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:

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