Passions Inextricably Linked

I have 3 inextricably linked passions: open education, global librarianship, digital libraries.

Why open education? Open education speaks to the fact that access to a quality education is a universal human right. Open Educational Resources (OER) are a primary means to building open education practice. OER are teaching and learning materials that are released into the public domain or with intellectual property licenses that allow for free use, adaptation, and distribution (UNESCO, 2015). OER provide free access to resources and remove barriers to education that may have been historically governed by political and philosophical boundaries. Rather, free access to information and resources creates permeable boundaries, allowing local resource needs to be met and educational practice to develop.

Why global librarianship? Open education provides unlimited opportunity for global librarianship. Supporting access to open education practice and resources means providing optimism, future orientation, and the unloosing of restraints caused by scarcity. Global librarians involved in open education elevate the role of the teacher and provide them with the means to select educational resources that hold high relevance and cultural appropriateness for their local context, whether that be meeting the challenges of addressing the U.S. Common Core State Standards, advancing drought awareness and preparedness in California or Africa, teaching Arabic, Swahili, Chinese or other critical languages, or addressing basic education needs across the globe.

Why digital libraries? Digital libraries provide access to a universe of digital content. The earliest digital libraries were “super libraries” that pulled together massive amounts of digital content under one roof. Today, we are moving into an age of high-value digital libraries where content is curated for specific audiences and to meet specific information needs. Examples of high-value digital libraries are Agriculture OER, developed by OER Africa to share agricultural resources;  Al-Masdar, designed to support teaching and learning needs in Arabic language and culture classrooms; Darakht-e Danesh Online Library that supports Afghani teachers as they further education in Afghanistan; or, the Primary Source Hub at OER Commons that provides teachers with tools and resources for supporting students in building close reading and inquiry-based learning skills called for by the U.S. Common Core State Standards.


2015. UNESCO. Communication and Information | Open Educational Resources.

The Hyperlinked Library Model: Elevating Local Knowledge

I’ve been inspired by the hyperlinked library model. The most exciting aspects of the model to me are the ideas of sharing and building local/intergenerational knowledge, elevating the practices of everyday life (rather than the sensational), the local identification and meeting of needs, and building places for local storytellers and narratives (rather than allowing corporate media to build our meaning). I’ve tried to capture this in this presentation.

I’ve really enjoyed this class and look forward to pondering how my practice can advance the rich ideas I’ve been exposed to through the course modules and the postings of my fellow students. Thanks, everyone, for sharing amazing thoughts!

Here is my virtual presentation.

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Local and Global Aspects of the Hyperlinked Library

Going Philosophical for a Minute …

Implicit in the hyperlink library is the notion of the generative work of the collective imagination. This imaginative work is expressed in very local environments (libraries and communities), at the same time it is connected to and drawing upon global and mass-mediated images, scripts and conversations.  It is not as if the collective imagination and the generation of new ideas has previously been missing from the human experience. Of significance, though, is that these imaginative connections are different in a post-electronic world (Johnson, 2011).

Through the hyperlinked library, a significant part of 21st century information flow, the imagination and collective knowledge sharing and building that previously was sequestered into the university and institutions of power have now become a part of the work of ordinary people across societies and in the practice of their everyday lives.  An important emerging aspect of this knowledge sharing and imagining is afforded by the hyperlinked library and the building of joint sentiment as groups of individuals begin to share conversation and knowledge, imagining and feeling things together (Anderson, 1983).

Furthermore, the hyperlinked library can be a framework for looking at dimensions of global and local cultural dynamics that disrupt previously held politically and socially constructed ethnoscapes, mediascapes, technoscapes and ideoscapes (Appadurai, 1996). Flows of conversation, knowledge and ideas through the hyperlinked library create new globally connected, and yet locally generated and mediated, flows of conversation, knowledge and ideas. These types of connections are more organic and central to human creative experience than previous information flows that were vertically oriented – with specifically constructed and managed information and messages flowing ‘down’ from individuals and institutions with strong power bases.

Within this milieu, it is highly important to imagine and build the local hyperlinked library. The local hyperlinked library provides a local ethnoscape, of sorts, that is integrally connected to larger global and disruptive flows of information and knowledge. The hyperlinked library can be a place of local connection and knowledge creation that cannot happen on the global scale and yet it informs, contributes and helps shape the global information flow.

As emerging library professionals, we must reflect upon how our practice can help build the hyperlinked library. The hyperlinked library will be supported by professionals who can organize information, technologies and systems, so that the universe of knowledge is available to its patrons. At the same time, the hyperlinked library builds community and the enabling space for the sharing, building and representation of local knowledge. This is significant work! They hyperlinked library provides connection and conversation with the global mind, and provides a central local point of community participation and contribution to it.



Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined Communities. London: Verso.
Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Johnson, S. (2011). Where Do Good Ideas Come From? New York: Riverhead Books.

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: