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“Don’t Be the Lid” (from Ingrid Baier, 2012)

December 4th, 2012 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

“A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.” — William G.T. Shedd

I love this quote because it sums up my feelings at the end of this semester of learning.  What is a librarian, if not one who launches into the unknown before anyone else?  Isn’t librarianship, at its core, about being a guide and connector to knowledge yet discovered; being unafraid to be something new and different; or helping others cross boundaries and stretch their wings?

The wealth of connections and ideas I am taking away from the Hyperlinked Library has made me so excited about my soon-to-be-graduated status.  I have the courage now to embrace the new idea of “radical trust” in collaborative communities.  And, I have gained the wisdom to see that organizations function at their best with the highest levels of participation from all stakeholders.

Here’s a pictograph I made highlighting some of the best nuggets of wisdom gleaned throughout the class.  I may just have to hang this above my desk:


To leave you with one last thought — I recently read this incredible blog post, from Ingrid Baier, that defined for me how to carry myself forward.  Entitled, “don’t be the lid”, it linked to this video on the dangers of limiting our imaginations:

So, yes.  My new mantra, thanks to Ingrid, is “Don’t Be the Lid.”  And, for me, it all started in the Hyperlinked Library.  My deepest gratitude to Michael and everyone in this class that took the time, effort and love to go along for the journey. :)



My Virtual Symposium (or, everything I learned, I learned in Kindergarten and the Hyperlinked Library)

November 25th, 2012 · 21 Comments · Uncategorized

It’s show-and-tell time!  Who remembers this sometimes exciting, sometimes agonizing part of our kindergarten school days?  Would people like what you brought?  Would they be as excited about the spotted robin’s egg you found behind the holly bush as much as you were when you found it?  Or, would people yawn and look out the window, hoping for an early recess? Kindergarten was such an iconic time in our lives, and we learned so much about what it means to be a human who must connect and learn from other humans, that it just felt right to me to equate that memory with my wonderful experience this semester.

As I worked on this small digital artifact, I realized how similar our learning experiences can be even if more than 40 years separate them.  The tools are very different, of course, but the experience remains, and those times that true learning emerges is often found when we reach an understanding about how the deeper meaning in our lives connects to our work and the people around us.  Plus, this class just makes me feel like a kid again!

I hope you enjoy my virtual symposium presentation.  I had a great deal of fun making it because I tried to employ several of the tenets of the Hyperlinked Library model while working on it:  try new things, don’t be afraid of new technology, tell a story, and give it heart!

Pam’s Virtual Symposium Presentation

(best watched in full screen mode)



Shiny Happy People*

November 15th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

[*lovingly ripped off from REM and Kate Pierson, 1991, and in honor of Shiloh's love for the B52s ]

We talk a lot about the heart in this class.  I like it.  I especially like that it doesn’t sound maudlin, sappy or pathetic when we talk about it.  It is something borne from strength, giving solid root to our plans, projects, and initiatives.  It even invades personal conflict, allowing us to breathe deep and giving us the courage to admit mistakes and allow mistakes in others.

Having heart is what it means to be truly human.  Now, here’s where it gets difficult.  Because being human, as we all have witnessed, can be ugly and messy too.  Which is why I like that our discussions in this class always return to the idea of the heart.  It is this iteration that we need to make a habit.  Like our morning cup of coffee or afternoon walk.  For the first time in my own life, I will soon find myself in a place where I might be in a position of leadership, and frankly it scares me.  But, reconnecting myself to this idea of the heart makes it less so.

I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy in leadership.  Maybe because I have worked under many different supervisors, the majority of whom could be described as a “mixed bag” of strong and poor leadership traits.  Gill Corkindale’s story in “The Importance of Kindness at Work” in which she was allowed to stumble, fall, and take time to brush herself off after a major crisis brought me back to my own similar experiences.  On two occasions at work, I have had to deal with major times of grief and stress.  The first was when my father died unexpectedly many years ago, and more recently when both my husband and mother were diagnosed almost simultaneously with cancer.  For each of those instances I was working under two very different types of supervisors.  With the first, there was little to no recognition of my loss.  The second time around, I was infinitely more lucky.  Guess which supervisor has become a role model for me?

Defining what traits make a leader has been an ever-changing and difficult business.  Once, leaders were defined by innate qualities that were judged separately from any context that they functioned within, including interaction with subordinates.  This is commonly referred to as the “heroic” conception of leadership (Holt and Marques, 2012).  Leadership in contemporary times seems to require a great deal more.  For example, emotional intelligence (EI) – the ability to perceive and evaluate emotions –has been referred to as the “sine qua non” of leadership (Kreitz, 2009).  So, it’s not much of a surprise to find that one of the main components found in those who practice EI is empathy.

But what if you feel that your EI quotient is lacking?  Is all hope lost?  Not necessarily.  Many researchers have concluded that EI traits can be developed through training and practice.   Through the use of tools such as coursework, workshops, mentoring, on-the-job coaching and rigorous self scrutiny and practice, a manager can develop a stronger EI (Kreitz, 2009).  So, learning to wear your heart on your sleeve can open up your ability to connect with others thereby strengthening your workplace overall.

Cultivating an intelligent heart and recognizing that our work places are made up of humans, with very human needs, is really a courageous act.  Librarians are no slouches when it comes to courage, so I am sure you are not surprised when I tell you that the supervisor I mention above that exhibited compassion and empathy in my time of crisis was a Library Director.  Libraries are often referred to as the “heart” of their communities.  There is no reason why this cannot be extended internally into the workplace.  I believe we all can take our hearts and do what Michael and Kate implore us to do:

“Take it into town…”
“Put it in the ground…”
“Throw it all around…”


p.s.  If you ever find yourself in a supervisory position and need to handle a co-worker who is expereiencing a deep emotional crisis due to a loss of some kind, this site has a lot of good links to follow:



Corkindale, G. (2011). The Importance of Kindness at Work. Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Retrieved from:

Holt, S. and Marques, J. (2012). Empathy in leadership: Appropriate or misplaced?  An empirical study on a topic that is asking for attention.  Journal of Business Ethics, 105(1), 95-105. DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-0951-5

Kreitz, P.A. (2009). Leadership and emotional intelligence: A study of university library directors and their senior management teams.  College and Research Libraries, 70 (6), 531-554.


Using geo-location in local learning initiatives

November 2nd, 2012 · 7 Comments · Uncategorized

Having just lived through my second hurricane in 14 months, I was all fired-up to write about how libraries could facilitate better crisis information-sharing during difficult times.  I had already touched on this in a previous post, where I talked about the amazing mapping tool, Ushahidi, and its ability to connect people and information in Kenya.  But, I’m feeling a bit “Sandy-ied” out for now, so I thought I would completely switch gears and brainstorm a really, cool, fun way for my local library to use geo-location technologies to better connect people to local information.  This could have two positive outcomes:  1) it would stimulate learning possibilities within the community, and 2) it could increase a connection between the library and local businesses, thereby stimulating foot traffic for both.

I live in the village of Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY and this town (like any town, I bet) has a long, rich local history that consists of many historical figures, including  authors, painters and filmmakers.  For example, the well-known mystery writer, Mary Higgins Clark, attended the local private school in town and wrote several books that feature a character who returns to Cornwall-on-Hudson where several fictional murders have taken place.  Many local areas and establishments are featured in her books.  Imagine if you are browsing a menu at Painter’s Tavern in our downtown village and are instructed, as you are waiting for your order, to use your mobile phone to scan the front of the menu, which would have as a overlay, information about the author and a way to connect to downloading a copy of one of her books or information on its location in the local library.  The interactive print tool, Layar, could be used to make this type of interaction possible.  Check out a short demo video:

Another type of learning connection that could be facilitated in my town are between famous painters of the Hudson River School and their depictions of local natural areas.  Here is an image of Samuel Colman’s famous painting of Storm King Mountain that hangs in the Smithsonian:

Our town is a very popular hiking destination for people from NYC.  Imagine if the local library created a digital map of local hiking spots that connect people to information about these painters, books and ebooks in our library system on their works and/or upcoming exhibits featuring these painters.  Heck… we could even set up a small kiosk that would feature a way to download the map to your smartphone and provide energy bars and drinks for purchase for your hiking excursion.

Another great augmented reality tool is Wikitude.  I saw this video, and thought of the endless possibilities for school libraries to use it to enhance local class trips.  For example, my town was once a thriving industrial river town.  Now, all the industry is gone and we have a beautiful riverfront park where people boat and picnic.  My kids have a hard time imagining how the same environment could be a host to such different uses.  Wikitude could be used to enhance this type of learning:




Begin with internal change — wikis for building greater efficiency, participation and trust.

October 25th, 2012 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I approached our emerging tech project with the purpose of dealing with an issue in my own backyard, so to speak.  I have been pondering for some time now the methods of communication currently be used in my workplace, and wanted to focus on how to use emerging technologies to improve them.  I settled on the idea of using an internal wiki to create an environment that would enable staff to become more efficient and confident, which hopefully would lead to greater participation and better morale.  The way I see it:  if you can’t communicate effectively with each other, how can you communicate effectively with your patrons?

At first, introducing a wiki into my workplace seemed an unexciting idea (for lack of a better word).  Why not focus on a newer, sexier technology like mobile data management or gesture-based computing?  Is a wiki even considered an emerging technology anymore? Well, my decision kept coming back to the same reason.  It isn’t about the technology, but the best way in which to improve the situation.

So what are the issues in my workplace? A large portion of the staff are part-time or substitutes who are not in the physical space every day and not at every staff meeting.  Currently e-mail and word-of-mouth are the two most used methods of communication.  Word-of-mouth is an obvious problem for part-time staff, and e-mail is not a very good tool for collaboration.  This leads to staff who are only partially connected to the institution and what’s happening within it.  It can cause misinformation with patron interactions and low morale can be a result.

The long-and-short-of-it is that we simply need a better tool to capture and share knowledge.  Not having this kind of environment has created “silos of knowledge”, as defined by Michael Stephens in the Hyperlinked Library model (those staff who are the only ones who know “how to do that one task” or are “privy to that one piece of information”).

Since I intend to present this proposal to my supervisor, I would appreciate any input! Here is the link: Hawks_technology plan for Library X.





Autism speaks… and we should listen

October 11th, 2012 · 12 Comments · Uncategorized

(**names have been changed for anonymity’s sake**)


My education began with an eye-roll.

The library worker standing next to me behind the circulation desk added a heavy sigh and a series of tut-tuts to the eye-roll.  The troubling cause of this facial display?  The child having a mild fit 15 feet away from us in the children’s section of the library.  ”Do you know Stephen?” she asked me, as if to sum-up the whole annoyance we librarians suffer with this one question.  “Yes, I know Stephen,” I thought to myself.  He’s autistic.

And that’s when it happened.  I live in a small town, and so I knew Stephen because I knew his parents.  But, I also suddenly began to notice the behavior of some of our other patrons that previously I would have written off as “difficult” or “problems” and my viewpoints changed.  I vowed I would not become like the eye-roller of my story.  But how?  I knew little to next to nothing about this extremely misunderstood segment of our population.  And then another piece of serendipity fell into my lap.  I attended a talk about under-served populations in libraries and two of the keynote speakers were Dan Weiss and Meg Kolaya.

Dan and Meg are two New Jersey librarians who answered the call for libraries to respond to this growing population by developing a program called Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected.  It is an extraordinary program designed for educating librarians about patrons with autism and other developmental challenges, and how best to serve them.

But it is simply too easy to just say that we should be inclusive of everyone.  What Meg and Dan do is provide real live situations one might encounter with a patron with autism and show methods of handling behavior through interactive video presentations.  The underlying message in these videos is that “all behavior is a form of communication.”  I think that is a wonderful statement that gives librarians a stepping off point for connecting with people who have autism.  The program also gives many useful suggestions on how to develop programs for different age groups on the autism spectrum, as well as discussing how libraries can make their physical environments help patrons with autism feel safer and more comfortable.

One of their key points that really opened my eyes was that children with autism grow up into adults with autism.  The behavior of these adults can often be easily misconstrued since they operate in public life sans a caregiver, and adult tantrums or disruptions are not as tolerated as they are in children.  But, it is a fact that these adults are part of every community and that their numbers are rising significantly.

Public libraries should be at the forefront of developing strategies for making our institutions welcoming environments for them, as well as developing programs and resources to help families cope with this often overwhelming disability.  I believe that every library that develops a strategic plan should make an effort to include a goal of widening the inclusivity of their institutions in regards to members of the community who fall into the category of the developmentally challenged.

This short training video gives you an idea of how simple, but important learning these skills are for anyone working with the public:


As I thought about reaching our users this week, I kept returning to the problems I see with customer service models.  Check out a wonderful program from Minnesota called the Wakanheza Project ( that teaches people how to react to others in stressful situations by treating everyone as if they were a sacred being.  It actually provides a list of methods for helping people who deal with the public create welcoming, healthy environments – a perfect place to orient library staff in customer service training.




The Magical Suggestion Box

October 5th, 2012 · 16 Comments · Uncategorized

We’re talking about transparency in organizations this week.  Not invasion of privacy… but transparency.  I think the distinction is crucial.  To me invasion of privacy is about revealing information that can hurt someone or something usually for no apparent gain.  Whereas, transparency is about being as open as possible about policies, procedures and intentions so that people and institutions grow, learn and prosper.  I am sure there are much deeper levels to this debate, but I am going to stick with this basic understanding to jump into a discussion of an even more basic way that libraries can become more transparent.

And why should libraries be transparent?  

Because one of ALA’s guiding tenets is that libraries provide open access to information and enlightenment.  Transparency for our staff and our patrons should be one of our first priorities.  But for some reason, this hasn’t always happened.  How many of you, before you became a library student or employee, really understood how libraries worked?  What exactly did those people behind those desks do all day??  I would wager not a lot of you.  How many of you were intimidated about asking questions at your local library because the atmosphere and the culture felt as if you shouldn’t?

I would like to propose a small first step for those who work in such a library.  And it centers around the lowly suggestion box.  The picture above is meant to be satirical (but we all know there is a kernel of truth there).  The suggestion box in my own library sits in a not-well-used corner of the library.  The last time I saw it, papers were stacked on top of the slot and a box of tissues obscured the words: “suggestion box”.  Anyone who might happen to unravel the mystery and manage to get their slip of paper into that well-guarded slot could probably expect not receiving a response back in a timely fashion (I wanted to take a picture of it yesterday, but was afraid of getting caught!)

So, is the suggestion box an outmoded idea?  Not if we care about our patrons input.  Michael Stephens and Michael Casey make the point in The Transparent Library that it is crucial that we give everyone an avenue to voice their opinions and that these avenues should be numerous and varied.  So why not re-invent the idea of the suggestion box?  A huge Stephen Colbert “Tip of the Hat” to the following libraries for doing just that (click on the photos for a larger view):

Many libraries have recognized the need to have an online version of a suggestion box.  But, these libraries take it one step further and include the conversion right on the web site for all to see.  Great use of transparency!  Here the Skokie Library in Illinois gives patrons a virtual soapbox to air their comments, and staff respond honestly and truthfully about policies.




Here the Twin Lakes Library System in Georgia responds online to library comments and complaints, and even more impressively, allows users to remain anonymous, thereby encouraging people to share, even if it’s something the library staff may not want to hear.





And even if you go the traditional route with a non-virtual suggestion box, it works better if it’s eye-catching and free of surrounding debris.  This box is located in the Santa Teresa branch of the San Jose Public Library, and is solely designated for teens.





Here at the Upper Moreland Free Public Library in Willow Grove, PA they also have a virtual response box.  I like how open the responses are to new patron ideas:  if dog therapy… why not cat therapy??





And an honorable mention goes to the Waltham PL in Mass. for taking every suggestion seriously and answering with honest, well-researched answers.  They show that no question is too small — even proper hand-washing needs!


As the examples above show, being more transparent does not take much time nor put much strain on the bottom line.  Sometimes it’s simply looking at an old, tired idea and re-fashioning it into something new and different.



Casey, M. & Stephens, M. (2007). Introducing the Michaels, The Transparent Library. Library Journal Archive.  Retrieved from:



A Trillion Hours of Free Time

September 27th, 2012 · 4 Comments · Uncategorized

When Michael talked about Clay Shirky’s book, Cognitive Surplus, in his lecture on planning, I found that it touched off some kind of magic GPS signal in me.  I suddenly started to stumble onto videos of him speaking or I would suddenly come upon a passage about his ideas in another person’s blog or someone else would mention how their ideas were inspired by Shirky’s own theories.  And this kept happening, until I finally said:  ”Alright already… I understand that I need to check out what this guy is saying!” So, Clay Shirky is my topic of choice for the week.

I am so glad I did.

Because Shirky has some amazing insights that libraries could use to become 21st institutions for 21st century thinkers and learners.  This is not all surprising since Shirky’s mother was a librarian, so one can assume that he grew up in a house where information and knowledge were freely shared.

He has a really great understanding of how technology has changed society from the 20th century to the 21st century.  I could go into a long-winded explanation, but I think this one basic comparison says it all:

When we look at this exponentially, we can see why Shirky states that media has become a triathlon of:

  • Consume
  • Produce
  • Share

Notice that consumption is a still a part of it… just not the entire part.  In the 20th century we became really adept at consuming.  Now we are becoming more adept at these other ways of connecting to the greater society. Now, if we take it one step further, we discover that economic motivations are incompatible with intrinsic motivations (an idea that Shirky shares with Daniel Pink).  All we have to do is take a look at the success of Wikipedia to see how this works.  Wikipedia is driven by two things: the technology that enables collaboration and the GENEROSITY of people (a lot of people).  People who have discovered that they have free time to donate helping others.

Just how much free time does Shirky calculate that we have?  One TRILLION hours.  This number is hard for many to imagine.  One trillion seconds is longer than recorded history… about 32,000 years.  If you travelled around the equator 40 million times, you would have traveled a trillion miles.  You get the idea.  So how do libraries tap into this huge source of participatory value??

I looked at a project that Shirky emphasizes in his talks called Ushahidi.  Started by an African lawyer, Ory Okolloh, the project began as a crowdsourcing tool to illustrate the extent of a crisis through geo-spatial visualization.  Specifically, Okolloh wanted to quickly aggregate information on the violence in Kenya during the post-election aftermath of 2008.  Since then, it has been used by many organizations to collect, share and place a context for people on a situation that is affecting them.  This video gives you a good idea of how powerful this idea is:

Ushahidi has become a fantastic tool for helping people with life-changing issues and real-world problems (including disease control, election fraud and snow removal).  I think the idea behind this, and people’s willingness to contribute their time for no compensation could and should be used by libraries.  The software is free and open source, so it can be incorporated without a great deal of pressure on the bottom line.  Libraries could be in the forefront of providing any disaster relief or other crisis information to a community that quite often isn’t being provided by its local government or other authorities.  As Okolloh points out in the video, the information being supplied by authorities didn’t match what people in the streets were reporting — hence the need to develop a “tool of the people.”

So, why couldn’t libraries use a little reinvention and these technologies to be the glue that binds together the their own communities in a time of crisis?  Being the “heart” of a community doesn’t always have to be about warm and fuzzy notions — it could literally mean being the “lifeblood” by bringing people together in times of a crisis.  Accurate and timely information is the lifeblood of our communities and libraries could facilitate the connections that bind us together when we most need it.  I can also imagine using this type of mapping for smaller, but no less important community services, such as teaming up students with tutors, matching someone’s skills with someone’s needs (“I need someone to clean my gutters” connected to “I clean gutters”), or even with finding book group members with like interests.  I know I’ve said this before, but the possibilities seem endless to me!

For more information on Clay Shirky’s ideas, as well as a really good explanation for the phenonmenon of LOLCats, please watch his great TED talk (video is about 13 minutes):






Libraries Need to Get Pwned* (A context book report)

September 20th, 2012 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

*(Gamer speak for: “to own” or to be dominated by an opponent or situation, especially by some god-like or computer-like force. — from the Urban Dictionary)

Well, its been a whirlwind of a week!  I decided to wrestle with learning two new programs (Prezi and Camtasia Studio) to make this video for my context book report, so please be patient with the somewhat awkward presentation of the material!  All in all, a lot of fumbles and mishaps that eventually landed me in Oz!

I also realized that I desperately need a class in audio recording.  From learning what types of mics are best for home recording to more complex editing instruction to keeping my voice well-oiled — these would all be good things for me to play around with.  I apologize for any paper-shuffling noise you may have to endure!  Also, please take note that although this video runs 14 minutes, I do not actually speak for the entire time (thank goodness!) — I have added a video of John Seely Brown on World Of Warcraft as part of the presentation.

Without further ado… please enjoy my foray into the world of Jane McGonigal and her infectious ideas on gaming found in her book, Reality is Broken.

p.s.  If anyone needs to see the script for the video, my slides and text can be viewed as a PDF here: Storyboard.


Evoke and Spark

September 13th, 2012 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

Thinking on participatory service in libraries this week and what it means has lit a fire in my belly.  Everything I have learned in graduate school has led me to this moment of purpose.  And what it’s telling me is that when we think of libraries as institutions in the 21st century we have to rethink what has been thunk.  Aaron Schmidt in “The User Experience: User Before Content”(2010) made it very clear to me when he wrote:

Does it ­really matter that people can’t stream the latest blockbuster from a library? No. I’d much rather see them making their own movies at the library and exhibiting them there, too.

I just never thought of libraries in this way before.  Everything I have previously studied seemed to focus on improving that which libraries have always done well — providing content for enjoyment or study.  And this isn’t the first time that I had been introduced to the DOK library in Delft.  But, at the time, I had reasoned with myself that this was an urban, hip library in an urban, hip European nation.  Of course they do things differently there, I thought.  I couldn’t see the possibilities for the same transformations at my own seemingly dull, suburban library.  But reading about participatory library service has really changed my thought process.  I’ve had an epiphany and I’m not afraid to admit it!

One of the things I have learned this week is that in order to transform an institution we often have to look outside those institutions’ walls for inspiration.  Librarians need to examine how participation culture is succeeding in other areas and use these ideas in their own libraries.  So, when I stumbled upon EVOKE, I knew that this was the very thing that participatory library service meant.  EVOKE is a social networking game that is produced by the learning arm of the World Bank and directed by game master, Jane McGonigal.  It’s purpose is to harness the power of people to create new solutions to old, entrenched problems in the African continent, such as food scarcity, energy scarcity and human rights.  It is dubbed a “crash course in changing the world.”  One important aspect of the game is that one doesn’t need access to a computer to play —  it is also accessible on mobile phones, a widespread technology in Africa.  Here’s a short intro video from their website:


EVOKE capitalizes on the idea of “the library is play” in the hyperlinked library model by engaging people to become superheroes or “agents” in collaboratively completing a series of missions and quests all centered around an “urgent evoke” (an urgent call for innovation).  Players work on real solutions to real-world problems while they are developing superpowers, gaining points, conquering quests and leveling up.

One project born out of the innovation created by the EVOKE playership is the Spark Library Partnership.  The Spark Library is a venture designed by a U.S. architecture student, who envisioned a crowd-sourced library across Sub-Saharan Africa.  In order to build on the participatory model of libraries, one characteristic of the Spark Library will be that if you want to borrow a book, you are asked to donate a piece of local or personal knowledge to build a database of resources, stories and culture.

EVOKE is really big thinking.  But, do we all need to think and collaborate on such a global level?  I don’t think so.  As Michael said in his lecture, the idea of participatory service is a mindset “where our mission is to invite people in and engage them.”  If you choose to accept this mission, then it doesn’t matter whether you are a “superhero” agent attempting to save the world or one librarian attempting to bring needed to change to your local community.  The new ethos is “we”, not “us” and “them.”


Boekesteijn, E. (2011) DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level :

Schmidt, A. (2010) Services before Content:

Stephens, M. (2012). The Age of Participation:

Stephens, M. (2012). The Hyperlinked Library and Emerging Technologies: Participatory Service. Retrieved from: