Reflection on the #hyperlib course

I close out our #hyperlib with a blog post sharing a photo from the readings that had a profound effect on me. This photo reminded me why I developed my early love of libraries, how I connected my interests in public libraries, public spaces, and the public life of cities, and what got me back in grad school to support this calling.

Despite the chaos erupting on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, the Ferguson Public Library remained open, an oasis of peace, reflection and inclusion in the troubled city.

What inspiration! What hope! The healing power of libraries is real. I shared this news with the world. Others need to know.

Next time someone asks if libraries still matter, we have proof that they do.

Ferguson Library

 

 

 

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Reflection on Reflective Practice

What a great way to wrap up the course. The module on Reflective Practice left me inspired and excited about the many takeaways from the Hyperlinked Library. Contrary to what I thought at the beginning of the course, a hyperlinked library is not solely concerned with Web 2.0, hashtags, eReaders, touchscreens, and digital initiatives de jure. We learned that the #hyperlib is about people. The #hyperlib is about connecting people with library services, whether on-site or online. We #hyperlibers want to make sharing resources and information easier for people. In many ways, the Reflective Practice module gives us our marching orders to make this wonderful idea of a #hyperlib a reality. What does reflective practice look like?

As @michael has described, Reflective Practice is mindfulness to the nth degree. We must think about the totality of our work. It’s a lot more than pointing clients to books or explaining Dewey Classification. It’s about having awareness of the long term impacts and consequences of our service. It’s about being passionate about our work, clients, and coworkers. We have to care. We have to listen. There’s gotta be a human connection.

We must be authentic and trustworthy information professionals. We must craft our own vision and voice. We must challenge assumptions and question the reasoning behind “we’ve always just done it this way.” We must develop other people into strong leaders, too. We can achieve this by leading with a heart.

Life intervenes. Life doesn’t care about deadlines. Life comes at you as it does. Work can be the stressor or the relief. We must be mindful of people’s lives, their ups and downs. We must be able to show empathy. We can do this by being kind and compassionate in our workplace.

We must be confident about our abilities. We must be proud of our services. Let’s celebrate our work! Have that elevator pitch ready explaining why you’re awesome at this LIS business, why your library is top-notch, why LIS matters, dammit. Self-confidence is one of the most difficult personal qualities to master. Yet it is necessary for good reflective practice in the #hyperlib. The stereotype of the quiet, timid librarian is dead. We must be loud and proud. We must promote ourselves proudly.

Alan Henry’s article on unsleazy self-promotion is fantastic. The author understands the difficultly of celebrating one’s professional achievements with enthusiasm and balance. Self-promotion can easily slip into obnoxious self-aggrandizement. But done properly, self-promotion communicates our expertise and confidence to clients. That’s core to reflective practice. People need to know what unique services we offer, and how effective we are at them. Henry deftly explains four ways we can properly market ourselves in the 21st century: 1) build an online landing page, like a blog or about.me profile, 2) build relationships with value, 3) build a network of advocates, 4) build your brand around your passions and talents. The advice is practical yet remarkably effective. I can attest because I’ve been unknowingly exercising Henry’s approach ever since I joined social media in 2012 (coincidentally, for an SJSU MLIS course on marketing oneself in the 21st century!). Anyone can pull off Henry’s techniques with a little effort. Key traits to have are passion, confidence, and interpersonal skills. Developing an online presence helps but you can still self-promote without it. Yet it’s impossible to self-promote properly without passion, self-confidence and good interpersonal skills to make that human connection.

Check out this excellent Slideshare presentation connecting reflective practice with various domains of LIS and the iSchool experience.

Reflective Practice

 

Director’s Brief on Instagram for County Public Library

I’ve prepared a staff report assessing Instagram as an outreach tool for the County Public Library.

JPBell_DirectorsBrief_LIBR287_UPLOADVERSION.pdf

Abstract

Instagram is one of the most popular mobile computing applications on the market today. Increasingly, libraries are using Instagram to promote services and connect with users. In response to this trend, staff analyzed the Instagram app and its effectiveness for library outreach. Staff analysis disclosed that Instagram is an effective tool for engaging users and marketing library offerings. The app is free, easy to use, and ubiquitous on mobile devices. Instagram comes with an active, dedicated, and growing user base. Its popularity and global market share indicate that the service has longevity in the competitive social networking world. The service has minimal limitations and risks, which can be addressed through good policy development. Based on this study’s findings, staff recommends that the County Public Library adopt Instagram as an outreach tool.

Two notes

1) The Director’s Brief assignment is very effective for preparing us for public library service. The Brief resembles similar memorandum assignments I’ve done at the L.A. County Regional Planning department. I wrote this memo the same way I’d have written it for my Director at Regional Planning. Since memo standards are essentially the same for all County departments, I’d have written it just like this for the County Library Director, too. With the exception of in-text hyperlinks (L.A. County is a bit old school), this memo’s format and style reflects current government practice!

2) The original PDF exceeded the WordPress file limit so I compressed the file using Mac Preview File->Export->Reduce File Size. You can also use this tool to compress PDFs: http://smallpdf.com/compress-pdf.

Reflection on the Library as Classroom

The Library as Classroom model turns the library into an active laboratory for creation, as seen in Makerspaces, Hackerspaces and the like. Criticizing the emerging trend of 3D printers in libraries, Hugh Rundle offers a harsh reality check against the Library as Classroom. As Rundle contends, libraries are in the business of information, not object making. The 3D printing craze steers librarians away from the mission of information advocacy. This shift toward fabricating objects makes Rundle question if any limits remain: “You might lend out ‘Guns of the world’, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to lend out a community gun. Your 3D printer might be used to make chocolate bunnies, or prototypes for local entrepreneurs, but what will your policy be on people printing dildos?” (NSFW). There’s an obvious shock value to his rhetoric. It’s irreverent and evocative. The sting makes you take pause.

7/28/14 - 3D printer technology for student use at the NDSU Library.

3D printer or MakerBot Replicator 2

Yet Rundle’s stinging language might also be his downfall. There’s no subtly in his critique of the Library as Classroom; he punches the reader across the face. When the sting wears off you come back, re-read the entry, and see the message for what it really is. This is biblio-Conservatism, plain and simple, revealing a certain suspicion of non-traditional library services. Rundle advises libraries to focus on the “intangibles” of information, which he purports is the province of librarians. He says: “There has never been such an abundance of information, ideas and stories. It’s not enough any more for information to be organised – it needs to be made available in new and meaningful ways.” In other words: know your role and stick to it, librarians.

Children gather around the library MakerBot

It behooves Library as Classroom advocates to understand Rundle’s critique because his position neatly captures the counterargument against the Library as Classroom. The counterargument says Makerspaces, MakerBot Replicators, and media labs are not within the library’s purview. Purists express rather conservative concerns over these kinds of hands-on learning spaces. “The teens can make WHAT?!” The Library as Classroom looks like an attempt to stay relevant in a time of increasing competition for information and learning. “Stick to your mission,” they snort.

The library MakerBot captivates

Thing is, education IS the library’s mission. And the Library as Classroom is one of best platforms for education. The Library as Classroom is about collaboration, experimentation, and action. Learners work together. Knowledge and skills are shared in an open environment. The education is robust, happening through convivial trial and error. Librarians play an active role facilitating learning in the Library as Classroom. What’s more, learners apply information to make tangible creations, like a robotic hand for a person in need. The model takes the library to the next level. The Library as Classroom advances the library’s mission from “study for the sake of knowledge” to “study for the sake of action.”

YAs repair an overhead project at their school library Makerspace

Reflection on New Horizons: Space and People

Our readings for New Horizons, New Models examined what forwarding thinking libraries are doing today and looking at as important concepts for the future. Now, excessive future orientation can push some upstart librarians into technolust and, as Schmidt points out, make them forget about the people who are core to the mission. To my surprise and satisfaction, space and people were recurring themes in this module’s readings. A focus on space and people dovetails with the theme of my #hyperlib blog: Public Libraries are Public Spaces. As I wrote in my introduction, context book review, and other reflections, today’s public library is an important social space. Libraries serve multiple functions in diverse communities. The library is a public service and a public space for all. This is especially important in this era of increasing privatization of public space and library service.

The readings got me thinking about my spatial learning from urban planning school ten years ago. Fields that deal with the “built environment” — planning, architecture, geography — tend to look at space with a heightened reverence and zeal. Space is not a given; space is a gift! Urban theorists like Edward Soja and Michael Dear, who are both cut from the postmodern cloth, consider space a generator of action and activity. (Their spatial lenses directly benefit LIS’s emerging interest in space; library theorists should be reading their work.) It became apparent that spatial tenets from the planning realm could enrich the current conversation about space and people in libraries.

A brief note on space…

The space we’re talking about is the subject of many dissertations from across the disciplines the world over. However, space limitations (terrible pun!) in this Reflection restrict my allowance for backgrounding. An extremely concise primer follows.

Throughout most of human history, space was considered no more than an empty container in which things happened. Space was passive, inactive, inconsequential.  The prevailing concepts of time and history ruled thought. Space was irrelevant.

Changing conceptions of space really began in France in the late 1960s, an era marked by widespread spatial turbulence (riots, protests, war). One theorist stands out. Michel Foucault is known for his studies of space, knowledge, and power. His work examined how space itself exercised control over bodies. Foucault’s evidence of the power of space famously included idealized prison buildings and militaristic city design. To Foucault, space was an active agent affecting life and experience.

The rise of postmodernism boosted spatiality. Postmodern philosophy disputed the reliability of order, time, truth, and linear history. Postmodernism instead embraced the messy concepts of multiple “truths”, disorder, and difference. Spatial thinking fit in well within postmodern ideals. 

Today, space is a cause not an afterthought. People embrace the explanatory power of space. We’re finally seeing this spatial thinking in the library realm.

Three spatial tenets for libraries:

Space is ACTIVE — Space itself is vibrant and exciting. A stimulus occurs when space is activated. People talk, conflict brews, ideas flow. Spatial activity leads to creation. People, objects, and ideas circulate within space, creating a self-sustaining environment that re/produces activity. Libraries can capitalize on this by including spaces that encourage vibrancy over staid, Shhhhh’d, study. The entire library mustn’t be converted into a jungle gym, but perhaps one space can be! We see this approach in the rise of library Makerspaces that encourage un-library like activities such as cooperative tinkering (see Horizon Report and Maloney). We see this in new YA spaces that encourage flexible, mobile, customizable seating arrangements to improve user experience (Bernier et al).

Space is CONGREGATIVE — Space brings people together. Space has the power to gather people both alike and disparate. Public plazas and private living rooms draw people together. Commonalities are identified. Groups form. Partnerships develop. Spatial congregation creates community. Emerging technologies bring people together, sure, but they lack what Soja calls the “stimulus of agglomeration” that space affords. You cannot disconnect with one click in physical space! Libraries must capitalize on the congregative quality of space. As Casey says, libraries can do this by turning outward and asking people what the community needs in their library? I offer that communities need programs beyond book borrowing. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors just approved a plan to support President Obama’s controversial federal “no deportation” policy. County branch libraries will serve as information centers offering immigration program resources. This works because libraries are trusted spaces that attract people and support communities.

Space is PEOPLE CENTERED — Space is “powered up” on its own, but powerful when people enact it. Our use activates its generative power. With people at its center, space must be nimble. We know people are fickle. People’s needs change, dynamics shift. Space must adapt to these fluctuations. Intelligent spaces evolve in response to circumstances without sacrificing their active, congregative qualities. We see this quality in the conception of third s/place, a spatial alternative to one’s home and worksite that brings people together. Libraries are a third place.  A high performing library third s/place is flexible, malleable, and supportive of people’s unique needs.

While emerging technologies enhance our information sharing capabilities, they cannot replace the generative power of people coming together in space. Let’s not forget that as we look out on the horizon today. Forward thinking libraries that put space and people first are looking in the right direction.