For my director’s brief I put together a storytelling project aimed at the community and community college that I work at. As I stated in the objective, this project aims to encourage and collect “creative and reflective stories and experiences from student and community members about their experiences during the COVID pandemic. With this project the Moreno Valley College library aims to document the unique realities of the last two years and to encourage reflection, empathy, and awareness of the losses, challenges, experiences, and lessons that the community has faced since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This storytelling project also hopes to help rebuild some of the community that had been lost during the closures and to establish new connections between the library, students, and the larger community and to help re-establish the library as the heart of the college.”

My full project can be viewed and downloaded here:

Brian Kenney’s article “Where Reference Fits in the Modern Library” stood out to me because I am often reflecting on this very question while I work at the reference desk. The article argues that patrons “want help doing things, rather than finding things” but that the perspectives and approaches of many libraries and librarians has not evolved to meet these changes and this overall rings true to me.

Duke University Archives on Flickr – Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

While the article is focused on the public library and the majority of my library experience has been in academic libraries the article still seem to mostly match my experience. I am now working at a community college library where I am far less frequently asked those traditional reference questions taught in library school (maybe this has changed over the last decade?). Perhaps these questions from my reference class were aimed more as exercises to build up some sort of research and reference muscle, but the article is absolutely right that these reference questions are typically few and far between.

Far more often than research help I am spending my time helping a patron with technology relate questions – such as troubleshooting a variety of issues, help putting together documents, formatting, dealing with applications, etc. We do get some research help questions certain times of the year (midterms and finals mostly) – such as help finding basic articles/resources, assistance with works cited pages, etc – but these are increasingly the exception to the rule.

One thing about the article that is important to highlight is that it was written over 6 years ago, far before the COVID pandemic, so the perspective of virtual reference has of course shifted over the last 20 months. Virtual reference was mentioned in the article but largely dismissed:

“…virtual reference in public libraries never took off like we expected it to. In public libraries today, the service draws little interest from patrons and little enthusiasm from librarians.”

the icon I made for my library’s chat

In our current reality, virtual reference has become a much more important aspect of modern libraries of all kinds, and I believe this will remain an important feature for at least the near future. And I see a lot of value with virtual reference and view it as a positive way to allow students/patrons to get immediate help. My school subscribes to Springshare’s 24/7 chat service that allows our students (or anyone on our website) to anonymously chat with a librarian around the clock. This is a great service for online students, students that have jobs or care for children during the library’s standard hours, those that might feel more comfortable chatting online than asking questions face-to-face, or anyone needing some quick help.

As part of this 24/7 coverage my library is also asked to work a couple hours a week covering co-op questions from students/users from colleges/institutions around the country and the world. And the questions that we get during these co-op hours are often very challenging research related questions, like those of the reference exercises that I needed to do for my MLIS reference class.

One thing that I don’t believe has changed and won’t anytime soon is the need for reference librarians to be versatile, quick, and curious thinkers that are ready for any sort of question or issue. It might be a phone call about movie showtimes, in-person help with a printer jam, or an online chat with a doctoral student looking for help on a subject you’ve never even heard of, but I think that’s the most exciting part of the job.

The interview with Matt Finch titled “3 essential elements to consider when creating a voice for the library: storytelling, experience, and play” (from New Horizons) stood out to me because it shows the value in libraries offering flexible and creative spaces that provide users something unique to its patrons. Finch says “that means creating physical and digital spaces which are safe and well-designed, but also non-prescriptive: sandboxes, where visitors can shape what happens, even if it leads you into unpredictable circumstances.”

As Finch says, this is really not too different from what libraries have always been offering – safe places where people can experiment, explore, have fun, and reflect – but it at the same time this idea pushes the library into more “open ended” and non-traditional areas. We all learn and grown in different ways so letting the user guide the experience in a way that they feel best suites them is an evolution of what libraries have always done.

Open ended play is an example shared in the interview in which users are allowed to “break down the walls between fact and fiction”. This is seen to be apart of a larger idea of “Information Experiences” (or IX) through which users are given the freedom to explore and seek out meaning and knowledge from created experiences. I’m also reminded of the Youmedia at Chicago Public Library that offers youth a flexible and diverse space that can be used for everything from socializing to podcasting.

Applying this to the physical spaces in the library at which I work, the first thing I think about is how curating such open ended space might be in conflict with some of our existing policies, and how these well meaning but oftentimes antiquated and prescriptive policies might be roadblocks to offering the stimulating spaces and experiences for users that Finch describes. Addressing such policies that limit exploration and creativity would be a good first step to work toward offering more flexible and engaging ideal space.

A flexible seating classroom, from Demco’s Ideas and Inspiration blog

While not every library might be able to open an incredible area with the space and technology of Youmedia or to put together a physical or virtual open ended game, the larger lessons of libraries needing to reflect on our policies, our spaces, and our patrons (and their stories) can be applied at any library. It could be as simple as having flexible furniture or having post-it notes or white board markers available for users to better utilize the space – the important thing is for libraries to offer spaces that give users the freedom to “steers an experience.”

Introduction

Moreno Valley College (MVC) is a small community college in California’s Inland Empire. Most students are first generational college students, receive need-based financial aid (Moreno Valley College, 2020). According to a recent student survey, textbook costs weigh heavily on MVC students, with 92% of surveyed students saying that textbook costs influence their “decision to enroll and/or continue in a class either ‘somewhat’ or ‘a lot,’” and three out of every four students indicated that they would take more courses if the cost of textbooks at MVC was significantly reduced. The same survey found that only 26% of these students have all their textbook costs covered by financial aid, so a majority of students directly face the burden of high textbook costs (Moreno Valley College, 2021).

As a librarian at MVC Library I see the burdens and barriers that high textbook costs have on students firsthand, and my library has long struggled to keep up with the constant demand and new editions of textbooks, access codes, and other course materials that students need to access to succeed. Financial challenges are one of the greatest obstacle to student completion, so I believe that improving student access to course materials and helping to lower textbook costs across the college is one of the most impactful thing that the library could do to increasing equity and improve student success (Schaffhauser, 2020). The literature suggests that a multifaceted approach to combat textbook unaffordability is needed, so with these goals in mind this service plan aims to create a textbook affordability service which will: work to increase the availability of textbook resources through the library, to offer one-on-one support for students in identifying their textbooks options, and to provide support, training, and incentives to faculty to adopt open, free, or low-cost course materials (McHale, 2020 ; Schlak, 2018 ; Todorinova, 2020).

Why College Textbooks Are So Expensive by Business Insider

Goals/Objectives for the Library Textbook Affordability Service:

  1. Enhance the library’s access and offerings of course materials through its course reserve offerings, whether they are or physical and electronic, or are openly or commercially licensed.
  2. Provide students with a formal service that helps them identify their options for accessing required course materials, whether they be for for-cost or no-cost materials.
  3. Support and advocate for the adoption of open or no/low-cost course materials.
  4. Promote a more equitable and less burdensome college culture where zero (or low) cost textbooks are institutionally encouraged.

Description of Community you wish to engage:

This textbook affordability support service would be aimed at the students, instructors, and administrators of Moreno Valley College. Instructors and administration would engage with this service through direct library support, advocacy, and training for the adoptions of openly licensed or low/no-cost course materials.

College students would be supported directly through increased access to printed and digital course materials offered through the library and textbook finding service, and indirectly with lower textbook costs through the advocacy and incentives of no/low-cost materials with instructors.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince the college community that by having widespread adoptions of Open Educational Resources (OER), Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC), or Low Textbook Cost (LTC) materials they will improve student access to course materials which will improve course completion and retention, and make a more equitable institution because all students will have equal, free, and immediate access to required course materials on day one of the course.

Convince students that by utilizing the library’s textbook services and resources they will find lower cost or free access to their required course materials which will improve their academic opportunities and lessen their financial burdens because every student should have equal access to required materials and equal opportunities to succeed in their courses and programs.

Convince instructors that by adopting OERs they will be able to exercise greater control over their content to better represent their students and give students more opportunity for learning and success which will improve their course content, instruction, student success, and equity because students will be more engaged with the material that they have free and immediate access to and that they feel represented by.

Evidence and Resources to support the Library Textbook Affordability Service:

Belikov, O. M., & Bodily, R. (2016). Incentives and barriers to OER adoption: A qualitative analysis of faculty perceptions. Open Praxis, 8(3), 235–246. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1112527

Broadhurst, D. (2017). The direct library supply of individual textbooks to students: examining the value proposition. Information and Learning Science, 118(11/12), 629–641. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-07-2017-0072

Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis. AERA Open. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858419872212

Henderson, S., & Ostashewski, N. (2018). Barriers, incentives, and benefits of the open educational resources (OER) movement: An exploration into instructor perspectives. First Monday. https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9172

McHale, C. (2020). The life span of a print textbook: An investigation in the utility of aging textbook collections in academic libraries. Journal of Access Services, 17(1), 4–21. https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/full/10.1080/15367967.2019.1684825

Rokusek, S., & Cooke, R. (2019). Will Library E-Books Help Solve the Textbook Affordability Issue? Using Textbook Adoption Lists to Target Collection Development. The Reference Librarian, 60(3), 169–181. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=136521629&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Schlak, T. M., & Johnston, B. (2018). A Case Study and Analysis of a Successful and Collaborative Student-Centered Textbook Reserve Program in a Mid-Size Academic Library. Public Services Quarterly, 14(1), 22–35. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=127676348&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Thomas. (2018). Helping Keep the Costs of Textbooks for Students Down: Two Approaches. Technical Services Quarterly, 35(3), 257–268. https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/full/10.1080/07317131.2018.1456844

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2019). Closing the loop: Students, academic libraries, and textbook affordability. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), 268–277. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S0099133319300308

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2020). Incentivizing faculty for open educational resources (OER) adoption and open textbook authoring. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(6), 102220–102220. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S009913332030111

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to the Library Textbook Affordability Service:

The library has an existing collection development policy, although this policy was written broadly for all materials (not just textbooks and course materials) and with the limitations of the library’s standard budget in mind. With separate grant monies to fund physical and electronic textbook purchases a separate policy would be crafted by the librarians at the college, with input from library staff and administration.

Such a policy could help the library prioritize which resources, subjects, and formats are prioritized. Priority would ideally be given to the resources that have the greatest impact on affordability for the highest number of students – for example electronic texts/resources with an unlimited user access, or for the most commonly used resources. The policy should also provide guidance on the number of copies to purchase and the loan periods for the number of copies. A physical short term “library use only” copy would ideally be kept in the library to always ensure immediate student access, but additional copies could be made for daily, weekly, or even semester checkout, depending on the number available. Collection development policies from other college libraries could be consulted to guide the creation of the policy for this service.

There is no shortage of literature and guidelines on the creation of an OER librarian position and projects aimed at encouraging and supporting faculty in the adoption of open or no/low cost materials. Such literature would need to be consulted in establishing a local policy and to help guide the work, approach, and timeline of the support side of this service.

Briefly outline how your technology or service’s grant, allocated funding, budget, available free-space, etc. will be distributed: 

Initial funding would be to enhance the library’s physical and electronic availablity of required course materials. Funds could be found locally at the school through the Student Equity and Achievement committee or through external grants (state, federal, philanthropic). Some funds could be found through the library’s budget, though these would be limited.

A $50,000 grant could fund an additional 333 textbooks (at an estimated $150 each), which would greatly enhance these offerings. Whenever available, electronic copies with unlimited user licenses would be purchased to ensure that the resource allows simultaneous access for all students. Funds could be saved with physical copies by purchasing used copies through the college bookstore and loose-leaf editions, which could be cheaply bound by district printing and graphics (for $0.25/each).

The staffing costs for the OER librarians and staff positions would be the most challenging expense to get funding for, although this could also be done through various grants to help fund these positions in (at least) the short term. Additional expenses would be any financial incentives for faculty creating, adapting, or adopting affordable course materials. Such incentives have become common and the evidence shows that they make significant impacts on both instructors and on the larger organization (Henderson, 2018 ; Todorinova, 2020). OER and ZTC grants are widely available, particularly at the state level, as California recently approved $115 million in funding for community colleges to implement ZTC degrees to help reduce textbook costs.

Other possible expenses might include training, organizational subscriptions and association fees, and printing and binding cost (for openly licensed resources to be made physically available at the library).

Action Steps & Timeline:

Implementation of this service and its objectives can be scaled up – starting with the identification and purchasing of required course materials by the library in preparation for the Winter and Spring 2022 semesters. This enhancement of physical and electronic textbook offerings would be added in conjunction and in dialog with the offering of textbook finding service for students, which would greatly inform what textbooks/materials are most immediately needed to support students in current classes. These initial steps could be supported with funding to purchase these course materials, as no additional librarian or staff would be required. Such funding could be sought in a number of ways, such as through faculty driven Student Equity and Achievement funds, although would ideally be done with involvement and support from the library’s dean and administration.

The second phase of the implementation would be to support and advocate for open, low, or no cost materials with instructors and administration, and could begin as soon as staffing is made available. Investigation and adoption of open or alternative course materials can be a time consuming, complicated, and intimidating process, and studies have shown that lack of understanding, time, and support for finding OERs are key barriers in keeping faculty from adopting such resources (Belikov, 2016 ; Todorinova, 2020). Without providing sufficient support to help faculty in this process many instructors would otherwise opt not to. To adequately support this part of the service the library would need funding to hire (or reassign) an OER librarian to support these efforts, and ideally a staff member to help in support. For such an approval administrative support would be need, even if the positions were grant funded.

Additional buy in and support from administration would be a must, so administrators would be included in this process. Administration could help to institutionalize and encourage OER/ZTC/LTC resources and to change the larger textbook culture across the college. Some examples might be to include consideration of OER/ZTC usage in the tenure process, creation of college committees focused on course material costs, or to offer reassign time for faculty writing, adapting, or adopting alternative low/no-cost course materials. Many colleges have implemented Zero Textbook Cost degrees in which entire programs have no-cost course materials, and these degrees could be studies and replicated at Moreno Valley College.

It is worth noting that these are all services that the library already provides (seeking resources with students, purchasing of electronic resources, purchasing of physical resources, and support and training for OER/ZTC/LTC adoption), although it is not an adequate, comprehensive, or advertised service, so should administrative support not be given, or if funds were limited, then the components of the service could still continue, albeit in limited capacity.

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

While this service is not new to the library, the available funding and institutionalization of this service will allow the library to create a dedicated library and part-time staff position focused on aiding student’s textbook needs and supporting instructor needs for researching and adopting affordable course materials.

The funding for these positions (or their dedicated hours) could most easily come as a temporary grant-funded position, although more ideally would be permanent positions. Alternatively, staffing of these positions could come through as short term funded special project or re-assignment from other tasks. The library would need to get creative to fill in any voids left from reassignment, but if funds are provided could be done through the hiring of part-time staff or adjuncts, or, if needed, in the reduction of other services/resources.

Training for this Technology or Service:

The OER librarian and staff would require training in open licensing, learning management systems, accessibility requirements, and textbook related legislation.

The OER librarian and staff member would in turn hold training/faculty development sessions to inform faculty and administrators of the processes and requirements of adopting openly licensed, no cost, or low cost materials to ensure constancy and that college, district or state guidelines or requirements are met (such as proper attribution, articulation, accessibility considerations, identification of zero/low cost materials in the course schedule, communication with bookstore and library).

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

This service could be promoted internally a number of ways: through emails to students, faculty, and the larger college community, through social media (both the library’s and college’s), signage, postings and announcements on the library and college websites, presentations at college committees and meetings (student groups, academic senate, strategic planning counsel, department meetings, etc). During any outreach or presentations (and throughout the offering of the service) the library would seek feedback and input from all involved parties and make adjustments as needed.

Promotion outside the organization could be done through website and blog postings to explain and demonstrate the service, and after the project is established and data collected, through writings and presentations to various related or interested organizations and groups (for example Community College Library Consortium, Association of College and Research Libraries, etc).

Evaluation: 

If the community continues to support this textbook affordability program, then it could be expanded to provide even greater support and advocacy across the college. Expanded support could come in the way of increased funds for resources, or through increased staffing. More staffing would allow the library to expand the services to help to support other considerations of textbook affordability, such as accessibility, improved outreach, seeking and offering of OER/ZTC related grants, greater community involvement, guest speakers, more incentives for OER creations or adoptions, help in demonstrating the pedagogical freedoms that open access content allows, to share more open education possibilities, to name a few possibilities.

Since the service encourages and supports more affordable course materials in a number of ways, each of these ways would need to be assessed to properly evaluate their effectiveness. Support for students and the enhancement of physical and electronic course materials could be measured through library usage data, such as number of checkouts, views, downloaded, appointments made, which would provide a limited measure in evaluating the success of these aspects of the service. Similarly, faculty inquires, presentation attendance, number of adoptions could help measure faculty response to the service.

The larger and more difficult data to collect and measure would be the cost savings to students, which could be collected and analyzed with help from the Office of Institutional Effectiveness. This data would help assess the amount students were paying before the service began, and then to determine any cost savings as a result of courses that switched to OER/ZTC/LTC resources or through the library’s purchased reserve copies. This data could be taken even further by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness to help measure any impact that reduced textbook costs and improved access to course materials had on student success and retention of the student community, or on specific demographics. Such results have been well documented in academic literature, but would be even more powerful as locally collected and shared data. This data could be used to help continue and expand the service and to demonstrate to the college community the level of merit and impact that such a program can have on students and the larger institution (Clinton, 2019).

Why OER? by Holyoke Community College

References

Belikov, O. M., & Bodily, R. (2016). Incentives and barriers to OER adoption: A qualitative analysis of faculty perceptions. Open Praxis, 8(3), 235–246. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1112527

Clinton, V., & Khan, S. (2019). Efficacy of Open Textbook Adoption on Learning Performance and Course Withdrawal Rates: A Meta-Analysis. AERA Open. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2332858419872212

Florida Virtual Campus. (2018, December 20). Textbook affordability : What are students saying?. Retrieved from https://dlss.flvc.org/documents/210036/1314923/Infographic+-+2018+Student+Textbook+Survey.pdf/28104939-0f6b-3b07-e9c3-d8062cda7758

Henderson, S., & Ostashewski, N. (2018). Barriers, incentives, and benefits of the open educational resources (OER) movement: An exploration into instructor perspectives. First Monday. https://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/9172

McHale, C. (2020). The life span of a print textbook: An investigation in the utility of aging textbook collections in academic libraries. Journal of Access Services, 17(1), 4–21. https://www-tandfonline-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/doi/full/10.1080/15367967.2019.1684825

Moreno Valley College. (2020). IMLS submission. Internal document. unpublished.

Moreno Valley College. (2021). OER Student Survey. Internal document. unpublished.

Schaffhauser, D. (2020, November 11). Report: Top 4 Barriers to College Completion. Campus Technology. https://campustechnology.com/articles/2020/11/20/report-top-4-barriers-to-college-completion.aspx

Schlak, T. M., & Johnston, B. (2018). A Case Study and Analysis of a Successful and Collaborative Student-Centered Textbook Reserve Program in a Mid-Size Academic Library. Public Services Quarterly, 14(1), 22–35. http://libaccess.sjlibrary.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lls&AN=127676348&site=ehost-live&scope=site

SPARC. (2021, July 28) California Approves $115 Million Investment in Zero Textbook Cost Degrees and OER. Retrieved from https://sparcopen.org/news/2021/california-approves-115-million-investment-in-zero-textbook-cost-degrees/

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2019). Closing the loop: Students, academic libraries, and textbook affordability. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(3), 268–277. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S0099133319300308

Todorinova, L., & Wilkinson, Z. T. (2020). Incentivizing faculty for open educational resources (OER) adoption and open textbook authoring. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 46(6), 102220–102220. https://www-sciencedirect-com.libaccess.sjlibrary.org/science/article/pii/S009913332030111

The remarkable article “Reframing Libraries” by Barbara Fister starts by addressing the need to rework our previous definition of information literacy (IL) from one focused on how to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” to one that reflects and acknowledges our place in the information landscape as users, creators, and sharers of information. This old definition comes from the ALA and actually dates back from 1989! I know this because this is the exact definition that I use in my Introduction to Information Literacy course and workshop, so damn Barbara, yeah you’re exactly right – I need to update this definition to better reflect today’s world.

thinkpen.de, from From ILO Consortium – https://informationliteracy.eu/conference/

The article goes on to discuss how tech giants like Google and Amazon have changed the way we collectively think about and approach information as a commodity (consumers of information!), which higher education, publishing, and libraries have only exacerbated. (A powerful perspective changing couple paragraphs for me!). This approach to information has made the library into a “shopping platform…[and] search became…disconnected from context.” IL sessions need to reconnect this context and give students a smarter and more nuanced perspective on information and research by placing them more centrally into the information literacy world.

Too many library workshops and courses (mine included!) are focused on the resources and not on a greater nuanced understanding of the larger process and larger information environments (see Google, social media, etc). This reminded me of something we read earlier in the course from Heart of Librarianship that reflected on a 2010 information literacy progress report that came to a similar conclusion and recommended that IL sessions be less focused on finding/use of specific sources and more on demonstrating effective research processes. (Stephens, p. 11)

This is something I thought I was doing well in my courses and workshops, but Fister has shown me that I need to continue to not only evolve my IL definition, but also my approach in demonstrating how “communities create [information] in conversation within a social and economic context”. While I do spend time discussing IL in the context of the open web, social media, and news I now think I’m failing in expressing the larger (and maybe more relevant) lessons of “where knowledge comes from and how they [students] can participate in making sense of things.” I don’t want to just teach my students how to use resources that they wouldn’t use if they weren’t otherwise forced to use (and that, as Fister points out, they will lose access to once they graduate), I want them to understand the process, context, and greater information world, where they fit into it, and how they can be conscience and ethical members of it.

References

Fister, B. (2016 March 23). Reframing libraries. Library Babel Fish, Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/library-babel-fish/reframing-libraries

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship : attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions.

Most librarians and library workers probably don’t often think about social infrastructure as they go about their workdays (I know I don’t) but they none-the-less play an active role in supporting it. In the book Palaces for the People : How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life Eric Klinenberg argues that social infrastructure is an overlooked but critical component of democratic society and one that influences individual’s and society’s health, happiness, and social and environmental progress.

Klinenberg defines social infrastructure as “the physical places and organizations that shape the way people interact” (p. 5), and while many places fit this bill and are highlighted throughout the book (including parks, churches, schools, childcare centers, barbershops, coffee shops, art galleries, bookstores) he places the greatest emphasis on libraries. Libraries, he argues, are the most ideal example of social infrastructure due to their open and welcoming nature, their shared physical spaces, and especially for their varied services and programs that serve and connect people of all types, backgrounds, and ages.

“…[i]t’s important that libraries get the recognition they deserve. After all, the root of the word “library”, liber, means both “book” and “free”. Libraries stand for and exemplify something that needs defending: the public institutions that – even in an age of atomization and inequality – service as the bedrocks of civil society. Libraries are the kinds of places where ordinary people with different backgrounds, passions, and interests can take part in a living democratic culture. They are the kinds of places where ethe public, private, and philanthropic sectors can work together to reach for something higher than the bottom line” (p. 219-220).

Klinenberg visits several libraries to highlight some of the innovative and responsive services that he found being offered. He memorably visits a library Wii neighborhood bowling league, which brought together a diverse group of New Lots residents, many of whom are older and face social isolation. Another memorial library service is a regularly scheduled library tea time gathering, aimed to give patrons a dignified place to rest and socialize.

Author interview with Toronto Public Library

Though the book is under 250 pages, it is dense with passionate examples of how improved social infrastructure can help society in a myriad of ways and can play important roles in combating the biggest issues of our time, such as inequality, isolation, political polarization, crime, and climate change. This book is about far more than libraries (it touches on nearly all aspects of our society – food access, housing, religious life, race, climate change, immigration, politics, big tech) but Klinenberg highlights how these aspects of society are influenced by the social infrastructure, of which libraries are a key part. I believe that this is one of the lessons of the book for libraries: the services and resources that libraries offer eminent far beyond the walls of the library or once the user clicks away.

During the course of our workday it is easy to be focused on the small items and tasks that we need to complete, but we also need to be reminded of the bigger picture and purpose of what we do. I know I often lose this perspective, but this book is a powerful reminder of why we do what we do and where our focus should be: on helping and serving people.

Another crystal clear lesson that I took away from this book is that the palaces are for the people, and that libraries should make policies and programs with their community’s best interest in mind. Klinenberg, for example, highlights the positive effects of libraries that have stopped charging library fines in comparison with San Jose Public who has actively made library use more restrictive to those with outstanding fines.

These lessons are right in line with the ideal of the hyperlinked library and the aims of this course, which have asked us to ensure that our focus is on users and to think beyond the walls of the library and the traditional services to develop more involved, heartfelt, and innovative engagement with the community. In this course we have read numerous quotes that reiterate this: “we designed our library for people not books” (Stephens, 2021-b), “hyperlinks are people too” (Stephens, 2021-a), “libraries are about people, not books or technology” (Mathews), libraries should “reach all users”, value users over collections, and that libraries need “radical community engagement” (Stephens, 2016). Similarly, the examples that we have seen in this course – from the innovative social space offered in the YOUmedia lab at Chicago Public Library, the pioneering storytelling work being done at DOK, the crowdsourcing at Los Angeles PL – would all fit in well with this book, right alongside the Wii bowling league or the Tea Time, to show how libraries provide all users with a welcoming third space that encourages engagement, reflection, education, and fulfillment.

I’m going to end this posting with an extended quote from Andrew, the very articulate library worker that started the tea time library event, because for me this is the most memorable moment of the book, and one that I feel encapsulates an essential and unique aspect of what libraries offer, which I believe is something that libraries (and us library workers) need to never lose sight of:

“I like the way the programs bring people together. But that’s not all. The other reason I like it is because Tea Time is one of the best ways that the library can express faith in people. There’s a term you don’t hear these days, one you used to hear all of the time when the Carnegie branches opened: Palaces for the People. The library really is a palace. It bestows nobility on people who can’t otherwise afford a shred of it. People need to have nobility and dignity in their lives. And, you know, they need other people to recognize it in them too. Service tea doesn’t seem like that big a deal, but the truth is it’s one of the most important things I do.”

References

Klinenberg, E. (2018). Palaces for the people : how social infrastructure can help fight inequality, polarization, and the decline of civic life. Crown Publishing.

Mathews, B., Metko, S., & Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship : attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions.

Stephens, M. (2021-a). The hyperlinked library model [lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e

Stephens, M. (2021-b). Participatory Service & Transparency [lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=35b4e981-cd58-479a-96d3-aab3011b0f24

Library Fines Payment Sign
Randy Reichardt on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Libraries going fine free is something we have all witnessed over the past decade, with even more going fine free in the last couple years (check out this interactive map of libraries that are now fine free). I have to admit that when I first heard of a library going fine free it made me uncomfortable. Like the Sifton article suggested, fines and libraries were (nostalgically?) tied together in my head: libraries…stacks…reference books…fines…shushing. How would materials ever come back? What’s the use of a due date? People will just take advantage!


These are lame I know! But once I started to read and think about it some more, I became increasingly comfortable with the idea until it became exciting to me and was something I advocated for. Why should libraries be hung up on fines if it turns people away from the real mission of the library as a welcoming place in which one can assess information, interact with their community and to better oneself? My local public library has not yet gone fine free, but they do have fine amnesty periods, which are nice, but unless you go to the library often you will likely not know and will miss out taking advantage of them.


But am I a hypocrite or just a pragmatist if I’m less comfortable with my own work, a college, library going fine free? My work library has made some small efforts to reduce the impact of fines and fee, such recently ditching a $10/processing fee, which was a pointless and inflated charge that we unnecessarily passed on to our students. We now allow students to replace any lost items and do not charge extra charges to do so. We also stopped registration holds for those with library fines, and a new California state law forbids transcript holds for student debts. Also, select times of the year we accept canned good and other food items as payment for late fines. But surely, we could do more!


One of the easiest way that my college library could embrace elements of the fine free movement would be to make the non-reserve circulating items fine free (which are currently only $0.10/day late). These items are the most comparable to what a public library offers – so would be the easiest change to make. The big difficulty that is see is that at academic libraries the most checked out items aren’t best sellers but instead $250 textbooks and $1000 laptops. My library has to seek out money to buy one or two copies of only the most popular course’s required textbooks, so if that 2-hour or 3-day checkout doesn’t come back then that is a real lost to the other students that depend on the library’s copy to complete their readings. Also, at least at my library, we have limited recourse to get these unreturned materials back, so more often than not the unreturned/replacement charge does not result in the item being returned (I’m not sure how much different this is from a public library).


While I have limited say in the forgiving of fines at my work, I always advocate for understanding, best intentions, and leniency when a student has fines or unreturned items. But right now I believe we unfortunately need that extra financial motivation to get those reserve and technology items back on time for other students to use. I hope I’m not just being uncreative in this assessment of our reserve materials because I would love to move closer to that fine free ideal. Please let me know in the comments if you have any thoughts or ideas on this!


As the readings highlighted whatever changes we want to make would need to be effectively communicated with our college community, which we usually do by taking any library proposals to our administrators, to various governance committees (including our overarching college senate and strategic planning council), and to student government. The readings have made me realize that we should be going beyond these oversight groups and be more effective and transparent with such changes with the group that we are primarily there to serve: everyday students. For example we could send out email, share updates on social media, on our website, through signage, etc to be more transparent and direct with our students.

References

Ross, T. (2019, February 27) Not So Fine with Library Fines? A Look at the Overdue Debate. EBSCOpost, https://www.ebsco.com/blogs/ebscopost/not-so-fine-library-fines-look-overdue-debate

Sifton, D. J. (2009). The Last Taboo: Abolishing Library Fines. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 4(1). https://journal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/935/1497

Yu, C. (2020, July 3). Chapel Hill Public Library announces it will no longer charge late fines. The Daily Tar Heel. https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2020/07/ch-library-fijournal.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/article/view/935/1497(opens in a new tab)ne-0703

After this week’s readings on the hyperlinked library I decided to use this first blog post to reflect on the ways that the library at which I work (a small community college library) does or does not meet some of the hyperlinked library ideals, and to determine what we could do to become a further-reaching, more dynamic, and responsive library, as described in the various readings. Reflection is an essential part of the hyperlinked library so this seemed like an apt starting place for this blog and this course.

Successes

mobile internet by Yazmin Alanis, MX, (CC BY 3.0)

It is particularly interesting to be reflecting on these readings during the COVID pandemic because it has made me realize how much the pandemic has pushed my library closer toward some of the hyperlinked library goals. Before the pandemic we had somewhat limited online services, but soon after closing our doors in mid-March 2020 due to COVID we quickly put into place relatively robust virtual services (including 24/7 chat, text, phone, Zoom drop-in, and online appointment) and greatly beefed up our other online resources.

We also recently migrated from a legacy ILS (Millennium) to a modern and customizable LSP (Alma) and discovery platform (Primo VE), which allowed us to build a more modern, intuitive, and streamlined interface and online presence for finding various types of resources. These changes helped nudge us toward some of the hyperlink library’s tenants, including the power of mobile access to information, “seamless service across all channels of interaction” and of “reaching all users” (Stephens, 2016).

Another thing that I believe our library does well is to value users over collections (to borrow a phrase from the Heart of Librarianship), which can be seen in how we prioritize our funding and with our recent extensive weeding projects to clearing out of shelves to make more study space.

Another success is with our Information Literacy classes (and to a lesser degree our one-hour library workshops), which are focused on teaching and demonstrating the information finding process and broad critical thinking skills, verses a more traditional and specific how-to-use-a-collection/resource focused course.

Areas needing attention

The “I Don’t Have Time” section of the Heart of Librarianship hit close to home for me, because this is something I find myself saying or thinking increasingly often. While I don’t think I shy away from learning new things I certainly find myself focusing on the more comfortable and familiar aspects of my job over others that probably warrant more time and attention. So, yes, while my library might be hampered by a meager budget, small staff size, and limited administrative support the readings suggested many ways that the library could expand its services and support to the greater community and to encourage more risk taking and creativity.

The most apparent of these is to improve the level of outreach and the degree of collaboration with college/community members, particularly in the virtual realm by making more of a presence as embedded librarians. Collaborating with other departments on campus and working to transform our college’s library and library spaces into more innovative and responsive environments (such as the spaces described in the Mathews article) would go a long way to evolve our user’s concept of what a library is/does and of making it more central to the college.

Chaos by Anna Sophie, DE, (CC BY 3.0)

While I feel as though the library does well as an open-minded and team-based institution, it could do more to assess and change faster and to seek out more input from students and outside staff/faculty, which would contribute to a more welcoming and helpful library environment.

I’ll finish with the final tenant of the hyperlinked library: “Inevitably there will always be some amount of chaos” (Stephens, 2016). If I’ve learned anything in the last 18 months it has been this, but professionally this is something that I (as well as my library as a whole) could use a perspective change with. Learning how to embrace and become more comfortable with chaos would serve us all well. As the tenant says, chaos is inevitable, so learning how to better deal with it and respond to it more effectively (and less negatively) would help us make better and more clear-eyed decisions to find that “evolutionary” path forward for our library.

References

Mathews, B., Metko, S., & Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries. Educause Review. https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries

Stephens, M. (2016). The heart of librarianship : attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions.

Stephens, M. (2021). The hyperlinked library model [lecture]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=a0569381-4d66-4e0a-a7fa-aab3010a8f3e.

Hi everyone –

My name is Joel Webb and I am a tech services librarian at a community college in California’s Inland Empire. I’ve been a librarian for about a decade now and am back taking classes at SJSU for a post-masters certificate in Information Intermediation and Instruction, which I hope to have done next semester.

I’m originally from Northern California (Sacramento and the Bay Area), which I love and miss dearly, but moved down south a few years back to be near my wife’s family and in the process I somehow landed something of an ideal library job for me (with summers off!). The college I work at is very small and the library only has two full time librarians, so I wear many different hats and my job duties range from cataloging, LSP management, reference, collection development, teaching an information literacy course, and OER (open educational resources) liasoning/advocacy…although if I had it my way I would just do cataloging and systems work all day.

I chose this course because I heard about Dr. Stephens back in my MLIS days and wanted to finally take a course of his. The hyperlinked library is something that is still semi-abstract to me, but it seems like something that many of us are (or should be) working towards professionally, so I am interested in learning more about this and seeing how I can implement it to create a more user centered and perceptive library. I’m looking forward to diving more into this class and to getting to know everyone throughout the semester.

Outside of work and school I am a father of two young daughters (a 3 year old and a one year old). I love running long distances, reading comix and literature of the more absurd variety, hiking, traveling, and (as of late) gardening and succulents.

Here is a picture from over the summer of me and my youngest, Sylvia, in Morro Bay:

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