“It’s the habits that are harder to break than even getting used to new things”

Boise Public Library staffer

Mobile devices allow for us to stay connected as individuals–and the way that we connect as individuals can carry over to how librarians can connect with the individuals who make up the public that libraries serve. As Director of Development at Guldborgsund-bibliotekerne Jan Holmquist pointed out when describing how libraries should use their facebook pages to engage with community members (beyond just posting announcements about events), technology allows for wonderful ways for us us to connect with one another–but only if we take advantage of the tools and engage with them on their terms.

This week, I wanted to reflect on a few items that I explored because they spoke directly to my technostress-prone perspective in ways that motivated me to overcome some techno-hesitation and be open to what the world of mobile technologies has to offer.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Dorothy and her friends upon first glimpsing the Emerald City. In my overarching metaphor about exploring mobile technologies, I’m choosing to focus on the optimism of the world of color Dorothy discovers that allows her to connect with her loved ones both in the magical world and in the grey one she returns to (and ignore the fact that the Wizard of Oz was a bit of a charlatan…).
(Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/tom-margie/3087835894, where the user Insomnia Cured Here claims that it’s shareable under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Ian Bogost’s Atlantic piece “Don’t Hate the Phone Call, Hate the Phone” spoke to me in so many ways. I fall into that group of “more than half of American adults under 35” whose mobile phone is their only phone. And, though I tend to prefer using my phone for its non-phone functions, I do reluctantly use it as a phone pretty regularly. In spite of my typical Millennial distaste for telephony (verging on telephoniphobia), a few of my closest friends (also Millennials) prefer it to texting. Living in the Los Angeles area, my drive home tends to involve sitting in traffic for 40-90 minutes. When I don’t have a podcast I feel like listening to, my go-to way to entertain myself during commutes is to use my phone for old-fashioned telephonic conversation.

Frequently, though, I’m reluctant to even place a call because I’m so deeply aware of how a cell phone call is (as Bogost put it) “synonymous with unreliability.” It’s hard not to be aware of the signal issues Bogost mentioned, but I hadn’t really thought about how the fact that my voice (or the voice of the person I’m calling) doesn’t seem to want to transmit through the flat little smart phone clipped in its mount on my dashboard is related to just that “flat little” compact design.

It’s interesting to think that about the ways that the technology of a “mobile phone” has developed to turn it more into a “mobile device,” which we engage with more for its various apps and internet capabilities than for its (ostensibly) primary telephonic use. When we create library services, we should keep in mind that technologies’ usefulness tends to shift and become daily features in our lives in ways not initially obvious when those technologies kick off.

My interest was also piqued by the various pieces on QR codes, which similarly reflected the way that our engagement with mobile technology has changed over time. I work for a textbook company that has been increasingly placing QR codes within the pages of its books. (A fact that I’ve noticed in part because I’m in charge of reprint corrections for the K-12 educators’ imprint—which has recently had a series of corrections come through where we’ve been asked to replace a perforated page with a survey on it with a QR code and link to a digital version of the survey.)

I understand the push toward a technology that will allow readers to just point their device at the printed page and go to a site with more information (the way they’d be able to click on a hyperlink on a non-printed page), but I’ve been wondering whether this technology really is the most forward-thinking push for our company. The pieces by Cummings and Ochman that spoke to QR codes’ failures in the early 2010s seemed to back up my mistrust of the technology and sense that it was passé and clunky. My own phone doesn’t have a native QR code reader (which makes spot-checking the links we’re adding quite the headache), so I’d assumed that other modern readers would be similarly annoyed by the useless squares in our books. But Penner’s enthusiasm for the QR codes at the Santa Barbara Zoo made me wonder whether the technology might be having a resurgence—perhaps filling the promise for building information sources into our environments that got Penner so excited back in 2010.

Sure enough, some quick Google searches yielded recent articles predicting a resurgence:

These pieces address the issues of clunky software and user unfamiliarity with the technology that were the main drawbacks cited in the early 2010s. The key turning point seems to have come in 2017, when Apple updated its camera app so that it could scan QR codes directly (without additional software or other effort on the user end). Rosie Sullivan’s piece in particular reminded me of the lessons of this course. In her warning, “don’t use a QR just because it’s trendy,” Sullivan speaks directly to the concept of technolust (echoing Holmquist saying that “technology is never a thing to use just because it is new and smart; it must be used in a meaningful way to enhance library services”) and reminds businesses to follow the advice that librarians constantly keep in mind: the goal should be to provide a positive experience and make someone’s life easier.

Finally, I was interested in the “lessons learned” from Matt Enis’s piece on “Tabletarians.” Though I don’t have a tablet of my own, I was drawn to the idea of working with them in a library services setting, if only for what BPL information services librarian Heidi Lewis identified as a key value of “the chance to experience different ways of interacting with customers, coworkers, and the world.” I think much of my wariness toward new technologies (and sense that I’m just “not good with them”) comes from being comfortable in my habits. This course has been full of reminders that it’s important to shake up habits and embrace chaos if you want to grow—both as an individual and (in the case of libraries) as an institution.

References

Bogost, I. (2015). Don’t hate the phone call, hate the phone. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/08/why-people-hate-making-phone-calls/401114/

Cummings, S. X. (2011). Why the QR Code is failing. iMedia. Retrieved from https://www.imediaconnection.com/articles/ported-articles/red-dot-articles/2011/oct/why-the-qr-code-is-failing/

Enis, M. (2015). Meet the tabletarians. Library Journal. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=meet-the-tabletarians-mobile-services

Donkin, C. (2018). Analysts expect global QR code resurgence. Mobile World. Retrieved from https://www.mobileworldlive.com/featured-content/money-home-banner/analysts-expect-global-qr-code-resurgence/

Holmquist, J. (2013). MOOC – Why use Mobile tech. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLJFU8Vb2i7KwdDjZwceGOhRlb6LuuYMQV&v=LK2ntV2CpRk

Holmquist, J. (2013). MOOC – How to use the tools. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpKHIxRv45o&list=PLJFU8Vb2i7KwdDjZwceGOhRlb6LuuYMQV&index=18

Ensygnia. (2019). The resurgence of the QR Code. Retrieved from  https://www.ensygnia.com/blog/2019/5/7/the-resurgence-of-the-qr-code

Ochman, B. L. (2013). QR codes are dead, trampled by easier-to-use apps. AdAge. Retrieved from https://adage.com/article/digitalnext/qr-codes-dead-toppled-easy-apps/240548

Penner, A. (2010). This is brilliant. QR codes at the Santa Barbara Zoo. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/penner42/4917397291/

Ratna, S. (2019). Why 2019 is the year of QR codes. Beaconstac. Retrieved from https://blog.beaconstac.com/2019/02/why-2019-is-the-year-of-qr-codes/

Sullivan, R. (2019). The resurgence of QR codes. Dowitcher Designs. Retrieved from http:\www.dowitcherdesigns.com\the-resurgence-of-qr-codes\

In my most recent reflection, my imagination was captured by the way that a public service providing internet access in New York seemed like just the sort of community-nurturing, forward-thinking service that a modern hyperlinked library ought to nurture. As Hyperlinked Library readings have continued to emphasize the importance of access to technology, I’ve been reminded of the Yolo County Library system—which spans from the more affluent college-educated regions near UC Davis out into more rural farming areas.

When I volunteered at the Yolo County Library in 2016, I got some insight into the way that the split between technology’s “haves” and “have-nots” tends to follow the divide between urban and rural. As West (2014) acknowledged in looking at the “21st Century Digital Divide,” those who are offline (who are more likely to be on the rural side of the aforementioned divide) tend to need specific targeted services that will provide not just access to the technology, but also the understanding, skills, and empowerment necessary to embrace that technology. Looking into the Yolo County Library Facilities Master Plan for 2018-2035 confirmed my impression that the rural areas of Yolo County tend to lack internet access:

“The Library is the sole access point for Internet access in many communities”

-Yolo County Library Facilities Master Plan for 2018-2035, p. 5

This facilities master plan already includes an outline for bringing the library to underserved rural portions of the community via a “Library on Wheels” tech/bookmobile. More than just providing library access to the rural communities beyond the reach of the current physical library spaces, though, I propose having the Yolo County Library system provide computers and WiFi internet access, along with motivation for further community connection by providing education about internet safety and privacy–perhaps even nurturing a community network along the lines of the open source portal in Chattanooga and the international communities organized under netCommons

Goals/Objectives for Internet-mobile:

  • Bring internet access to rural areas in Yolo County
  • Provide basic technology literacy for tech “have-nots” by bringing information literacy to them
  • Spark interest in community networking using new technologies
  • Increase underserved community members’ access to public services (via internet access)
  • Assuage concerns about digital privacy by offering opportunity to work on a local internet project
  • Lay infrastructure for long-term internet connectivity throughout Yolo

Description of Yolo County:

According to the Yolo County Library Facilities Master Plan for 2018-2035, the Yolo County Library system is composed of eight branches, with 104 public computer stations and a staff of 35. The physical library spaces are struggling to keep up with population demands, and the current staff is also stretched thin—a problem that is only likely to get worse in the coming years. The service area population was estimated around 160,000 in 2017 and is estimated to grow to approximately 200,000 by 2035—with most growth occurring in the urban areas where income and education levels are (on average) higher. As of 2017, the median age in Yolo county was 30.9 (which is lower than California’s median age of 35.2) and the median income was $54,989 (lower than the California median of $61,818).

The younger demographics might partly be attributed to the city of Davis—which houses many young adults who attend or have recently graduated from UC Davis—while the lower household income can likely be attributed to the substantial portion of farmworkers and other underserved, non-English speaking groups in more rural areas.

The “outlying areas” of the western region served by the Yolo County Library includes Dunnigan, Rumsey, Guinda, and Capay Valley. These are underserved communities with an estimated population upwards of 2,000 people. There are currently plans to develop funding sources and explore “library service locations” in store fronts and other frequently-visited places, in addition to serving the community via book kiosks, books by mail, and a library on wheels (which will be parked at the West Sacramento Arthur M. Turner Community Library).

The Arthur F. Turner Community Library is the branch from which plans currently state that the bookmobile will be based. The “library on wheels” service is planned to serve the Broderick, Bryte, and Southport areas (though there are plans to serve the above-mentioned “outlying areas” with a bookmobile as well). There is not sufficient parking for the patrons, staff, and planned bookmobile—though having the bookmobile roving rural areas during peak hours could prevent this from being an issue.

The Mary L. Stephens-Davis Branch Library also does not have sufficient parking space, and has been recommended for renovation to address issues of overcrowding. The South Davis Montgomery Branch Library is also not meeting current population needs. The Knights Landing branch was identified as the “main source of high speed internet in the community” as of 2017 (Sweeney & Flug, p. 11). This single beacon of high speed internet reflects a trend in rural areas, one that the American Library Association listed first among the challenges faced by rural America—where broadband services are more expensive and individuals are more likely to access the internet primarily via phones and tablets (p. 3).

Action Brief Statement:

Convince those living in rural portions of Yolo County that by becoming involved in internet outreach services offered alongside traditional library lending from a roving bookmobile they will discover new ways to connect with one another and feel empowered to carve out their own connections online, which will democratize internet access because libraries are more than repositories for books—they are portals into new realms of knowledge and facilitators of community bonds.

Evidence and Resources to support the Internet-mobile:

“…bottom-up initiatives, known as community networks (CNs), have in common that they are not-just-for-profit initiatives that contribute to the social good by sharing knowledge and resources. For example, in Mexico tens of indigenous communities enjoy mobile phone communications thanks to Rhizomatica, an NGO that helps these communities setup the equipment required, and empowers them to manage the infrastructure collectively. In South Africa, Zenzeleni Networks is undertaking action research on complementary means to make CNs in remote rural areas sustainable (sustainability is one of the key challenges of CNs), and in Slovenia, Wlan0 members freely share their surplus of Internet access with their neighbours and passers-by.”

IFLA Trend Report 2018 Update (IFLA, 2018, p. 15)

Affordable community-initiated networks (particularly those in rural environments, similar to the international examples cited in the IFLA trend report update above:

  • netCommons: an exploration of community-based networking as “a complement, or even a sustainable alternative, to the global Internet’s current dominant model”
  • Chattanooga’s Open Data Portal shows the potential for a community to collect and make use of data in a way that is organized and bolstered by the public library
  • MAZI: four Europe-based pilot studies in “location-based collective awareness” serving complementary objectives of improving internet connectivity and supporting local communities (complete with a toolkit that could serve as a template for bringing this connectivity to rural California
  • RIFE: a push toward more affordable internet access with a prototype being tested in Spain

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to the Internet-mobile:

Policies will need to be set by the library administration involved in establishing the bookmobile onto which the internet services will be appended. Guidelines for use will need to include some sort of filtering software for the library-provided WiFi to be compliant with CIPA. Patrons of the bookmobile should be educated about their right to ask for such internet filters to be removed, and should be further educated on how to navigate the internet safely (i.e., staying away from viruses, malware, misinformation, phishing, etc.). Formal classes should be planned as much as possible, since “the availability of formal [technology] classes tends to decrease with population density” (ALA, 2017, p. 6).

Plans have already been outlined for connecting all of California’s public libraries to high-speed broadband (Maginnity & Keller, 2014). But these plans are costly and depend largely on the very infrastructure that rural areas tend not to have. The ultimate mission of the internet-mobile will be to motivate the patrons to create their own network using Raspberry Pi, and this community creation—as long as it is created by materials provided by the community members themselves—should be an independent service beyond the scope of library policy.

Funding Considerations for Internet-mobiles:

Since plans are already in place to deploy a tech/bookmobile in the region, the staff time has largely been factored into the organizational planning for the Yolo County Library system. The current bookmobile cost estimate is $250,000 based on custom builds from Farber Specialty Vehicles. Additional funding will be necessary for ensuring the Library on Wheels has the capacity to provide forward-thinking internet service I have in mind, though.

Beyond just the WiFi hotspots themselves (both on the bookmobile and available for checkout), there should be an investment of training the library staff who will be driving the bookmobile and serving as liaisons for the technology they will be offering alongside the more tangible services of the bookmobile. Depending on community members’ enthusiasm for developing a community network, there might also be cause to support community efforts to build their own network independent of the mobile WiFi service being provided (using Raspberry Pi, either emulating the existing WiFi service or building a unique network).

Since the Yolo County Library system serves local community members who are already digital natives as well as these rural individuals the bookmobile is striving to reach, it may be possible to solicit tech donations—creating a sort of tech version of the food pantry Joe Hardenbrook wrote about in the context of an academic library. Digital natives may be willing to donate extra gadgets, and more expert users may even be able to donate their time and expertise to help troubleshoot setting up the bookmobile (and keeping it functional as an internet hotspot that demonstrates the value of internet connectivity while also providing enthusiastic guides for how to become involved long-term in an online community).

Action Steps & Timeline:

The plan should be to roll out a bookmobile with fully integrated internet services by the end of 2020.

November-December:

Since plans for a bookmobile are have already been outlined (and a potential vendor selected), it should not take more than 6 weeks to receive administrative approval for a technology focus within the bookmobile program.

Ideally, the bookmobile will be a custom build that incorporates technology needs into its physical offerings. If current plans (or funds) do not cover sufficient resources for internet services that have the capacity to go beyond the physical library on wheels (i.e., if additional hotspots are not available for patrons to check out, or if a reasonable system cannot be established for ensuring expensive items are returned and kept in good repair), then lower-cost options will be pursued.

The primary low-cost technology that should be considered is Raspberry Pi. These low-cost little computers can be programmed to serve as WiFi access points (either connecting to a wired Ethernet connection to access the internet, or connecting to other access points as a standalone network). Keeping at least one Raspberry Pi on the bookmobile, along with internet and computer access (whether or not they can be checked out by patrons) should be sufficient to pique community-members’ interest in building their own networks.

Staff training on Raspberry Pi should happen concurrently with the administrative consideration of the plan, with at least 8 library staff members (one from each physical branch) sufficiently trained to serve as a primary tech liaison whether or not administration determines there is a need for the mobile deployment of these skills into rural neighborhoods.

January:

Setup of the bookmobile (already approved/ordered) and establishing the routes and lesson plans should take three weeks to a full month. At this point the broader community should be involved to crowdsource materials and topics for instruction as needed (using social media to draw on the resources of the digital natives who might be able to donate resources or knowledge). The “Internet-mobile” will begin its service as soon as the bookmobile is ready to go into the various Yolo communities, and ongoing evaluation of the service will inform how the technology services need to be bolstered (e.g., better advertising, more training on specific technologies, more focused instruction).

Staffing Considerations for the Internet-mobile:

Though adding internet service to the bookmobile would require extra effort and training, the ultimate deployment of the service would be supported by already-existing staff working the library on wheels. Pushing the internet opportunities of the bookmobile should (hopefully) motivate the community to become involved in creating their own independent network that will bring internet functionality to rural areas even when the bookmobile is not in physical range—bringing library services (and other public services) to the community on a more permanent basis.

Training for the Internet-mobile:

Keeping up-to-date on internet safety, services, and emerging technologies should be built into the culture of a modern library and incorporated into the training of library staff. That said, extra training related to the specific internet services and technologies being offered should be incorporated into the training for the team that will be involved in deploying the bookmobiles and physically maintaining them.

Training should be designed by library administrators who are directly involved in securing the physical components that will go into the bookmobile, as well as those who are more familiar with the rural areas that the bookmobile will serve. It might be useful to arrange for summer training that could draw on the aforementioned knowledge of digital natives (many of whom may be young people who are on summer breaks, and who—with parental approval—might be able to give insights into current tech trends that could shape the direction that further training takes). The current plan is to roll out the service before summer, but continual re-evaluation of the project and staff training to keep up with changing trends will mean that such engagement with digital natives will always be relevant and welcome.

Part of the training should also be dictated by the rural community members the bookmobile will serve, and will need to take place as-needed, on an ongoing basis for as long as the bookmobile is serving the communities around Yolo.

Promotion & Marketing for the Internet-mobile:

Since the target audience will not already be online, promotion and marketing will need to take place primarily via fliers and word-of-mouth. Flyers can be distributed at schools and local businesses, in addition to being displayed in public places already considered as potential rural library hubs (i.e. post offices). Library staff already talking with bookmobile patrons about more “traditional” library services should be advocates for the benefits of taking advantage of internet services so that patrons can engage with a broader set of information. Social media will be useful in marketing the program to receive donations and funding (and to tout its successes).

Evaluation:

“Around the world, the Internet is facing a crisis of confidence, due to a lack of understanding, a lack of trust, and, general unease about the power held by internet giants. Rather than falling victim to the web, libraries have the potential to make the Internet more useful, fair, accountable and more inclusive.”

-Cassie Robinson (qtd in IFLA Trend Report 2018 Update, p. 6)

The Yolo bookmobile will prove its success as an internet-mobile if it successfully combats this crisis outlined in the most recent update to the 2016 IFLA Trend Report.

Some quantitative data useful in measuring success:

Some qualitative measurements of success:

  • rural patrons talking more about the library’s online resources
  • decrease in patron mistrust of new technologies
  • decreased dependence on the Knights Landing WiFi
  • increased quality of life of rural patrons who are more capable of accessing public health information
  • decreased need for a bookmobile (due to increased patron engagement online, and patrons in rural communities expressing interest in developing new or different programs—whether those be in conjunction with the library’s mobile services, out of a satellite or new library facility, or in a new community hub created through the connections made via connections made possible by technology services made available through the mobile library)

Yolo county residents tend to be poorer than other Californians, and “poorer people feel the least benefit to themselves from the internet” (IFLA, 2018, p. 13). The goal is for rural residents of Yolo county to feel the benefit of the internet, and to be supplied with the tools for doing so (both in terms of hardware and education) by a library service that comes to them.

Ultimately, the goal would be for rural Yolo communities to establish their own virtual community, and to develop some form of a netCommons that would serve as a model for a democratized internet. Such local interconnectedness cannot be forced, but Yolo County–as a region that has been established “at the forefront of the agriculture and food industry as a leader in policies and programs to enhance sustainability” (Sweeney & Flug, 2017, p. 4)–has proven to be an environment that nurtures forward-thinking and creative individuals. At the very least the goal would be to shift toward a library system like that of the Los Angeles Public Library—where “our website is now our mobile branch.”

References:

Chattanooga Open Data Portal. (n.d.). https://data.chattlibrary.org/

Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). (2000). Retrieved from https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/childrens-internet-protection-act

Farber Specialty Vehicles. (2019). Bookmobiles. Retrieved from https://www.farberspecialty.com/new-vehicles/bookmobiles

Hardenbrook, J. (2019). Starting a food pantry in an academic library. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2019/09/13/starting-a-food-pantry-in-an-academic-library/

IFLA. (2018). IFLA Trend Report 2018 Update. Retrieved from https://trends.ifla.org/files/trends/assets/documents/ifla_trend_report_2018.pdf

MAZI. (2016-2018). The Mazi Project. Retrieved from http://www.mazizone.eu/toolkit/

Maginnity, G. & Keller, J. (2014). Needs assessment & spending plan. High-Speed Broadband in California Public Libraries: An Initiative of the California State Library. Retrieved from: https://cenic.org/files/publications/Public_Library_Broadband_Assessment_2014.pdf

netCommons. (2015). Network infrastructure as commons. Retrieved from https://netcommons.eu/sites/default/files/netcommons_summary.pdf

Note to Self. (2013). Bringing the Internet to Public Housing, Your Neighbors and a Unicorn. Retrieved from https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/notetoself/episodes/bringing-internet-public-housing-your-neighbors-and-unicorn

Raspberry Pi Foundation. (n.d.). Setting up a RaspBerry Pi as a wireless access point. Retrieved from https://www.raspberrypi.org/documentation/configuration/wireless/access-point.md

Raspberry Pi Foundation. (n.d.). What is Raspberry Pi? Retrieved from https://www.raspberrypi.org/help/what-%20is-a-raspberry-pi/

Real, B. & Rose, R. (2017). Rural libraries in the United States: Recent strides, future possibilities, and meeting community needs (July). ALA Office for Information Technology Policy. Retrieved from: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/pdfs/Rural%20p     aper%2007-31-2017.pdf

RIFE. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from https://www.rife-project.eu/about/

Sanford, T. (2018). Tribute to the traveling branch. Los Angeles Public Library. Retrieved from https://www.lapl.org/collections-resources/blogs/lapl/tribute-traveling-branch

Sweeney, J., & Flug, J. (2017). Yolo County Library Facilities Master Plan, 2018-2035. Retrieved from https://www.yolocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=45857

West, J. (2014). 21st Century Digital Divide. Retrieved from http://www.librarian.net/talks/rlc14/

I took a course on intellectual freedom back in Fall of 2017, and that course left me inspired by librarians’ role as an advocate for free speech and access to information. The ALA Library Bill of Rights states that libraries should challenge censorship and protect privacy and confidentiality of all patrons. Though the Library Bill of Rights’ statement of library patrons’ “right to privacy and confidentiality in their library use” was originally put forth in a pre-internet age (back in 1939), the organization has amended and re-affirmed these basic policies in the years since (most recently in January of 2019).

Though privacy in our increasingly hyperlinked world has gotten more complex, librarians’ role in defending this right remains fundamental. Looking specifically at the digital rights of the young—the focus of Monica Anderson’s 2016 Pew study—the ALA has frequently reiterated its defense of minors’ rights to access the internet (and fought against the CIPA requirement that libraries filter internet access), even when it means losing access to federal funding.

An essential part of intellectual freedom is more than just freedom to access information; it also includes freedom from worry that personally identifiable information will be retained or disseminated in ways that will compromise individuals’ privacy. Once again, the American Library Association has proven that it will fight for the right to privacy, stating that “Libraries cooperate with law enforcement when presented with a lawful court order to obtain specific information about specific patrons; however, the library profession is concerned some provisions in the USA PATRIOT Act go beyond the traditional methods of seeking information from libraries.”

In reading the Pew Research Center studies on privacy concerns, I couldn’t help thinking back to discussions I’d had with my peers in that 2017 course, and to feel some sense of hope when reflecting on the way that libraries continue to fight for privacy. The topic I chose to focus on (Privacy and the Hyperlinked Library) included Pew studies that tended to show pessimistic attitudes about our loss of privacy in our digital world. People surveyed tended to lament a loss of control, distrust of surveillance, and a general trend toward a world where privacy is a relic of the past. Madden and Rainie’s 2015 investigation into Americans’ attitudes about privacy notably began by addressing the surveillance associated with the Patriot Act, providing data that reaffirmed the fact that people realize the importance of free speech and free access to information, but are not always proactive about defending their own privacy.

The glimmers of hope I saw in these surveys connected perfectly with what I’d read about in 2017 (and what I continue to see in the readings for this course). When reading experts’ conclusions in “The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online,” I was struck by the way the warning that “we need to make sure [chatbots] don’t encode hate” aligned so perfectly with Dana Boyd’s warning that we need to be wary of how we are using big data. Survey respondents to Anderson’s 2016 survey similarly acknowledged the importance of wielding the tool of big data carefully: “The data isn’t really the problem,” wrote one survey respondent. “It’s who gets to see and use that data that creates problems.” And librarians play a crucial role in protecting sensitive data.

Looking at Liberman’s Privacy Toolkit gave a very library-centered take on how to protect privacy (and educate patrons about it) that reminded me of one of my favorite episodes of my favorite podcast (and reminded me that I never finished the privacy workbook that this particular episode of Reply All had convinced me I needed to look into).

This adventure in privacy and the hyperlinked library also brought to mind an older podcast from the same team behind Reply All: a TLDR/Note to Self collaboration from 2013 that got me thinking about how organizations might be capable of serving communities by providing them access to the internet (and educating them about how to exist safely online).

Though the WiFi on Wheels service was not library affiliated, it is just the sort of service that a modern hyperlinked library might look into providing. Though WiFi on Wheels was a service from 2013, it is far from a relic from the past; mobile library services—and librarians fighting for intellectual freedom, inclusivity, connections, and privacy in a digital world—are timeless.

References:

American Library Association. (1939). Library bill of rights. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill

American Library Association. (2009). Minors and online activity. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/interpretations/minorsonlineactivity

American Library Association (n.d.). USA PATRIOT Act. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advleg/federallegislation/theusapatriotact

Anderson, M. (2016). Parents, teens and digital monitoring. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2016/01/07/parents-teens-and-digital-monitoring/

Boyd, D. (2016). What world are we building? Data & Society: Points. Retrieved from https://points.datasociety.net/what-world-are-we-building-9978495dd9ad#.auzbwo27v

IntelTechniques Privacy Workbook. (2019). Retrieved from https://inteltechniques.com/data/workbook.pdf

Liberman, S. (2016). Privacy Toolkit. Retrieved from https://lis.iwaruna.com/copyright-toolkit/information-literacy-learning-about-privacy/

Madden, M., & Rainie, L. (2015). Americans’ attitudes about privacy, security and surveillance. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2015/05/20/americans-attitudes-about-privacy-security-and-surveillance/

Note to Self. (2013). Bringing the Internet to Public Housing, Your Neighbors and a Unicorn. Retrieved from https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/notetoself/episodes/bringing-internet-public-housing-your-neighbors-and-unicorn

Rainie, L., Anderson, J., & Albright, J. (2017). The future of free speech, trolls, anonymity and fake news online. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/29/the-future-of-free-speech-trolls-anonymity-and-fake-news-online/

Reply All. (2018) The Snapchat Thief. Retrieved from https://gimletmedia.com/shows/reply-all/v4he6k

Every decision made in a library, from books to be included in the collection, to displays created, to special populations to reach, is political.

Kelly Jensen

In my first reflection post, I couldn’t help connecting the hyperlinked library model to the words of a progressive politician on my radar. Since the push for social justice through librarianship became more explicit in our readings about hyperlinked communities, I thought I’d take a page out of Christian Lauersen’s book and take a look at some of my personal biases.

My main bias–and I suspect I share with a majority of people who pursue librarianship–is a political opinion that leans away from social conservatism. In fighting for a safe place, free access to information, and radical inclusion, the buzz words librarians use (and the leaders they explicitly align with, as Garcia-Febo did in citing Obama and as I did in citing AOC in my first reflection post) are those of the politically liberal.

Is there a way to be truly inclusive, and to transparently embrace the liberal-sounding ideals of inclusive librarianship without alienating or scaring off the politically conservative?

If we truly want to facilitate substantive conversations in library spaces, and to serve everyone (not just the people who already love what we stand for), how can we do this in a way that still appeals to those individuals whose very identity is based on rejecting “safe spaces” and the principles of open communities? Can we bring in new users from the more vitriolic conservative groups that have recently gained a stronger voice in the American political landscape? How do we prevent libraries from becoming a liberal echo chamber, something akin to the sorts of online communities that social media platforms have fostered?

It may be that the intensely right-wing users are just outside of a library’s scope. But reading Kathryn Zickuhr’s piece on Americans who are not online (and why) served as a reminder that the users we think of as “fringe” make up a larger number of potential beneficiaries of library services than the low percentages may lead us to think. And, as Danah Boyd pointed out, access to information is an important component of social justice.

It may be hard for empathetic community-builders to find messaging that will appeal to people who think “Social Justice Warrior” is an insult, but I think librarians have to do what they can to try to reach out to conservative communities. I can’t help remembering that 2015 study that demonstrated how reading Harry Potter can reduce prejudice, which gave me a little seed of hope that if we can just get enough people into libraries, maybe we can take some of the hatred out of our country’s political divide.

A gold ball with little golden wings coming from its sides, sitting next to a label that reads "Harry's first Golden Snitch."
Bridging our country’s political divide: more or less elusive than a golden snitch?
Image retrieved from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/The_Making_of_Harry_Potter_29-05-2012_%287375573444%29.jpg, Image taken by Karen Roe from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, UK and reproduced under Creative Commons license CC BY 2.0.

References

Boyd, D. (2016). What world are we building? Data & Society. Retrieved from https://points.datasociety.net/what-world-are-we-building-9978495dd9ad#.auzbwo27v

Garcia-Febo, L. (2018). Serving with love: Embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion in all we do. American Libraries. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/11/01/serving-with-love/

Jensen, K. (2017). Libraries resist: A round-up of tolerance, social justice, & resistance in US libraries. BookRiot. Retrieved from https://bookriot.com/2017/02/10/libraries-resist-round-tolerance-social-justice-resistance-us-libraries/

Lauerson, C. (2017). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. The Library Lab. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/

Stolls, A. (2015). The healing power of libraries. National Endowment for the Arts. Retrieved from http://arts.gov/article/healing-power-libraries/

Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., Giovannini, D., Capozza, D., & Trifiletti, E. (2015). The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 45, pp. 105-121.

Zickuhr, K. (2013). Who’s not online and why. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from https://www.pewinternet.org/2013/09/25/whos-not-online-and-why/

Jane McGonigal’s Reality Is Broken is not nearly as bleak as it sounds. Rather than dwelling on how our modern world is broken, she devotes her energy toward explaining “fourteen ways we can use games to be happier in our everyday lives, to stay better connected to people we care about, to feel more rewarded for making our best effort, and to discover new ways to make a difference in the world.” She believes that games make reality more palatable, and that they can also serve a key role in organizing large groups of people.

McGonigal’s 14 “fixes” for reality take the structure behind games (and the lessons she’s learned through game development) and apply them to the real world. The push toward “gamification” of everything may have waned a bit since 2012, but McGonigal’s arguments (and optimism) still hold lessons that we can take to heart when establishing connections and community in our modern world (and in libraries more specifically).

Here is a brief outline of McGonigal’s 14 “fixes,” with the links I saw to library contexts appended in parentheses at the end of each:

  1. tackle unnecessary obstacles because unnecessary obstacles “increase self-motivation, provoke interest and creativity, and help us work at the very edge of our abilities” (constant evaluation of library services, challenging the status quo to ensure the library is serving its community as best as possible—the foundation for Library 2.0 according to Casey and Savastinuk)
  2. activate extreme positive emotions (a job well done should always activate these emotions; see the end of this post for my favorite classic-arcade-game example of “fiero”)
  3. do more satisfying work, entering a “flow” of “blissful productivity” toward clear goals that have vivid results (the most straightforward and classic link to librarianship would be the immediately-evident results of shelving and weeding, but modern hyperlinked libraries provide opportunities to create more imaginative satisfying work beyond physical books: building stories and creating with the community—as demonstrated with the next gen table at the Library Concept Center in the Netherlands, as well as through the various transformation labs presented at the 17th Halmstad conference in Aarhus)
  4. find better hope of success by making failure fun and focusing on attainable goals (again linking back to libraries’ constant evaluation of their services, taking to heart Brian Mathews’s advice to build a strategic culture and be willing to launch as many ideas as possible)
  5. strengthen social connectivity, building social stamina by mentoring/teasing one another in a safe context (the possibilities of linking libraries to other organizations, and of fostering opportunities for community members to mentor one another, are key facets of the modern hyperlinked library)
  6. immerse yourself in epic scale (the concept of “epic scale” didn’t quite land for me, but I see how libraries can facilitate making experiences meaningful with larger context, particularly when those libraries are focused on becoming participatory hubs)
  7. participate wholeheartedly wherever, whenever we can so we can enjoy the real world more (which libraries can facilitate with mobile pop-ups and collaborative efforts that bring the library’s reach beyond the single physical space with books we tend to think of)
  8. seek meaningful rewards for making a better effort, using points, levels, and achievements as motivation (but also just using more participatory environments within libraries, which allow for patrons to feel that they have an impact on the services and environment)
  9. have more fun with strangers, building social participation and serving as a springboard for community (a primary goal and function of a participatory, hyperlinked library)
  10. invent and adopt new happiness hacks, which McGonigal relates directly to scientific advice for how to be happy and live a good life (and which libraries can similarly draw on when designing their programming)
  11. contribute to a sustainable engagement economy (the first of several crowdsourcing ideas of McGonigal’s that again relates directly to the type of participatory engagement with community members that we’ve seen in transformation labs and similar library engagement with communities)
  12. seek out more epic wins with real-world heroic/satisfying tasks (which libraries can encourage with participatory opportunities)
  13. spend ten thousand hours collaborating: cooperating, coordinating, and creating something new together to become extraordinary (for most libraries, ten thousand hours should be the bare minimum—it simply shouldn’t be feasible that a library not encourage this level of collaboration)
  14. develop massively multiplayer foresight, turning individuals into “super-empowered hopeful individuals” who take long views, practice “ecosystems thinking,” and practice problem-solving on a large scale(a hyperlinked library is essentially a breeding ground for exactly this sort of thing)

In her introduction to Reality Is Broken, McGonigal writes that games are “bringing us together in ways that reality is not.” And modern libraries can serve exactly these community-building purposes. By attempting to “fix” reality and bring us together along the principles of game design, she provides us with some pointers for how we can build hyperlinked library models that foster creativity, build community, and generally make us happier and healthier.

McGonigal identifies four defining traits of games:

  1. a goal (the specific outcome, which focuses and orients gamers and provides them with a sense of purpose)
  2. rules (limitations that unleash creativity and foster strategic thinking)
  3. a feedback system (usually points, providing real-time feedback to motivate continued play and show progress toward the primary goal)
  4. voluntary participation (fundamental to gaming being safe and pleasurable, and an important link to participatory service in libraries)

In the fourteen fixes outlined at the beginning of this post, you can see these four defining traits popping up throughout. The focus on goals and feedback systems can be linked directly to the strategic planning fundamental to library organizations (and the agile, flattened teams of hyperlinked libraries). It was exciting to read McGonigal’s fixes, not just because she spoke to the gamer-nerd in my heart, but also because her hopes for games translated so directly to my hopes for what role libraries can have as organizations that facilitate this sort of “fixing” of our reality.

I don’t know about you, but I’m fired up.

An excerpt from a platformer video game, in which a chef walks across a giant burger patty, then raises his arms up in celebration.
Hopefully this gif from Burger Time works… It was an image that I couldn’t get out of my mind after McGonigal’s introduction to the term “fiero” (a term game designers use to describe an emotional high, which, according to McGonigal, we almost all express “in exactly the same way: we throw our arms over our head and yell”).
*gif created using Kapwing.com, extracting Burger Time gameplay from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZ2T6e4NObE&t=88s

References:

Boekesteijn, E. (2011). DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2011/02/15/dok-delft-takes-user-generated-content-to-the-next-level-a-ttw-guest-post-by-erik-boekesteijn/

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

Kanal tilhørende transformationlCab. (2007). Transformation Lab – Prototyping the Future. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpFO_L_jA1c&feature=youtu.be

Mathews, B. (2012). Think Like A Start Up. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/18649/Think%20like%20a%20STARTUP.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality Is Broken. New York: Penguin Random House.

In reading (and watching videos) about hyperlinked libraries, I was struck by the way themes of change were being discussed in terms of revolution and chaos. Even before the digital age had truly kicked off to become the interconnected, devices-on-us-at-all-times world we have today, there were pieces being written about how we needed to anticipate such a world and begin revolutionizing the way we think about our organizational structures. Our foundational readings included Michael Buckland’s 1992 piece on redesigning services, “Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto.” Like Michael Buckland, Searls and Weinberger framed the need for redesigning library services as a “manifesto,” following up with their 1999 “Cluetrain Manifesto” with the strong rallying language of their “New Clues” in 2015: “It’s time to breathe in the fire of the Net and transform every institution that would play us for a patsy.”

It’s not surprising that the language of revolution is so ingrained in discussions of hyperlinked organizations. A fundamental part of becoming more interconnected is the flattening of the organizational hierarchy to better nurture creativity and innovation in a flat, modular organizational structure—and this calling into question of a hierarchy’s purpose to create a new social system is the very definition of a revolution. (To trot out the dictionary definition, a revolution is: “A forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system.”)

But what really struck me about the revolutionary redesign of the hyperlinked library model were the specific examples of how to draw in more people. I’d recently seen a tweet from Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez boosting another tweet that asked “what if public libraries were open late every night and we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation.”

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez retweets the quote by Erin glass already quoted above. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez's retweet says "What I love about this tweet is that it embodies something we desperately need right now: Public imagination. When we focus on imagining and debating new possibilities of what we want to accomplish, instead of relentlessly fixating on limitations, we build the will to do more."
AOC’s retweet in full.

This recognition of how public libraries serve as a crucial “third place” was wonderful to see (as was the call for imagining new possibilities, another crucial aspect of the constant change necessary for hyperlinked libraries). But even more impressive was the fact that the Gwinnett County Public Library was already running a beta “Open+” system (allowing library cardholders to access the library 24/7) in 2016.

The mindset of reaching more people (and not overlooking atypical/unexpected user groups) is crucial to the hyperlinked library. As Shannon Mattern pointed out in 2014, the expanded programs and services inherent in the shift toward a “hyperlinked library” will “broaden the library’s narrative to include everyone, not only the ‘have-nots.’” I found Mattern’s discussion of “infrastructural ecology” and the importance of serving the enfranchised as well as the disenfranchised particularly interesting. She wrote about “infrastructural ecologies” and how libraries need to orient their planning and design to accommodate partnerships that will connect them to the larger community. (She was also careful to clarify that the aforementioned expanded narrative serves to do more than just reinforce the library’s inclusive mission—it also makes it possible for the more privileged users being brought in can supply much-needed social-infrastructural resources.)

There is much to think about when it comes to how we need to shift our mindsets to create hyperlinked libraries, but the key impression I was left with was a call for revolution and repeated warnings not to get too attached to the way things are, which seemed almost like an echo of Stephen King’s famous advice for writers to kill their darlings. As David Weinberger (2001) wrote, “Hyperlinked organizations never met a wall they liked.”

References:

Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. Retrieved from http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/sunsite/Redesigning%20Library%20Services_%20A%20Manifesto%20(HTML).pdf

Mattern, S. (2014). “Library as Infrastructure.” Places. Retrieved from https://placesjournal.org/article/library-as-infrastructure/

Revolution. (n.d.) In Lexico. Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/revolution

Searls, D., & Weinberger, D. (2015). New Clues. Retrieved from http://blog.9while9.com/manifesto-anthology/2015newclues.html

Stephens, M. (2016). “Open to Change.” Office Hours. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=open-to-change-office-hours

Weinberger, D. (2001). “The Hyperlinked Organization.” In The cluetrain manifesto: The end of business as usual. Levie, Locke, Searles, & Weinberger (eds.). Retrieved from http://www.cluetrain.com/book/hyperorg.html

Introduction

August 25, 2019

Hi, everyone!

My name’s Tori (pronouns she/her), and I work and live in the greater Los Angeles area. I’ve been working full time while pursuing my MLIS, and it’s exciting to finally see the end in sight: I’m in my penultimate semester!

I chose this course because I frequently feel overwhelmed and confused by technology, but I recognize that it is a fundamental part of engaging with our modern world (and being a successful librarian or information professional). Even if I didn’t need to fulfill Competency H, I think I would force myself to take a course that addressed current and emerging information and communication technologies.

I’m interested in how the LIS world is engaging with technology, and the ways that what we study can be useful in organizations other than libraries (as well as our personal lives). I’m also interested in public librarianship and the way that libraries can serve young people.

I’m looking forward to challenging myself to be more engaged in a virtual environment this semester, and learning with and from everyone else in this course!

I’m still getting my footing on this site, but I am moderately familiar with WordPress so I’ve updated my cover photo and profile photo. I chose a pretty view from a hike I went on earlier this year (a kind of intimidating winding trail rolling out over a big hill) and a picture of me looking slightly bemused–both accurate reflections of how I feel at the start of every semester.

Another view from that same hike. There had recently been some major fires in the area, so there’s a mix of charred reminders and fresh new growth.
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