Hyperlinked Communities

“we are not only banning skateboards, we [are] excluding a community of skateboarders.”

Christian Lauersen, 2018

My takeaway from the reading, lectures, and videos regarding hyperlinked communities was summed up in Dr. Stephens’s lecture (as it should be):

“make sure that anyone and everyone that is a part of our constituency may find something that will engage them, will excite them, will teach them something, or whatever it might be”

Lauersen (2018) emphasizes the importance of inclusion in the library, both for the staff and the community. And diversity, he says, is not the same as inclusion. Being inclusive is not as simple as having a diverse staff or inviting diverse people to the library. So while diversity may not lead to inclusion, I think it we can think of it more as inclusion leads to diversity. When we build inclusive spaces and networks, people feel welcomed, and you will see diversity there. I use the terms spaces to mean both physical spaces (architecture, furnishing, decorations, etc.) as well as online spaces (websites, blogs, message boards, etc.).

One of the stumbling blocks for creating inclusive spaces is bias. Both Lauersen (2018) and boyd (2016) describe the importance of acknowledging and understanding bias in ourselves and in our technologies. Biases come in every variety, and everyone has them, because we are human. Some biases are learned from personal experiences, but some are learned from our culture. These cultural biases are even more insidious because they can infect our supposedly neutral, un-opinionated software.

“When the data you input is biased, what you get out is just as biased. These systems learn the biases in our society, and they spit them back out at us.”

danah boyd


It’s also important to recognize that the bias we must contend with is not only the bias in ourselves and the library. The people we are trying to reach also have biases, and we may need to overcome those as well. Again, cultural biases are implicit and can be difficult to recognize. But we must also contend with personal biases that may come from experiences. Biases can form much more quickly and strongly from negative reactions than from positive ones.

For example, there is a corner near my home where I cross the street often. One night, as I was crossing with my dog, a car turning left onto the street that I thought should have seen us nearly ran us over (or so that was how I perceived it). Ever since that one negative experience, I cross the street at that corner with an abundance of caution. This one experience has affected my behavior going forward.

So as we try to reach out and created a hyperlinked community, we must understand that some people may have biases against libraries, or certain library branches, or even just government services, based on negative experiences they have had in the past. We need to build trust with the community, and focusing on inclusion will be one of the bridges that connects us.


In The Heart of Librarianship, Stephens (2016) asks us, “Who in your community could benefit from access, services, assistance?” and says, “Find them. Go to them, ask them what they want and need.” This, along with the message from the lecture about reaching “ALL users,” led me to think of which kinds of people are least easy to reach. I realized that (in my opinion at least) the most difficult people are not the ones who don’t understand how the library can help them, but are the people who don’t have time to spend with the library. There are lots of examples put forth by Stephens, Lauersen, and others about the kinds of spaces, events, activities, art projects, technologies, etc. that libraries can lean into to create engagement with the library. Most of these kinds of examples assume that the people in the community have time that they can divert towards engaging with library activities, they just haven’t realized it yet. But what about people who don’t have time to spend going to cool library events or interactive art exhibits? How can we reach the people who just don’t have time to use the library?

I thought about the line from Stephens’s Libraries in Balance post, “What would make their lives easier?” (2017). How can the library’s experiences and services become so seamlessly integrated into the lives of people who don’t otherwise have the opportunity to be reached by the library? Often in the US, the people with the least time to spare don’t have the luxury of finding more time. People in poverty are often struggling to take care of their jobs and families and don’t have the financial or time budget to make time for the library. So how can we bring the library to them most effectively, when they are people who have the potential to benefit so much from our services? We often can’t even rely on internet technology in these cases.

I don’t have the answers yet, but I did start brainstorming solutions. Could libraries offer all-digital library cards, that can be signed up for online and used exclusively online? This would help serve people who have internet access but don’t have the time to even come to the library for a card. What library services don’t even need a card to use? Can we bring the library to places like groceries or corner stores? To public transit? Where can we meet people who are already occupied or on the move, so that we can truly try to reach all users?

boyd, d. (2016). What World Are We Building? Retrieved from https://points.datasociety.net/what-world-are-we-building-9978495dd9ad
Lauersen, C. (2018). Do you want to dance? Inclusion and belonging in libraries and beyond. Retrieved from https://christianlauersen.net/2018/06/07/inclusion-and-belonging-in-libraries-and-beyond/
Stephens, M. T. (2016). The heart of librarianship : Attentive, positive, and purposeful change. ALA Editions.
Stephens, M. (2017). Libraries in Balance. Retrieved from https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=libraries-in-balance-office-hours

Reflection on the book Twitter and Tear Gas

An internet society differs in significant ways from a pre-internet society, and this affects all members of that society, whether a person uses the internet or not.

(Tufekci, 2017)

Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.

(Kranzberg, 1986)

In Twitter and Tear Gas, Zeynep Tufekci describes the ways in which the changing digital connectivity of the world has led to changes in the ways that people organize protests. The short answer is that protests are able to form and coordinate much more quickly, but lack the ability to react to changing conditions and make big decisions in the same way that slower-building movements can. Technology has changed the way that people can connect and communicate and organize across distances and time. This has changed the way people protest, and it has changed everything else as well. Whether you think of it as compressing time and space or as expanding the borders of the village, digital communication technology has fundamentally changed how people can and do interact. Like-minded people are able to meet, share, and organize no matter where their coordinates may be. Information and ideas can spread between distant and disparate groups like it never has been able to before, with the click of a “share” button.

Digital technologies of connectivity affect how we experience space and time; they alter the architecture of the world—connecting people who are not physically near, preserving words and pictures that would be lost to time. (Tufekci, 2017)

Social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and their precursors like MySpace, have been so successful because people want to stay connected to the ones they are close to, even when distance gets in the way. “Facebook has been adopted rapidly in almost every country where it has been introduced because it fulfills a basic human desire: to connect with family and friends” (Tufekci, 2017). The human desire for connectedness has led people all over the world to embrace the internet as a social space. There will be no undoing of social media—being social is fundamental to being human. The library needs to be involved and connected in the places where people are so that people can be involved and connected where the library is. And the library can be everywhere.

The hyperlinked library resembles the modern protests described in the book because it is both horizontally organized and very connected. However, the hyperlinked library benefits from a stronger organizational core than the protests, which makes it more stable and long-lasting. Modern protests are described as an “adhocracy,” where things get done by whoever is interested in responding to the call to action. In the hyperlinked library, staff have the flexibility to come together in teams to pursue interesting challenges and projects.

The internet is part of the real world. According to Tufekci, many governments were surprised, shaken, or even toppled by underestimating the power that rested in the online world. They “dismissed ‘online’ acts as frivolous and powerless. Indeed, authorities in many countries had derided the internet and digital technology as ‘virtual’ and therefore unimportant.” (Tufekci, 2017). We know now that the social connections and activities that happen online are not make-believe, but are real and meaningful. To be an information institution like a library and to be afraid of what the internet brings would be foolish. The library can join in the connectivity to share its resources and bring people together. The internet is where people are.

Tufekci poses the question, why do these major protests always set up a library? One answer: the things that anti-authoritarian protesters value are shared with a library.

Libraries express a set of values that are aligned with the deeply held values of the protesters.

Libraries are core symbols of an ethic of non-commodified knowledge. Anyone, regardless of how much money she or he has, can check out a book, and a book is passed from person to person in a chain of knowledge sharing. Perhaps more than anything, libraries represent a public good and a public space that is non-monetized and shared. (Tufekci, 2017)

The library during the Gezi Park protest in Istanbul, Turkey, 2013.

References

Kranzberg, M. (1986). Technology and History: “Kranzberg’s Laws”. Technology and Culture,27(3), 544-560. doi:10.2307/3105385

Tufekci, Z. (2017). Twitter and tear gas: The power and fragility of networked protest. Yale University Press.

Thoughts on the Hyperlinked Library

After reading the materials from the Hyperlinked Library module, I finally feel that I have a grasp on what the concept really means. Hyperlinked libraries are “hyperlinked”: they are managed and operated in ways that are non-sequential and non-hierarchical. They are also hyper-linked: they are “excessively” connected, with each part of “the library” (its people and services) connected to many things both inside and outside of the library. Operating in this way makes the library more connected to (and aware of) its community and makes it more flexible and responsive to the current and future desires of its community.

I particularly liked the example from the lecture in which the pages of a picture book were posted along the path in the park and how this made connections between people, the park, and the library. I was less thrilled by the Open+ system, even though it promised to give people more access to their libraries. My concern is with equity of access to the library, specifically with who will be allowed to have codes to enter the library during off-hours. I’m already sensitive to the ways in which libraries are often biased against unhoused people, and I can only envision that being a sticking point with Open+ as well.

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch

Having just finished reading the book Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch, I couldn’t help but see connections to the hyperlinked library concept. Several of the themes of the book apply to the hyperlinked library’s themes of social engagement. McCulloch describes two ways in which people see the internet: as a tool or as a social place. Some people have only used the internet for their work and do not see it as a social space comparable to the offline world. However, people from early Usenet days to young people who have grown up post-Facebook see the internet as a highly social place, another type of “third place” in the world. And according to McCulloch, while many people think that so-called “digital natives” are fluent in all aspects of computer usage, in reality they are simply fluent in using computers as part of their social network. As the library is also a kind of “third place,” it makes sense for the library to take part in the social internet. The internet isn’t simply a tool, it is a place where people communicate, socialize, and make connections.