Librarian as Teacher, Librarian as Learner

In participatory culture, we are teachers at the same time we are learners.  An ecological view of the world sees the interconnectedness of all things and recognizes the need for deep disciplinary knowledge, and the appropriate placing of that knowledge within the interdisciplinary constructs of real life.

As information professionals, we contribute expert knowledge in the hyperlinked library, but we situate that expertise amongst the interests and information needs of our users. In order to do so, we must learn from our users and engage in meaningful conversations with them. As such, in the hyperlinked library, we are librarian teachers and librarian learners.

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Beyond the Walled Garden paints a beautiful picture of what this looks like as librarians create environments for new forms of information use, reuse and sharing, as well as a climate that fosters informal mentorship (Stephens, 2011). Teaching and learning in the hyperlinked library takes place through learning and exploring together, through the development of new services and the collaborative creation of knowledge. The hyperlinked library, by its very nature, forces us to engage our imagination due to its two-way conversations, fluid access to linked knowledge, and ever-changing technologies. Because of the dynamic nature of all of these elements, the hyperlinked library can also become a place of ‘play’ and innovation and experimentation.

The hyperlinked librarian must always remain agile – and that requires a posture that recognizes self as teacher librarian and learner librarian.


Stephens, M. (2011). Beyond the Walled Garden: LIS Students in an Era of Participatory Culture. SLIS Student Research Journal, 1:2, San Jose State University. Retrieved at .

Building a Participatory Learning Blog

Pushing out new services to a distributed audience of State-level education professionals requires considerable coordination and strong bi-directional communication. The non-profit I work for is deploying a far-reaching new service model to the States that will work at the intersection of standards-based and open education. State partners who participate will need to have knowledge of OER Commons content and tools, metadata frameworks, file conformance requirements, licensing on OER, as well as knowledge of how to use the system for pushing and pulling records. It is incumbent upon my organization to provide the necessary documentation and feedback mechanisms that will ensure user success in the new service model.

To support knowledge-building in both users and staff, and in order to help the States and professional agencies be successful in the use of our resources, tools, and platform for sharing resources, I suggest integrating a user feedback and inquiry blog into the user administrative dashboard. This feature would also help build a culture of participatory professional development, as ‘guests become hosts’ (Stephens, 2012) within the blog, sharing best practice and what they are learning about open education and open education resource sharing. I envision the blog would be used to communicate timely information to our users about new services, forthcoming trainings, and system updates. Users could post questions about how to use the system or about open education best practice for our staff to answer, to the benefit of all users. Additionally, users would share expertise they are gaining as they build open education practice in their respective States, agencies, districts and schools.

One Size Fits All and Other Lies

When I think of supporting all users, I think not only in terms of individual users, but also in terms of serving institutions as users.  In my role, I often ask myself how can my work become central to the work of an educational agency? How can my resources be mainstreamed into the culture and practice of a school or district? My questions arise because the online educational learning space is crowded and cluttered and noisy. And, it is becoming more impacted every day as a vigorous market is being created.

Money Creates Relevancy? Really?

A recent study from IBIS Capital, a London-based investment bank, shows that the e-learning market is the fastest growing education market at $4 trillion dollars in 2012, with $91 billion of that marked for e-learning.

See larger rendition of graphic, provided by IBIS Capital.

In this high-paced, resource-rich and noisy market, with so many voices clamoring for my user’s attention, how can my voice be the one that catches their ear? How can they hear me above the din? I don’t like to scream to be heard.

It’s Kind of Disturbing, but Not Worth Losing Sleep Over

What keeps you up at night?” asks Michael Stephens of participants in library conferences. Although this question is used to break the ice and encourage sharing among participants, the answer he receives is revealing but not surprising. Relevancy. Concerns about losing relevancy is what keeps librarians up at night. Maintaining relevancy, within the reality captured in the graphic, above, is what can keep me up at night, too.

Whether operating in a global, regional, or local environment – understanding user needs and providing flexible services, supported by organizational adaptability, are key to ensuring relevancy. It is this type of understanding that will also keep our services user-focused and human, rather than simply building services that are more and more layers on a technological onion with a severe bite. But, how can we best understand our users’ needs?

Action Research and the Hyperlinked Library

I’m a true believer in action research, of asking questions and learning together. Action research is based on certain values, including the need for justice and democracy, the right of people to be heard, the right of each individual to improve their work and, to me personally, the deep need to experience truth and beauty in professional, as well as personal, life (McNiff, 2002). Action research is a natural companion and partner to the hyperlinked library because action research does not apply a one-for-all answer to all organizations; rather, it recognizes the situationally-based needs of organizations.

The Hyperlinked Library as Situationally-Based and Relevant

Our conversations together in the hyperlinked library can utilize action-based research methods to better understand our users ‘situations’ and needs, as well as for building our action steps and relevant services.  Action research shifts from the prescription of rules of operation derived from external studies, to the situationally-based examination of questions around individual and organizational practice, followed by the collaborative generation of ‘action’ principles to apply to each specific and defined question. Action research practice provides a mechanism for building individual and organization capacity for adaptive change (Senge, 2006) and the creation of relevant services envisioned in the hyperlinked library.

The One-Size-Fits-All Lie

These principles apply whether we are moving in robust markets driven by financial gain, or in remote local information centers. There simply is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all technology or information system, regardless of the domain in which we operate. The agendas and technologies of the scope and scale pictured on the graph above simply do not allow for the types of questions and answers we need to ask in our hyperlinked library. The hyperlinked library provides a situationally-focused lens for individual and organizational reflection, and for the subsequent creation and adaptation of services that will ensure relevancy. The hyperlinked library we envision is an enabling environment, recognizing and releasing human creativity and imagination for building adaptive and relevant practice and services to all users.


McNiff, J. (2002). Action research for professional development: Concise advice for new action researchers.

Senge, P. (2006). The fifth discipline. New York, NY: Random House.

Stephens, M. (2013). Things That Go “Bump”. 
School Library Journal.

Vulnerability or Performance?

Transparency requires a certain courage

On a personal level, I’ve learned about the danger of pursuing certainty and control at all costs – it smothers everything. Likewise, I’ve learned that transparency requires a certain courage and vulnerability. Personal transparency, although risky, is transformational. The readings this week address the organizational application of these same attitudes and postures of transparency, and courage as vulnerabiltiy. It seems paradoxical but courage is manifested in being transparent, vulnerable and engaged. In an organization, this means that leaders are accessible and straightforward, and that successes, failures, problems and victories are all communicated openly. Libraries, like businesses, are seeking increased trust from their intended audiences and it is “necessary for them to be prudently transparent in ways that matter to their stakeholders” (Lincoln, 2009).

Trust is too important to play around with

As in personal relationships, lack of transparency in organizations is not really an option. It is always best practice to behave ethically and share openly, whether with staff on internal matters or with clients and interested others. I was particularly moved with the steps outlined toward organizational transparency in The Transparent Library: A Road Map to Transparency (Casey & Stephens, 2007). In fact, they are so important that I include them here:

  • Give your staff multiple avenues for open communication, including internal blogs and vertical teams.
  • Visit front-line staff regularly.
  • Cross-train staff so they have a sense of what their fellow front-line workers do all day.
  • Encourage new ideas and the hearing of ideas among all levels of staff and with the public.
  • Provide learning opportunities for all staff, including regional and web conferences. Start a Learning 2.0 initiative so that staffers can learn from the comfort of their own desk. Reinforce their knowledge of the library’s mission and introduce them to the planning process and how things get done at all levels of library administration and management.
  • Invite staff (on the clock) to attend governance meetings and other user community gatherings to get to know the political leadership.
  • Get all departments, all divisions, to plan their projects as a group so everyone knows (and can prepare for) what’s on the upcoming calendar and so everyone can offer input and suggestions.

Engagement vs. Performance

That transparency is manifest to differing degrees in organizations is an understatement. Our local realities may allow for differing levels of transparency; ideally, we hope to move in cultures of honest, constructive, and engaged feedback. In her book Daring Greatly, social researcher Brene’ Brown discusses the lie of perfectionism and the shame that accompanies it – shame that puts up false facades and only allows for performances, shutting down genuine conversation and engagement (Brown, 2012). Although she is speaking of the reality in our personal lives, the same dynamics come into play in organizational life. When organizations put up false fronts, or require that their employees do so, they are squelching vulnerability and the opportunity for genuine engagement – both internally amongst staff and externally with clients and partners. Engagement is the antithesis of performance. If the hyperlinked library is to engage staff and clients in participatory service and learning, it must be transparent. If otherwise, the types of creative and generative connections and conversations we hope for cannot happen. Perfection-based and closed environments only allow for performances – by staff and by users. The hyperlinked library thrives on engagement. Genuine and authentic engagement occurs in transparent environments. __________________________


Brown, B. (2012). Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. New York: Gotham Books. Casey, M. & M. Stephens (2007). Road Map to Transparency: Lincoln, M. (2009). Transparency:

Participatory Culture and Professional Development

This week I read a study from the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab, Designing With Teachers: Participatory Approaches to Professional Development in Education (Fall 2012). The study focused on professional development within a culture of participatory learning.

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New Strategies Needed

This study caught my eye because I have been seeking to grow in my capacity, as an OER librarian, to work with other librarians to build knowledge, understanding and best practice around open educational resources (OER), especially in the K12 sector. Although awareness of OER is growing, use of these resources is a challenge for many educators, as well as for librarians.The design of these digital resources is not familiar to many and the licensing that governs their use and reuse is unfamiliar. The integration of OER into local contexts such as classrooms and libraries necessitates a new range of supports and strategies.

And that is why the study out of the Annenberg Innovation Lab caught my attention. I want to support conversation and shared learning that builds these supports and strategies. I, like many librarians, spend considerable time training and sharing about my resources, their access, potential and appropriate use, as well as about our systems and services. My professional practice in this area continues to change as I explore new ways of effectively connecting with others in the field – especially, as previously noted, with other librarians who wish to integrate open education resources into their libraries and services.

Distributed Expertise

I was especially intrigued with the report’s discussion about transitioning from the notion of providing professional development for teachers [librarians] to professional development with teachers [librarians]. Just as participatory service in the hyperlinked library is built upon customer participation in building and maintaining the services they want (Casey & Savastinuk), participatory learning relies on a model of “distributed expertise”, which assumes that knowledge, in all contexts, is distributed across a diffuse network of people and tools (Reilly & Literat, 2012). This mindshift is exciting to me and complements the participatory service model. I will be envisioning how this model can be integrated into my practice as I relate with other librarians interested in open education models.

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Participatory PD Values

Participation, not indoctrination;
Exploration, not prescription;
Contextualization, not abstraction;
Iteration, not repetition.


These values excite me because they are strongly correlated to conceptual frameworks in the field of open education of collaboration and knowledge sharing around educational resources, and users/teachers as expert creators, adapting open educational resources for their instructional goals and their learners’ needs.

New Foundations

I am thrilled to be exposed to the model of participatory professional development. I believe it provides a foundation and theoretical framework for my own emerging practice in this area. It will help me begin to articulate a pathway of participatory professional development and learning together with other professionals who work, or wish to work, in the open education space.



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

Reilly, E. & Literat, I. (2012). Designing With Teachers: Participatory Approaches to Professional Development in Education. USC Annenberg Innovation Lab. Accessed at . 2012 Feb 6.

Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder, by David Weinberger

I’m always reaching to see the intertwingled (Nelson, Media Lib / Dream Machines), the connected, the cause and effect – to understand the flow of things. Paradoxically, my profession, with its roots deep in classical traditions, takes on the work of seeing differences, of categorization and classification, of understanding ontologies and discipline specific taxonomies. We like to keep things tidy and in boxes, organizing knowledge and putting things into their proper places.


Since I have a strong interest in how knowledge is described and represented, and because I find my world view is often in conflict with classical classification schemas, I was drawn to read and review David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous with its thesis that there is a ‘new order to order’. This order is a place where ‘things’ can be assigned to multiple places simultaneously due in large part to the affordances of new information systems and the digital format of information and, I propose, most importantly, as a more accurate reflection of the natural order of things – as intertwingled.

The Three Orders of Order

Weinberger proposes that there are three orders to order. The first order is the organization of the things themselves – books on shelves, photographs into albums, tools into drawers, buttons by color, glasses in racks. In the second order of things, we separate our information about an object from the object itself with descriptions of things and their locality in card catalogs, ledgers, and finding aides that are structured by classical categorization schemas. The third order is a digital order, not physical, and its affordances remove the limitations of physical categorization and propel us into new ways of thinking about how we order knowledge and things (Weinberger, 19).  In the third order, things are described and attached to multiple and diverse descriptors that our information querying systems can order in an indefinite number of multi-faceted returns, based upon our information needs and preferences.

The Geography of Knowledge

Weinberger describes this third order as miscellaneous and the digital order of things as a mess (233). While I think that messiness may be an accurate characterization of the current nature of the third digital order, I do not see it as miscellaneous, even if it appears to be so. I believe that what Weinberger is saying is that third order knowledge simply does not fit into the nice boundaries and geographies that we have previously defined for it. All political maps – including classical categorization systems – have a shape and impose boundaries. These systems, alone, do not work anymore – in a hyperlinked world, knowledge is continually forming as it is shared, remixed with other resources, and used in new contexts (Lankes, 4). This is afforded in increasing measure by digital technologies, multiple ways of describing things, crowd-sourced resources and tagging, hyperlinked resources, and knowledge-building conversations – it is realized in the hyperlinked library.

More Beautiful Ways of Making Sense

In fact, this third order of knowledge is a prerequisite of the hyperlinked library. In the third order, all the ways of organizing knowledge become public (Weinberger, 233). In the third order, participatory networks of content creators and taggers describe and order their resources, and those of others, creating and enhancing the meaning of the whole. There are no hierarchies or overarching categories – no one person’s description is given priority or is more real than another’s. All descriptors are attached, bringing forth the potential for much more representative ways of describing and ordering knowledge. We are no longer bound to classical categories, but are free to see the world through the lens of different cultures, perspectives and ways of meaning making.  “In the third order of things, knowledge doesn’t have a shape. There are just too many useful, powerful, and beautiful ways to make sense of our world.” (Weinberger, 83).

The Third Order and the Hyperlinked Library

The hyperlinked library lives in the world of the third order – the intertwingled world. In fact, the hyperlinked world is central to helping us understand and evolve the potential of the third order. Within the hyperlinked library, people together create meaning and knowledge as they share and define and describe their world and their place in it, rather than leaving it to others to do so.

Hear David Weinberger share more here:


Lankes, R. David, Silverstein, J., Nicholson, S., & Marshall, T. (2007). Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation. Information Research.

Nelson, Theodore. (1974). Introduction from Computer Lib / Dream Machines. Self-published. Accessed at, Feb 1, 2013.

Weinberger, David. (2007). Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Organic and Enabling Environments

I continue to think of the hyperlinked library in biological terms. I’m seeing it as an ecology that builds a more wholistic and organic system for everyone involved in its life – from the library professionals who ‘manage’ the system to those who use its ‘services’. The primary shift considered this week is around how its ‘management’ and ‘services’ are conceived, grown and sustained.

Before I continue, I want to share that I in other courses I have previously challenged the notion that planning is only a function of management. Rather, I have argued that an organization must present enabling contexts that encourage organization-wide collaborative discussion, collective reflection and engagement when building its services and professional practice – together. But, I was arguing for internal structures that supported full staff engagement in organizational planning and learning. My thinking did not extend to considering the need for enabling structures for a more public, broad and engaging participatory management, not to speak of planning and supporting frameworks for building participatory services.

My ‘aha’ moment arrived this week when reading Matthews’ “Think Like a Start-Up” with its exhortation toward freeing ourselves as librarians to be entrepreneurial visionaries. He noted that “many library strategic plans read more like to-do lists rather than entrepreneurial visions …”. Continuing, he discusses the need for strategic cultures, more than for strategic plans. He points out the need for an attitude shift where we always consider that our work is in ‘beta’, looking for spaces and opportunities for advancing teaching, learning, service and research in new ways. His is a call for not only an entrepreneurial attitude, but for a reflective practice of continual and creative iterative design of services. I extend this to say that this creative iterative design of services is  built from conversations and planning with all library staff and with the community it serves.

If the hyperlinked library is as organic as I’m envisioning, I would expect it to reflect the social, cultural and even spiritual nature of the community to which it is connected. I was thrilled to find that the Escondido Public Library was hyperlinked to in the article! Escondido is my childhood hometown and most of my family still lives there. As a child and teenager, I spent many hours in the library, browsing the shelves, studying and reading. I haven’t visited the library in several decades, but was deeply touched to discover that it is still playing a vital role in the community.  The Escondido Public Library has developed “LibraryYOU” services where individuals in the community can share local knowledge and their personal expertise through videos and podcasts. Through these community created videos and podcasts, local knowledge is preserved and others in the community can learn about gardening in the area, quilt making, beekeeping, local history, and more! If interested, here is more information about the growing LibraryYOU network.
Boekesteijn, E. (2011) DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level :

Casey, M. (2011). Revisiting Participatory Service in Trying Times:

Danforth, L. (2011) Finding the Future: (Video too)

Harris, C. (2006) School Library 2.0:

Loertscher, D. (2008) Flip This Library: School Libraries Need a Revolution.  School Library Journal Online:

Mathews, B. (2012) Think like a start up (PDF):

Miller, R. (2009) New Library Opens in Darien, CT:

Schmidt, A. (2010) Services before Content:

Stephens, M. (2006). Into a New World of Librarianship:

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

Visser, J. (2011) DOK Delft: