It’s not your mother’s storytime

Libraries are notorious for stories.  They have storytimes for just about every age group from birth to first grade, they have Reader’s Advisory clerks who help patrons pick out great stories to read, and they hold book clubs that discuss the “great” stories, “modern” stories, and any and all types of “topical” stories.  The library is in the business of sharing stories.

That’s great and all, but it’s Library 2.0, and it’s time to revamp our idea of stories.

Sure Libraries do a great job telling the stories that have already been written, but what about those that exist only as an idea, a memory, a feeling?  We know that the library is so much more than just books, yet we tend to promote books over anything else.  Let’s get the stories off of the pages and help our patrons find them in different mediums.

I’m talking about telling individuals’ stories.

What if we encouraged our patrons to not only consume stories, but create them?  What if we taught them that stories aren’t just written down in words, but acted out in film, explored through video games, depicted in a scrapbook, discussed through blogging?

What if we followed Erik Boekesteijn of the DOK Library Concept Center in Delft, Holland’s advice and:

  • Kept Stories
  • Shared Stories
  • Made Stories

What if we realized that the library has a story?  How would we tell it?  How are we telling our story now?

A great place to start, when figuring out how your library currently tells it’s story is in its signage.  Do you have signs everywhere that prohibit certain activities like eating, drinking, talking on a cell phone, moving the furniture, being loud?  What kind of story does that tell about your library?  Wouldn’t you much rather have signs that say:

  • “Please move the furniture, especially if you are working in a group,”
  • “This floor is the unquiet floor. Feel free to chat, hold a study group, and ask questions,” or
  • “Make yourself at home.  If you need anything, just ask.”

Libraries do a great job at telling stories, and that is a major component of the library that should never go away; t here is something precious and timeless about reading a great book.  However, it’s time to expand our idea of “storytime” to include everything mentioned above.  Use whatever technology you have available to create, create, create.  Collaborate with patrons.  Get staff involved.  Hold storytelling contests.  Host a YouTube night where everyone can share their latest videos with one another.  Make flipbooks with Flickr Photos.  Record music.  Share, share, share.

Librarians 2.0—are you up for the challenge?

Questions to comment on!
What story does your library tell?


5 Steps to a TRANSPARENT library

When you think about libraries, probably the last thing that comes to mind is transparency.   I understand that there are significant ethical standards that libraries are expected to uphold in terms of privacy on behalf of the patrons, but for an organization who depends on the support of tax-payers dollars, it sure seems to me as though we spend an awful lot of time crafting a manufactured façade to present to the public and seldom let people behind this wall.  As 2.0 Librarians, it is time to BREAK that pattern and start entering the world of transparency.  Here are 5 steps to get you thinking about the best ways to implement this strategy in your library.

Step 1:  Understand the ISSUE

According to Michael Casey and Michael Stephens, “the transparent library contains three key elements: open communication, adapting to change, and scanning the horizon.”

Open communication–includes gathering input from a wide variety of sources, speaking and listening (more on that in number 3), and using social media tools like blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter, etc to communicate with our users in a multitude of different ways.

Adapting to change– requires librarians to listen internally as well as externally.  For example, have mixed meetings where people from various departments, support staff included, come together to discuss pressing issues facing the library.  Once the staff is on board and willing to make change, then the organization as a whole can slowly adapt to these transformations as well.

Scanning the horizon—means looking ahead to what’s new and upcoming while also avoiding “technolust.”  2.0 Librarians striving for new ways to achieve transparency must recognize the new communication tools their patrons are using and work to implement them in practical, beneficial ways in the library.

Step 2:  Step AWAY from the reference desk

There’s been a growing trend in corporations these days where CEO’s are stepping out from behind the shadows of the company and “telling all” in the forms of blogs, Facebook pages, and newsletters to consumers.  If big name companies like Best Buy® and Southwest Airlines can expose themselves, often at the risk of losing business, why can’t librarians?  Why not grab a Flip Cam and take 30 sec “bio” videos of your front-line librarians, upload it to YouTube and link the video’s to your home page?  Maybe your Library Director could start an “Ask the Director” blog where users can submit any and all types of questions to be answered bimonthly.  Is your Management Team struggling to find an answer to a particular problem? Create a poll on Facebook and let your friends and followers help you out.  By opening up and exposing your staff, the problems we face and the benchmarks we surpass, it makes libraries seem more “human,” “warm,” and inviting.  Who wouldn’t want to visit, frequent and in some cases fight for a place like that?

Step 3:  They spoke, now LISTEN

So you’ve collected stories, testimonies, complaints, suggestions, and ideas.  You’ve established a blog, posted on Facebook, sent out tweets and distributed user surveys.  You’re transparent now, right? Wrong.  The second half to the transparency equation is to actually listen to the feedback that was given to you.  Especially when the feedback is coming from staff, particularly staff that seldom get the opportunity to offer their feedback.  Are there patterns that arise from the data?  Are there any problems that can be fixed immediately?  Focus on things that can be alleviated or implemented fairly quickly, then publicize those results so your audience (whether it’s staff or users, or both) can see that their comments were taken in to consideration.  Don’t just stop there—remember to put larger items on meeting agendas, and publicly announce a timeline for completion.  Even if something cannot be accomplished immediately, part of being transparent is showing your weaknesses and how you intend to strengthen them.

Step 4:  Hold a TALENT show

No, not literally!  Basically, what this means is to recognize that you’ve got a whole bunch of people who help make the library work (staff, volunteers, board members, patrons, etc) and each person has talents that deserve to be recognized.  Michael Casey and Michael Stephens call this “checking your ego at the door” which paints a great picture of what needs to happen in order to accomplish this step

One way of leaving your ego behind is simply to give credit where credit is due.  Did someone come up with a great way to recruit new users for the Summer Reading Program? Give them a shoutout in the next staff newsletter.  Did you read a great article by a neighboring library board member?  Pass the article on to your staff and send a note of praise to the author. The library is about appreciation, not competition.

Speaking of competition, another way to showcase ability is to cultivate your own talent in the library.  This means providing adequate training and development opportunities to your staff and volunteers.  Recognize that the more your staff knows, the easier it will be to problem solve and create new strategies.

Step 5: Pick up the PACE

Ever notice how long it takes the library to make a decision?  Someone comes up with a great idea, plans are made and then everyone sort of sits around, waiting for the “right time.”  It’s time to be a little less cautious and ACT on those ideas.  What if I mess up?  Well, part of being a transparent library, as mentioned in the earlier steps is being able to admit mistakes, then analyze them, figuring out what you could do differently, next time.  Is there a new technology you’ve been dying to try in the library?  Roll it out little by little.  Have you wanted to have new programs?  Book them and see what kind of turnout you have.  Blog about your journey throughout, ask for patron feedback, show strengths and weaknesses, be transparent.   A 2.0 life moves pretty fast, it’s time for libraries to pick up the pace a little.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…

Librarians are not immune to change.  In fact, we talk about change all the time.  We hold countless meetings to determine new ways of reaching out to new, existing, or inactive users.  We plan new programs to get teens into the Library.  We redesign our websites.  We expand our collections to include Blu-ray DVDs.  We sign up for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flickr.  We claim our Library on Foursquare.  We change.  Right?

Right….ish.  I believe that the “change” that needs to occur in the Library is less about providing external, physical changes, and more about redeveloping, reconceptualizing and reorganizing the intrinsic ideals that guide our profession.  Do not get me wrong, providing new services and exploring new technologies are vital steps that Librarians can and should take towards proving the relevancy and value of the Library, however, these actions should not be considered revolutionary, or “2.0”, but should be a natural extension of the expectations of the profession.

Let me break down my thoughts a little more.

If Libraries were to “change” their ideals, what would this look like?

The Library is more than books

This is kind of a no-brainer to Librarians, especially those who embrace and adopt Library 2.0 principles.  However, the public at large still seems to perceive the Library as nothing more than a “warehouse” for books (and maybe other materials like movies and music).  Before we can truly “change,” we need to understand that in order to make the Library relevant, we must promote beyond the books.  How about focusing on our services for a change? Maybe instead of promoting that we have the latest best-seller, it’s time to profile our Business Librarians who are organizing a wiki that helps recently laid-off workers find jobs?  What if we spent time designing computer classes that teach teens how to write, film and edit movies?  What if we promoted our free Wi-Fi, comfy couches, and downloadables station?  The Library is the place to go to receive free and top of the line services, yet we often forget to promote these.  Sure Library 2.0 is about implementing new technology into the Library, but it’s also about making sure people know that it’s there.

Information is subjective

Gone are the days of “authoritative” information.  Librarians must redesign their ways of thinking and believe that all information is valuable.  Even if a piece of information is incorrect, then the opportunity is there to teach our patrons how to evaluate information, especially information that is self-published or created online. One way that Libraries can begin to incorporate all types of information into the learning process is in our catalogs.  How great would it be to have catalogs that not only pull up the books, movies and music we have in our collection that pertain to the topic being searched, but also points users to academic journals and articles, blog postings, podcasts, websites, tweets, even YouTube videos on the topic.  What if Librarians were nearby, assisting searches and not only explained how to navigate the catalog, but how to weed through the “crap” that’s on Google in order to find those gems that truly enhance learning?  Here’s another idea, what if rather than scoffing at Wikipedia, our Librarians started at Wikipedia and encouraged patrons to edit the article as part of their research process?   Library 2.0 is not only about providing the equipment to view this virtually limitless fountain of information, but it’s also about believing in the value of new information and helping our patrons find what they are looking for—peer reviewed or not.

The Librarian is cool

Let’s get one thing straight.  The stereotypical “Marian the Librarian” image that everyone seem to have of a Librarian should be as outdated as video cassettes and tape recorders.  Today’s Librarian 2.0 needs to be (and in so many cases, already is) cool. He or she must understand that our patrons are “connected” 24/7 and should never expect them to turn off their mobile phones, whisper when looking in the stacks or sit quietly in the neatly arranged furniture.  Perhaps this is where the biggest change needs to occur.  In order for a Library to truly evolve, to truly “change” the Librarians that work there, must start with themselves first.  Librarian 2.0 needs to make a commitment to keeping up with new technology; whether it’s incorporating Social Media into their everyday lives, trying out a new video game, or downloading music off iTunes.  Librarian 2.0 must learn how to “harness patron intelligence,” and realize that they have as much to learn from the users as the users have to learn from the Librarians.  Finally, they must continue to persevere and work towards the constant improvement of the Library profession.  Today might be Library 2.0, but Library 3.0 is around the corner (perhaps already here) and Librarians need to be ready for it

I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts on Participatory Services and Library Redesign.  I found this video called A Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto that was the inspiration for many of my arguments made above.  Please, click on the link below, watch and enjoy!

A Librarian’s 2.0 Manifesto

Value of Libraries

There was one concept that really stuck out to me during Part 1 of the presentation yesterday: Are libraries valued in their community? It’s heartbreaking to hear that politicians, community members, taxpayers, etc. are more than content to quickly cut funding in the library’s budget in order to avoid a tax increase. It seems to me that we are doing something wrong.

I attended a webinar (Transforming Our Image: No Explanation Needed by Valerie J. Gross, President & CEO, Howard County Library, Md.) in October that talked about positioning Libraries as “Education Centers,” since politicians are less likely to say that they would not support education. Some ways of reframing the library in terms of language include:

Reference Librarians are now Information Professionals

Programs offered are now Classes or Courses

The Program Guide is now a Curriculum Guide, or Course Catalog

Storytime is now Early Literacy Classes

Even the mission statement mentions the word “education” in it

There were many other langague changes mentioned in the presetation, as well as tangible examples. For instance, the Howard County Library (HCL) began to use this type of language to describe their library as a major component of education, which has resulted in nearly tripled library visits (1M to 2.6M), the more than doubling of materials borrowed (3M to 7.2M), research assistance interactions exceeding 1.3M annually, and yearly attendance at classes and events totaling 186,000—in a county with 275,000 residents.

Seems pretty powerful.

Thoughts, ideas, suggestions? How could we use Social Media to enhance this new “library lexicon” that Valerie Gross is proposing.

One idea I had was to use Social Media as patron testimonies. If you can get your patrons to say how much they value the library (especially if you can get them to show examples that posit Libraries as an education center) on your Social Media forums, then you have real, live examples to use when proving your worth.

Maybe Libraries need to use their Social Media spaces not only as a way to share information but also a way to gather patron responses?

Hmm…I could think about this for a while!

About Me


My name is Allison (Alli) Mennella, and after this class, I will be halfway done with the LIS program!  I am focusing primarily on reference and one day aspire to work in an academic setting as a reference librarian (focusing on library user instruction). It is my goal to work with other librarians/library students to redesign the idea of “reference” and make it more “2.0” (maybe even “3.0”??) for users.  Some avenues I am currently exploring include:  finding a space for librarians on, organizing an industry chat on Twitter for librarians/library students, and holding a “tweet up” for tweeting/blogging librarians in the Chicgoland area.  If anyone is interested in these ideas please let me know as I would love to have someone to bounce ideas around with!

In my professional life, I work for a Library in the West Suburbs  in the Community Services Department as well as, a website that provides valuable visitor information to travelers as well as advertising opportunities to local businesses in the major cities throughout the United States and Canada.  I was hired on to manage their Digital Media Accounts (Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare currently).  I love this job not only because I am able to explore ways to use marketing techniques via social networking sites (aka…play on Facebook and Twitter during the day), but I get to do all that from the comfort of my own apartment!  There is something to be said about being able to telecommute for your job J

In my spare time I enjoy running, and I just completed my first ½ marathon in August (the Rock and Roll ½ Marathon in Chicago).  I also recently joined CrossFit of Naperville and have found the workouts to be incredibly intense and rewarding at the same time.  Finally, I enjoy spending time with my boyfriend and friends from my undergraduate College (Augustana College), going to downtown Naperville or Chicago.  Oh, and I am a humongous Chicago Bulls fan. Derrick Rose is my hero.

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