For my virtual symposium contribution, I created something like a slideshow using WordPress pages. I review many of the quotes that meant something important to me from the semester, and reflect on how the topics have had an impact on my understanding of librarianship.
Click on Boba to begin! (Dogs are hyperlinks too?)
Creating a participatory space for creativity and education at the library has the potential to fulfill many of the needs and desires of the community and the library. In addition to the place being somewhere for people of all ages to create, learn, and try new things safely, it promotes interaction within the community and between the library and the community. Participants learn by experimentation and from one another, and the library learns more about the community’s interests. The library becomes not just a place to hear or read stories, but a place to share stories and make new stories within the community. Creative spaces can be anything from low-cost interactive community art activities to technological trial-and-error learning centers, and anything in between. By blending several trends in library participatory spaces, we can facilitate hands-on learning and play for all ages.
I particularly enjoyed the description of the “next-generation school library” presented in Luba Vangelova’s 2014 article, “What Does The Next-Generation School Library Look Like?” Though it was describing a high school library, I felt that it was also providing a template for libraries of all kinds and for all ages. A place for people to be animated, to converse, to share stories, and to play. You might say, “what about learning?” and to that I would say that all of those activities involve learning. The library is already a place of one kind of learning, but we need to expand what we think learning looks like.
Humans learn first and foremost from one another, as we are social animals. Writing and reading came afterwards. However, there is an expectation that as people age, they move away from learning through play and activities towards learning from books and instruction. Structured learning through reading and instruction are still important, but we need to make space for learning in other ways.
Vangelova described how there was a change in the student culture as an adaptation to the new circumstances. The students who initially reveled in the anarchy of the new library gradually learned and taught the new students that there was benefit to balancing responsibility and freedom. The key here to me was a change in culture. It’s not enough to change the space alone, you also have to change the way people understand the new social rules of the space and how learning doesn’t have to only happen in one mode. We still need to have spaces for quiet study, but we should also design our libraries to have spaces for people to learn noisily.
I think it is important to acknowledge that adults need play and to experiment with new technology almost as much as teens and children do. Modern culture leads adults to believe that play and learning are strictly childlike activities that one is expected to grow out of, but I think that is capitalism’s affect on our culture. Adults need opportunities to play and experiment and learn by trial and error. Think about the way that we learn as we grow: babies babble and try to touch and bite everything, children say silly things and make up words and invent new games, teens push against boundaries and test limits of what is physically and socially possible. When we become adults there is an expectation that we give a lot of that up.
But I think that, for example, adults would be able to learn new languages better if they felt it was acceptable to make errors while they learn. Nobody wants to say a new word the wrong way, or to accidentally say something embarrassing, or be judged for using the wrong verb forms. But children don’t feel that way while they are learning their first language, they allow themselves to make errors and they learn from them.
This is all to say that I think libraries need to give people of all ages a place to play and try new things without being afraid that it is the wrong thing to do. We learn best from one another, by listening and imitating and making things up. There should be places for people to experiment with new software or technology so that they can, as my alma mater’s motto stated, “learn by doing.” We should give people opportunities to make videos and podcasts about things that interest them and share those with their peers. The makers learn the tools and techniques of the recording and editing, and the audience learns about something that their peers enjoy.
Michael Stephens talked in the lecture for “Learning Everywhere” about the value in telling stories; we need make the library a place where people will not only share stories, but make new stories to tell. Maybe one day we’ll more often hear:
“OK, so, you gotta hear about this. So the other day at the library, we…”
It isn’t enough for libraries to have mobile versions of their regular websites. There should obviously be mobile-accessible versions of the library. But the library needs to offer things on mobile devices that take advantage of the special features of mobile devices, rather than simply delivering the existing library to mobile devices. Things like GPS-based services, QR codes, live translations of images or text, or “download only on WiFi” are all important to the mobile library.
The 23 Mobile Things course is valuable because it encourages library staff to explore what is available on mobile devices, expanding what they believe is possible and sparking creativity that can lead to new innovations or programs. There is a lot of complex information involved in understanding the breadth of the online environment, and for someone trained in English but not computer programming, this can seem daunting. Courses like 23 Mobile Things help people get more comfortable with the kinds of uses of information that are possible with mobile interfaces.
In several of my other blog posts I have been trying to think about the ways that the library can serve and support people who, in our current society, are too busy working, commuting, and supporting their families to have time to stop at a library. Because smart phones have become so integrated into modern life, despite the high cost of the devices, it is worth addressing the idea that low-income people might have a smart phone but not have internet access at home.
I’ve talked multiple times about my interest in making wireless internet accessible at places like public transit and grocery stores. This would be a benefit to people who use mobile devices but can’t afford the extra costs of data plans. If we also advertise free library apps, courses, and other information in these places, we can capture an audience that doesn’t often get access to the library. These services can be even further tailored to this type of audience, who may not have the time or understanding to discover these services on their own. Allowing for scheduled downloads (when on an internet connection rather than data plan) can dramatically help people who are worried about going over data limits.
The library could make educational courses about using mobile devices safely and effectively, and make these courses easily accessible on mobile devices. The course would presume that the user is using a mobile device, so the delivery of the course could as well. If the courses are downloadable (rather than only streaming online), the users can download them when internet access is available, and then watch them when it is convenient.
This same kind of delivery system could be used for other library content. Imagine that the user can reserve items from a virtual catalog offline, and then when they have a wireless internet connection, available materials are downloaded automatically to be viewed later (without the user having to remember to click a button). For mobile phone users, managing mobile data plans can be a lot of work, so anything that can reduce that load should be welcome.
The library could also offer specific apps or services within their app that help with daily activities outside of the library, such as managing schedules, shopping lists, or other kinds of things.
My biggest takeaway from this portion of the course is that the future (which is to say, technology) offers a lot of ways for the library to connect with its community that may not be initially evident. It is important for librarians (and all library staff) to spend time learning about new trends, new apps, and new technologies, so that they can be prepared. Library staff need to be prepared not just to assist users with new technologies, but to embrace them wholeheartedly and use them to engage with their community. 23 Mobile Things shows us that there are at least 23 things we could all stand to learn more about if we want to be able to engage with our modern communities.
Listening to the stories of new types of technology that are being adapted at libraries, I wanted to focus on the way stories are told at libraries, and to whom they are told. As the Tea Tree Gully library asked, “Why is story time just for children?” I think that we can combine modern ideas of library engagement with modern technologies to create something at libraries that is of interest to younger adults who may not otherwise find libraries very interesting. Not all stories told to adults need to be author readings.
In my personal experience, libraries seem the most adept at engaging users who are either young children (and parents of young children) or older adults. Modern younger adults have a wide variety of interests and can benefit greatly from free library programs. What things are interesting to younger adults? If they are like me and the people I see online, they are interested in storytelling. Modern online storytelling has two dimensions: stories being told by single authors or narrators, or stories being told collectively through games. As Professor Stephens says in his lecture: “Spot trends and make them opportunities.”
One of my favorite podcasts in recent years has been LeVar Burton Reads, an audio experience where renowned film & TV actor LeVar Burton reads short stories to his audience. Burton’s personal interest is in speculative fiction, but he reads a variety of stories with his own signature flair. Many younger adults remember him from his role as the host of Reading Rainbow, and find it comforting to hear him telling them stories again in their adulthood.
Another online trend in the last several years has been the live-streaming or recording of “actual play” of games, often role-playing games (RPGs), the game type made famous by Dungeons & Dragons. Whether in video or audio form, people from all walks of life are playing different RPGs online and sharing their game experiences and stories with their audiences. These experiences range from the semi-professional (e.g. Critical Role) to the frequent-but-less-formal (e.g. ActualPlay).
Whether the stories are written and edited beforehand or created on the spot through play, stories are engaging and younger adults enjoy both listening, watching, and creating their own artistic responses to the stories they hear. Communities spring up online, particularly for collaborative storytelling through games, where audience members feel inspired to create art based on the characters and situations they hear described to them through stories.
My idea and plan is to use the library’s recording spaces to allow people to create and share storytelling through live-streaming and recording in mediums such as YouTube and Twitch. The library can have scheduled performers who read short stories or play storytelling games, while also allowing library users to record and share their own stories and games.
To use the format shared in the participatory service module: We want to convince adults ages 18-38 that by watching library live-streams they will be entertained and sparked creatively which will get people more interested in creating because the library wants you to make things. We also want to convince library staff that by participating in library live-streams and recordings they will be entertained and sparked creatively which will get people more interested in creating because the library lets you to make things.
The tools required to make such live-streams or recordings possible are computer-based: computers, internet connections, microphones, and if desired, web cameras. These would need to be available in a space designed for recording, or at least a space where other library users would not be disturbed. The library would need at least a YouTube page and a person who manages the videos that are uploaded or live-streamed there. Ideally, there would also be a Twitter account to share updates about the videos and live-streams, since many people browse Twitter who do not regularly check YouTube. There may be a need for further staff to manage any storytellers who are hosted by the library, either as paid guests or as volunteers, if the library intends to create its own content. Otherwise, staff are only needed to manage the user-created content. If the library plans to live-stream their stories, at least one person will be required to be available as a monitor of what is being broadcast.
The library would need a clear policy about what kinds of content are going to be shared through the library’s accounts, and whether or not certain behaviors (such as profanity) or topics (such as discussions of death, violence, sexual violence, etc) will be allowed in content published by the library. Several modern RPGs emphasize the importance of making sure the players are comfortable by controlling what themes or scenes are allowed to be discussed during the game. Determining what is appropriate for the game is as appropriate as determining what is appropriate for publishing by the library.
Promoting videos and live-streams of storytelling is often best done through Twitter, because users of platforms like Instagram expect to be able to see everything on that platform, while Twitter users are more accustomed to seeing promotional links to activities elsewhere on the web. Twitter is also a great platform for sharing things that fans of the stories create, further encouraging users to create.
Getting library users engaged with the library, whether they are telling stories, playing stories, or creating art in response to stories, engages their minds and keeps them interested in what the library has to offer. The library has books full of stories, but users can tell or create their own stories as well. By making the library more than just the written stories engages the creativity of its community and taps into the current trend of “niche fandom.”
“The purpose of a library is to fulfill its mission, which is lifelong learning and cultural literacy and bringing the community together. And we’ll chase whatever practical and economical means we can to do that, which is part of why libraries are so strongly associated with books – because books are an extraordinarily effective way to do those things.
But they have never been the only way, and more and more we are finding other ways and more creative ways – and really strange ways, sometimes – to really chase down the possibilities.”
This quote from Scott Bonner (Hemphill, 2019) really appealed to me. It summed up fairly succinctly why we should, can, and are exploring the different ways that libraries can connect people and connect to people. I work in a public library and see myself continuing to work in public libraries, even when the work feels difficult or boring, because I have come to appreciate the importance of what the public library brings to the community.
In my last post, I brainstormed a few hypothetical examples of how we can bring the library and library services to people who aren’t able to go to the library, focusing on the under-served community of people who are simply too busy to be able to make time for the library. Zuckuhr and Purcell (2014) describe another group that I hadn’t thought about at the time: people with low mobility who also can’t go to the library. I want to explore that group further at some point, but right now I’m still thinking about how to bring the library to places where busy people are already gathering out of necessity, like grocery stores, public transit, etc.
The busy people I imagine who don’t have time to go to the library are those who are typically low income and have to strictly manage their time spent doing jobs, childcare, eldercare, grocery shopping, and other tasks. While I had considered that people in this position may not have internet access at home, I hadn’t really considered that they may still have at least one internet-ready device, such as a smart phone. Zickuhr (2014) says that “patrons … rely on the library’s internet access—even when the library itself is closed”. Hemphill (2019) mentions that “In some towns, after all, the public library is the only place to … connect to Wi-Fi”. The idea of bringing internet access to people is an interesting direction for the library to go. As Zickuhr (2014) mentions, many people use the library’s wireless internet from outside the library when the library is closed. I once spoke with a homeless patron of my library, who said he would use the library’s wireless in the middle of the night, to chat with his mother on the other side of the US.
Extending the range of a library’s wireless internet could be a place to start. Letting people access the internet without having to sit right outside the library’s walls, especially if the library is near a park or other public area, could benefit people when the library isn’t open, or even those who just prefer to enjoy the weather. But this still doesn’t address providing access to people who aren’t near the library.
The library could be a driving force into making public wireless internet more accessible in a city or town. Of all the city services, the library seems to be in the best position to champion increasing public wireless internet access. Public wireless internet can be a risky thing to connect to but if it is part of the library’s services, security can be managed and people will be more likely to trust it.
Buses and trains could be fitted with wireless internet transceivers to allow commuters to use their internet devices without having to have a data plan. Public parks could become wireless hot spots that increase access in public spaces. Rainie (2014) suggested that some people would be interested in “Redbox-style kiosks to check out library books or movies if they were placed around their towns.” If implemented, these kiosks could also provide wireless internet access. Even removing the book exchange function, wireless transceivers could be put near places like grocery stores or transit stops. Signage on transit or kiosks could even provide QR codes (or similar technology) to quickly link users to library services or even to specific book titles.
The “Redbox-style kiosks” were an interesting idea to me. Having such things available at grocery stores, laundromats, and corner stores could increase the reach of the library to the busy people I mentioned before. Those people could get more value out of each necessary trip. Libraries often use bookmobiles or other such devices to extend their reach, but those can only be in one place at a time; having small dedicated stations in key places could help to extend the library’s reach. The kiosks would need to be serviced, which would be more difficult, but if managed well they could prove useful.
I’m still brainstorming ideas, but I like this idea of using wireless internet access as a way to spread the library across a larger area of a city.
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.”
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?
Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral.
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)
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.
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.
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.
My name is David (he/him) and I am a library student with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I currently work for the San Francisco public library as a page. One of the reasons that I chose this course was that I remembered from other course materials Dr. Stephens’ enthusiasm for the topics of libraries, technology, and online networking. I know that this course will be interesting and engaged with topics that are important for the future of libraries. I’m primarily interested in pursuing public librarianship because I believe in what public libraries offer (education for everyone) and I also enjoy the challenge of finding answers to questions. I don’t consider myself a true polymath, but it is a nice goal.
The book I’m currently reading is Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch. It’s great!
This is my dog, Boba (who is currently upset that I am ignoring him in order to type this):