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Choose Your Own Connections

This post was originally published as an assignment for INFO 287 Seminar in Information Science: The Hyperlinked Library at the School of Information at San José State University.

I recall reading the Choose Your Own Adventure books as a child. I needed to know all the possible outcomes, so ended up reading all of them. Digging through the Choose Your Own Adventure module of the Hyperlinked Library I couldn’t resist doing this again. This module offers a chance to evaluate how emerging technologies can impact different organizational settings where information professionals practice. 

Academic Libraries are places where the community consists of students, faculty, and staff. Trends for these spaces point to participatory and contributory models for genuinely engaging with the students by inviting them into spaces that will spark inquiry and creativity. With mobile technologies, students have the world of information in their hands. So what does the library have to offer them? Connections to people, experiences, and technologies provide the space for thinking, daydreaming, and collaborating. But these spaces also need to feel welcoming, safe, and accessible. 

The Hunt Library at NCSU is a truly inspirational space for what an academic library can deliver to its students. This is an amazing library!!! However, an academic library need not do radical reconstruction or deploy new technologies to meet the needs of their community. Simple yet meaningful services can be implemented by observing, asking, and listening to the students.

According to the College & University Food Bank Alliance, one in five college students experiences food insecurity. I love the idea of an academic library having a food pantry based upon the honor system, such as the one at Carroll University. Just last week, during my Sunday shift, I was approached by a student asking if we had one. The college does have a food pantry, but it is in the office of student life, which is only open during business hours. In contrast, our library is open earlier and later in the day and on the weekends. Placing this service in the library makes so much more sense if its purpose is to reach the community. Such is the case for the library at Keene State College who does this in partnership with the campus pantry, where pantry boxes can be checked out at the circulation desk. This could be a way of deploying such a service where staff may worry about community members raiding the pantry. 

Academic libraries can curate resources that inspire more meaningful research. The curiosity self-assessment tool used at OSU library is a simple yet helpful tool for provoking creative thinking.  I love this idea of asking students to illustrate the library as a vehicle. Libraries can survey the students by gamifying the process, as seen in this example where students pitch innovation proposals in a game show-like event. Exercises and events like these show the librarians and administration exactly where they can focus on improving the user’s experiences with the library’s information resources. 

Public libraries connect their communities to information, resources, and each other. In an IFLA post, Jakob Guillios Laerkes describes the Four Spaces of the Public Library model as areas that provide support experience, involvement, empowerment, and innovation. This model was central to the development of Denmark’s Dokk1 Library shows how the library best serves its community when it involves the community in its development. Our public libraries are central to creating these opportunities for our communities. Libraries empower mothers who rely on early literacy services for their children or those using public computers to apply for jobs, pay their bills, or keep in touch with loved ones. They create innovation for the entrepreneurs who can use the library to grow and develop their businesses. They create involvement to the patrons participating in classes, crafting, storytelling, and experiences for teens using makerspaces and studios to collaborate and learn.

Museums, Galleries, and Archives play a critical role in connecting the community to experiences. People may be invited into these institutions to see their own stories but often will be offered the opportunity to challenge or enhance their viewpoints. The way technologies contribute to our ability to participate in art, culture, music, and history paves the way for humans to grow closer to one another, even where languages and borders may keep us apart. The Global Guides at the Penn Museum opens opportunities for learning, pride, and empathy. Refugees can tell the stories of their cultural history and create connections within their new communities, but this also carves out a more significant meaning for the artifacts on display. Visitors gain a richer experience from these guided tours through the collection. Connecting to our past through volunteer projects such as transcribing for the National Archives or Smithsonian Institution provides excellent ways to preserve and refine skills, such as reading cursive and trace our roots that twist and overlap throughout time. By adopting emerging technologies, museums continue to remain relevant. The Met harnesses the power of the selfie and social media as a way of inviting visitors to experience their collections both in person and by proxy through digital human connections.  

featured image © 2021 Trilby VanDeusen