Messy Connections and Mysterious Processes

Michael Stephens prefaces “The Hyperlinked Library” with a header that displays Borges’ claim that “the library is unlimited and cyclical.”  Hold on!  Where is he going with this? This type of descriptive language is reserved for the mysterious processes of life – to describe the deep sustaining life forces of nature (biogeochemical and secret) and the murmurings of the human soul. Can we really make such a claim about the hyperlinked library?

Perhaps. As understanding of the potential resident in the hyperlinked library model grows for me, I find that I’m starting to frame it using biological terms like an ecology, a universe, a system, a web …. or webs. And, I’m no longer seeing a hyperlink as simply a universal resource locator (URL) embedded in html that directs the web browser to another location on the Internet. In fact, I’m seeing it much more organically.

Within the larger universe of the Internet, Weinberger describes hyperlinks as messy and non-symmetrical, connections made by real individuals based on what they care about and what they know, and where their feet are walking (my paraphrase). He, like Stephens, sees hyperlinks as creative points of connection, conversation, discovery and knowledge building. (I’m 13 years behind in my reading, but still found the ideas in Weinberger’s The Hyperlinked Organization timely and powerful.)

Hyperlinks serve the community (or tribe) they connect, as revealed in the ITHAKA 2009 Survey, that showed that faculty universally use citations (in the form of hyperlinks) from other journal articles to begin their research. Likewise, back-channel, as well as fore-channel, linkages build networks of communication that immediately alter organizational hierarchy or even the course of events (Rousch). In our age where technologies are created to make communication more ‘efficient’, hyperlinks are creating connected points of reflection within communities on topics of the moment and broadening individual and corporate expressive response.

ITHAKA (2011) Evolving Role of the Library: (Chapter 1 – p. 4-14)

Roush, W. (2005). “Social Machines” from Technology Review at

Stephens, M. (2011) The Hyperlinked Library:

Weinberger, D. (1999) Cluetrain Manifesto Chapter 5: The Hyperlinked Organization

What New Knowledge Will We Build Through Conversation?

The foundational readings grapple with new library service models ranging from envisioning managing electronic documents in the 1990s (Buckland, Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto), to the affordances of Web 2.0 technologies in the early 21st century (Casey and Savastinuk, Library 2.0), to the idea of the central role libraries can take as knowledge creating environments through conversation (Lankes et al, Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation). All three papers present a non-apocalyptic future for technology-changed libraries and, rather, present an engaging and progressive vision of a more service-oriented, relevant and, ultimately, human experience for library users.

Buckland addresses the management of electronic documents in the 1990s and, although a brilliant futurist, not even he could envision the shift and potential on the horizon that Casey and Savastinuk explore in Library 2.0. Discussing the participatory nature of 2.0 in the library, they break apart the top down, ‘unidirectional’ model of libraries and discuss building mechanisms in which users and staff can participate in the service creation process, through collaborative planning, evaluation and practice. Lankes et al extend upon the Library 2.0 potential and argue that libraries are knowledge generators, providing the ‘optimal information environment’ for participatory networks of conversation.

It is this last conversation that I find particularly interesting. I am entirely convinced that knowledge is created through imaginative conversation together. Right now I’m wondering what these participatory networks of conversation can look like in my library environment? [It is not as if these conversations are not already happening, but they are happening on the periphery of my work.] What will the conversations be ‘about’? And who will engage? And, importantly, what new knowledge will these networks build through conversation?

Buckland, Michael. (1992). Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto.

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today.

Lankes, R. D., Silverstein, J., & Nicholson, S. (January 01, 2007). Participatory Networks: The Library As Conversation. Information Technology and Libraries, 26,4, 17.

Reflective Practice and Discovery Underway

I’m currently OER Librarian for ISKME and my primary projects are OER Commons, OER Commons Green and the newly launched OER Commons Arabic. We are doing great things at ISKME and I love my work. Because I’m involved in such rich work, I’m particularly excited about discovering ways of building community and relatedness through new types of conversations, transparency and participatory service to extend its touch.

In this blog, I’ll be engaging my imagination to consider how I can be fully human, present and engaged in new ways to extend the reach of my work. Quite honestly, I have no idea what this fully means or what this will look like, but I’m excited to spend time here and discover new ways of practice and being. As I explore these themes, your thoughts are also welcome. If you share the same interest, please engage here with me!