 120,000 of them in the U.S. to be exact, according to American Library Association. They’re free and welcoming and offer a safe, calming, communal space to any who enter. But it’s more than that. They’re not just empty rooms with table and chairs and white walls. They’re filled with books, stacks of them so you can walk among and between volumes, touching their spines and feel their words emanating from across the seas and across time and sometimes just across town. Books teach us to be patient in a fast-paced, quick-fix world they remind us that others have insights worth paying attention to, but there is beauty in our shared language, that in our struggles we are often not alone. They help us heal” (2015).

I so loved the tone of this article. Stolls writes with an optimistic air, and not merely as one looking through rose-colored glasses. For many people in our communities, libraries really are the quiet oasis in an otherwise chaotic, messy world. It was nice to be reminded of that libraries can be the shelter in the midst of a storm.

Next, I really loved the content this week about the Oak Park Library. I am simply smitten with the concept of the Idea Box. Not only was that a fantastic use of otherwise underused space, but it was a way to include the community in a new and inventive way. Clicking through their Flickr account, I was enthralled with the many themes they were able to showcase. I particularly loved the one they did for poetry month with magnetic paint and poetry magnets. I also loved the butterfly exhibit and how people from the community literally became part of the art as their pictures were added to the butterfly’s wings. The POW! exhibit was also a great idea. I am the mom of boys who are obsessed with superheroes. They would go berserk for the opportunity to design their own superhero. (In fact, I may steal that idea to do with them for art while we are doing distance learning.)

In all, I loved how the Oak Park Librarians work to make the Idea Box themes engaging, interactive, adaptable to a wide age-range, and most of all unintimidating. I observed this trend carried over into their “New Kind of Summer School” program. As a parent, I would be far more inclined to send my kids to a short summer school program at the library than at the school if one of my kids needed a small academic boost. This is also a library I would love to visit. They seem to have their finger on the pulse of what people want, need, and didn’t even know they wanted and needed.

That’s it for now…but more ideas to come, I’m sure.


Stolls, A., (2015). The healing power of libraries. retrieved from:

The Idea Box. Retrieved from:

The Idea Box. Retrieved from:


Context Book Report

Cognitive Surplus by Clay Shirky

Review written by Jen Ford

Have you ever picked up your phone or plopped yourself in front of the TV, then looked at the clock only to discover that several hours have passed? Clay Shirky takes a look at how people use this time-traveling phenomenon which he has coined “Cognitive Surplus”. Shirky considers Cognitive Surplus to be the free time of the educated being used to make and consume media. In his book of the same name, he takes a deeper look at the extra time that people have outside of work, school, and other responsibilities. He delves into how people are making use of this personal time. How that time has changed in recent years. He analyzes the shift taking place which involves more of people’s lives being lived out on social media. He also examines the social impact that this shift has on us as a society.

More of Something

The most common reoccurring question covered in this book is how to create value out of this otherwise wasted time. Shirky writes, “the cognitive surplus, newly forged from previously disconnected islands of time and talent is just raw material. To get value out of it, we have to make it mean or do something” (29). This pursuit of value lies in conflict with the concept that more of something lowers the quality of it. Much in the same way that the printing press and self-publishing revolutionized the publishing world by making goods cheaper and easier to distribute, the internet and social media are changing the quality of the information available online. The firewalls that publishers used to be is all but gone and that’s not all a bad thing, but it’s also not always a good thing either.

The people formerly known as the audience have started participating (64). What was once a one-way media (books and movies) has transformed into two-way media that operates from private to public. In a nutshell, the availability and affordability of content-creating devices (smartphones, computers, etc.), has made it so that every-day people are creating content of their own. Because more people can contribute to the world’s information, the bar has been lowered as to the quality of work being put forth.

Digital Sharecropping

Not only is there a glut of new content being created regularly by people simply trying to fill their spare-time, but people are often doing considerable work creating content without ever expecting to get paid for their labors. Shirky refers to this as “digital sharecropping”. Not only are people creating content for free, they often are not bothered by it. People moderate websites, edit Wikipedia pages, engage in fan groups, create and share fan-fiction, and produce memes (so, so many memes) but people are doing it without ever expecting to get paid for their time or effort. Nowhere else would you expect to spend hours per week working for free, but Shirky has discovered that financial gain is not all that motivates people when it comes to content creation; there are other “intrinsic motivations” (99). Being a part of a community and the sense of belonging that can be enough for many people. There is also a strong emotional component that unites groups (163).

The Cumulative Resource

By the end of Shirky’s book, he has reiterated repeatedly the intention people have to create value out of their spare-time. He writes, “we want our free time to be used in a way that holds value” (172). We want our efforts to mean something. We want, more often than not, to help the greater good in some way and that inspires so many people to participate in community groups online. It’s why people continue to review Amazon purchases, rate music, and organize community events.

Key Quotes

“Falling costs create room for experimentation experiment create value and that value creates an incentive to benefit from it” (179).

“What is still an open question is what benefit will eventually emerge from our ability to treat the world cognitive surplus as a shared and cumulative resource” (184).

“What matters now is not the new capabilities we have but how we turn those capabilities both technological and social into opportunities” (191).

Final Reflection

Shirky has written a thought-provoking book. I recommend it to anyone curious about user experience and the crossover taking place with technology and community involvement. Library 2.0, by Casey & Savastinuk, spends a lot of time addressing the need to be flexible and to be willing to accept change even when it is unwelcome. Much in the same way, technology has changed the way communities interact with each other. It is in the library’s best interest to open itself to the possibilities of change. People have time they are filling it in new and unique ways…why not spend that time in the library?

People want to communicate and interact. Library 2.0 encourages libraries to utilize participatory tools like blogs, to interact and participate in alternate way (75). This is a great opportunity for libraries to maximize trends to their benefit. People make time for what interests them. How about libraries harness this to build their communities?

“The single greatest predictor of how much value we get out of our cognitive surplus is how much we allow and encourage one another to experiment because the only group that can try everything is everybody” (207).


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

Shirky, C., (2010). Cognitive surplus: Creativity and generosity in a connected age. New York: The Penguin Press.

Images retrieved from:


Gone are the Days of Business as Usual

Covid-19 has been the biggest, most unexpected (and, frankly, most unwelcome) ringer of 2020. It has changed so much about our daily lives from the way we shop, to the way we educate, to the way we socialize (or how we don’t anymore), and so much more.

During this unique season of life, I’ve often pondered what the new roll of the library is. Gone are the days of business as usual when I look in my town and many public libraries nearby are still shuttered, with only a few branches offering curb-side pick-up. How do libraries stay relevant when no one can step foot in one? How do they help struggling parents and caregivers who have hastily pulled their kids out of public school to homeschool them or what about those who have been forced into distance learning situations? What about kids who have lost their “third place”? What needs to be done for the millions of Americans unemployed right now? The list could go on and on. Now, I certainly don’t claim to have the answer for this huge dilemma, but I think reevaluating the library’s role is something worth considering.

In their pursuit of addressing the recent changes, my local public libraries have done a few things I think are noteworthy. Even from a distance, they have been trying to adapt services, connect people, and tap into existing technology to offer services. Much like how Mathews discussed Creekview High School librarians turning cell phones into “instruments of learning”, my local libraries have spent the last five months promoting their digital collections, which include print and audiobooks. Their digital offerings are plentiful and viewable on cellphones and tablets with apps like Libby or Overdrive. This was a lifesaver for me in the first months of Covid when nothing was open, I couldn’t go anywhere, and I had nervous energy that needed to be channeled into a personal interest.

Another concern of mine is with education. I have two boys (ages 7 and 5) who have begun this school year online. I was impressed this Summer by our local public library posting reading suggestions on social media. This helped me find reading material for them that could set them up for success in this strange time. I’ve also observed the librarian in my children’s school wearing a new tech “hat” and taking charge of technical issues that students and teachers are having with distance learning. Stevens writes that, “to stay relevant in the 21st century, education institutions need to keep pace with the rapid changes introduced by digital media” (The Hyperlinked School Library). Covid has made this even more practical. If public libraries and school libraries can’t pivot from business as usual and transition into the previously unthinkable, they will fall behind, and students will suffer for it. (Parents will too)


Mathews, B., (2010). The unquiet library has high-schoolers geeked. American Libraries Magazine.

Stephens, M., (2010). The hyperlinked school library: engage, explore, celebrate. Tame the Web.