Practicing Reflection in Times of Change

Hyperlinked Library Blog #6 Reflective Practice

This week’s module on reflective practice is serendipitous as I suddenly find myself at a crossroads. I am worried about the future, about making the right choices and moving forward without regret. Many baby steps toward change sometimes lead to a precipice. Clinging to the familiar leads nowhere but taking the plunge can feel overwhelming. In the description for this module on reflective practice, Dr. Stephens writes about finding balance and making the right decisions. He talks about reflecting on why we came to librarianship and how we can better serve our communities by being our best selves (2018). So, for just a few moments, instead of staring into an unknown future, I will reflect.

I came to librarianship as a means of using my skills as a music teacher to affect a broader community. I love to help people discover new skills, abilities, pathways, and knowledge. I like to teach people how to learn. I also love to make things, write things, and play with things. I like collaborating and I like being a learner.

In 2015, I enrolled in the MLIS program at San Jose, just to dabble and see what librarianship was all about. That first class nearly did me in but, for some reason, I kept going. I had two-year-old twins and a seven-year-old so I plodded along taking one class per semester, working as a musician, and volunteering in the library world. In 2017, I got my first paid (barely) library job as an assistant in a K-12 school library. In 2018, a week after the Hyperlinked Library class began, I found myself as interim librarian for that school, filling in for several months. In November, I began working in my first public library role as a reference librarian. By this time next year, I hope to have my degree.

So, in four years, there’s been a lot of change. And now there is a more monumental decision to be made. For many practical reasons, my family is considering moving from our beloved 20-year home in the Bay Area back to Chicago. We want to care for our ageing parents and there’s the hope of a much more affordable mortgage, which means our kids might go to college. We would even be able to travel (the only place we ever go right now is Chicago). As my husband pointed out, I’m transitioning anyway. Why not add Chicago libraries to my endless application process?

While I have put a great deal of energy into networking here in the Bay Area, I feel that the next step might be to find a way to connect with librarians in Chicago. In his lecture for this module, Dr. Stephens quoted Casey Ceb who noted, “some of our closest friends and most significant professional connections are people we’ve only ever met on the Internet” (as quoted by Stephens, 2018). In the spirit of the Hyperlinked Library, I have a feeling that forging new connections may shed light on my decision.

I have never participated in a profession that is as universally connected as librarianship. This course has introduced us to inspiring, participatory library practices all over the world. This gives me hope that, despite the weather in Chicago, I may find fulfillment in doing what I love. As for reflection: when the forward motion feels particularly overwhelming, reflection particularly through writing, helps ground the momentum. It can validate our experience and organize the chaos that accompanies possibility. 

PS. If anyone has ideas about making library connections in Chicago, especially the North shore, I’d be most grateful.

PSS. I do love Lake Michigan.

This is me at my new public library job.
I took this picture of my family in Chicago last summer.



Stephens, M. (2018). Reflective Practice. Retrieved from


Virtual Symposium: My Dream Library

For my Virtual Symposium contribution, I’ve shared some slides, which my fifth grade students made as part of their Dream Library Design presentations. They had a lot of fun with this project and I learned a lot about the participatory experience by engaging with them and allowing myself to be inspired and delighted by their ideas. The kids used emerging technology to create their slideshows as did I for this culminating slideshow. While the students used Google Slides to create a presentation they could share in person, I wanted to be able to record my presentation and share it with you digitally. I tried a lot of different screen sharing platforms including Camtasia. Camtasia is neat because you can edit and add music and work with multiple tracks. I made a cool video but, in the end, I chose not to subject you to the giant watermark in the center of each slide, which appeared because I used the trial version of the software (no watermark = $250). Thanks to a fellow classmate, I was reminded of Zoom. You can create a meeting, share your screen, and record it. Then I shared the Mp4 to YouTube. Simple but it worked. All in all, this week was a lesson in emerging tech, which was of course the intended goal. Enjoy my little project.


Director’s Brief: Association of Children’s Librarians Institute Proposal

I took a bit of creative license and incorporated my favorite finds from the Hyperlinked Library course into an institute proposal. The Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California is an organization I joined during my first year of library school. The group is comprised of about 300 youth services librarians and MLIS students and is dedicated to life-long learning and providing the best possible service to young patrons. Our annual one-day institute takes place at the San Francisco Public Library and each year we focus on an aspect of providing service to the communities we serve. Topics usually center on social justice with a focus on marginalized groups. For this hypothetical proposal, I wanted to focus on the librarians’ well-being as much as on the product of their efforts.

The Future is Now: How to Keep Pace, Move Forward, and Love Every Moment


To inspire, energize, and reboot the hardworking children’s librarians of Northern California through an institute focused on participatory youth services that engage and transform.

This brief is a topic proposal and outline for the 2020 annual institute for the Association of Children’s Librarians of Northern California (ACL). The institute will address the challenges youth service librarians and staff face in a world that is constantly changing.  We will focus on participatory library service, a model of librarianship that keeps pace with rapid change by engaging patrons in creative and collaborative processes that inform and empower every aspect of library service.

INFO 287  Hyperlinked_Director’s Brief





Infinite Learning and the Library as Classroom

I love LEGO. I love the history of the LEGO company, I love their product, and I love their vision. Amos Blanton summed up their philosophy in  What do we Mean by Learning Through Play? (Lego Foundation, 2016). To paraphrase, when people are engaged in creating something new that reflects their own experience, knowledge, and interests, it makes the learning more powerful. I think this philosophy directly applies to the future success and relevance of libraries. When people play, they learn. And learning is a rush. It is delightful and playful and memorable. An environment that both promotes curiosity and evokes a sense of personal connection will energize patrons to participate. And this participation breathes ongoing life into a library.

For school libraries, engaging students means offering choices and designing project-based learning experiences that are playful. In other words, offer something for everyone and make the work irresistibly fun. A challenging example is the teaching of research skills, a task that often gives the school librarian a bad name. This year I tried something new: The Dream Library Design project. The fifth graders worked as teams to brainstorm, design, and present their concept of a Dream Library. The only instructions were that no one’s idea could be rejected and presentations involved a Google Slideshow. Brainstorming was outlandish, collaboration was messy, and students enthusiastically poured their hearts into this project.  They found images on the Internet, built idea boards using Google docs, designed spaces on MineCraft, and created totally unique models and drawings. As Joshua Block notes, “learning is a messy process — and authentic, project-based learning immerses us in unique parts of this mess” (2014). The word “authentic” is meaningful because the Dream Library Design offered students a chance to practice a process that is realistic to their future. As Lippincott states, “Active learning and learning as a social process converge well with an increasing emphasis on the need for students to develop collaborative skills and the ability to communicate effectively and professionally in various media” (2015).

The library also benefits from offering social, play-based projects. First of all, such programs attract a wider patron base to the library because they offer an entry point for every type of learner. This sends a message that every student has a place in the library. Some find sanctuary in quiet corners, while others learn and thrive in a social, collaborative environment. Many students are empowered by the choices such projects offer. They get to choose from a variety of mediums and digital tools that reflect their diverse talents and interests. In this way, the school library becomes a hub of activity – a Learning Commons (Vangelova, 2014). A second benefit for the library is the input generated from participatory, play-based projects. Simply observing students’ process provides a goldmine of information about how they learn, what they want, where they’re going, and how the library can participate now and in the future.

Since I have been sharing the progress of The Dream Library Design project, I thought this would be a good point to share bits of the final presentations, which students shared in library class last week. The following slides, borrowed from  students’ presentations, reflect the scope of their imagination and convey the way they want libraries to feel. 



































I have been thinking a lot about how a The Dream Library Design project might play out in a public library. I picture this as a family program, maybe even a contest. During a regular family programming time, families would be challenged to plan their dream library, or perhaps one feature of a dream library. They would have access to building materials, both physical and digital. The room could be filled with art supplies, photo and video equipment, green screens, computers equipped with basic design software (and MineCraft :), and a couple staff members or volunteers knowledgeable about the technology. If possible, library administrators could attend. At the end of the program, invite each family to describe their creations and follow up with some sort of reflection – maybe video interviews – that could be archived and available. I promise the enthusiasm and energy will be infectious and the library will glow with life from its community.



Block, J. (2014). Embracing messy learning.

Dream Library Design. (2018). Slides used by student permission.

Lego Foundation. (2016). What do we Mean by Learning Through Play?

Lippincott, J. (2015). The Future for Teaching and Learning.

Vangelova, L. (2014). What does the next-generation school library look like?

Visit the Museum During Your Next Lunch Break

This week I got to visit two amazing exhibits – one at the New York Public Library, the other at the National Women’s History Museum – both during my lunch breaks at work. Thanks to mobile technology, museum lovers no longer need to travel, buy tickets, wait in line, deal with crowds, or go on vacation to immerse ourselves in rare and fabulous collections. By moving beyond place-based collections, libraries and museums are able to reach users where they are exploring (Stephens, 2015). After all, as Stephens notes, the most unique thing in a collection is what you put in people’s hands (2018).

In 2011, The New York Public Library debuted Biblion, an app designed by and for the library in which users can virtually visit an exhibition of the 1939-40 World Fair. Biblion provides an “info-scape” in which users can explore a compilation of articles, galleries, and essays compiled by curators and scholars (Jenkins, 2011). It’s a bit like a Lib-guide but has a spatial aspect that allows stories to unfold and encourages deep exploration on a personal level. “Biblion is based on the premise that once original sources are given shape, infinite narratives emerge. We’ve referred to it as a multilinear reading experience, one in which you can jump from story to story, stack to stack, through multiple combinations of media” (Jenkins, 2011). As Madrigal (2011) noted, “what’s fascinating to me is that you don’t feel like you’re reading something about the fair, but experiencing what it’s like to tool around behind the scenes at a museum or in an archive. The impression is spatial. You chart your own path, find pieces of text, photos or video, and then assemble them yourself into a narrative of the fair”. I’m not sure why NYPL chose the World Fair as their Biblion premier but the Fair’s motto “Enter the world of tomorrow” rings true. Interestingly, Biblion’s second exhibition Frankenstein: The Aftermath of Shelley’s Circle explores the progressive and innovative ideas of some of history’s most forward-thinking literary figures.

Biblion: New York Public Library

The National Women’s History Museum was founded in 1996 and is packed with exhibits about women’s role in U.S. history. The cool thing about this museum is that it is exclusively online. Fingers crossed, legislation will soon pass to build a physical space on the National Mall. The lack of a brick and mortar space has not prevented the National Women’s History Museum from reaching millions of visitors, however. With free online access to articles, resources, and exhibits, the museum lives up to its vision by breaking down barriers to information and expanding its reach: “We envision a world where women’s history inspires all people to have equal respect for everyone’s experiences and accomplishments and to see there are no obstacles to achieving their dreams”(NWHM).

National Women’s History Museum

One of my favorite escapes is visiting a museum by myself. Moving through exhibits on my own path at my own pace leaves me feeling rejuvenated and inspired. I haven’t visited a physical museum in months. Limits on my time, location, and funds have stood in the way. When I do get to a museum, my three children have their own demands, which further limits my personal connection with the exhibits. Visiting these virtual museums during a brief lull at work actually left me feeling inspired and intellectually satisfied, very much like visiting a physical museum on my own. But the most innovative aspect is that virtual libraries and museums make information free and accessible, which means more people can experience history, science, and the world, regardless of the barriers of the past.



Jenkins, H. (June 1, 2011). How the New York Public Library is sharing the world of tomorrow now: An interview with Deanna Lee. Retrieved form

Madrigal, A. (May 18, 2011). Did the New York Public Library just build the magazine app of the future? [blog post]. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (n.d.). Hyperlinked library: Mobile Devices and connections

. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2015). Serving users when and where they are: Hyperlinked libraries. Retrieved from

Podcasting in the School Library: An Action Plan for Emerging Technology

Image result for podcast clipart


My work as a K-8 school librarian has convinced me of two facts. First, everyone learns differently. Two, there are many uses for a library. If we don’t honor both facts, we will only serve a fraction of our students. According to Sir Ken Robinson (2010), education can and should be personalized to the people we are teaching. Education that is built on conformity dislocates people from their natural talents, leading to disenchantment and ultimately depleting our future society of the variety of skills needed to thrive. Rather than conform to the traditional school library model (room full of books), the school library can be an exciting, revolutionary source of activity that supports and drives innovation. According to Loertscher, what is needed to reach into classrooms and get kids’ attention is a total flip in perspective. Rather than maintaining a room full of books, the library can function as  a learning commons that is both virtual and physical where the entire school community can come together to create, inspire, share, and showcase (2008). The goal, in other words, is to create and curate a participatory library.

Excited to test this participatory library model in my school, I launched the Library Dream Design, a multi-week, project-based exploration for fifth grade. After a brief introduction in which I presented innovative library designs from around the world (many of which involved teen input), the students formed teams and began brainstorming. They came up with outlandish ideas like marshmallow reading rooms, books delivered by drones, and pet libraries. Next, the teams created an Idea Board – a Google doc where they could gather representations and support for their ideas. Anything sourced online was documented or they could make their own representations. Some designed in MineCraft, others drew blueprints on paper, and one team created a marshmallow model. The final step was to compile all their ideas into a Google slideshow, which they presented to the rest of the class (the hypothetical funders).

The project was a huge success on many levels, not least of which because it was very fun. The most important aspect for me was that this activity engaged library lovers and non-users equally. Students who appeared bored during regular library programming and rarely used the library outside of class were fired up to share their ideas. Students who were normally disengaged showed great leadership. By inviting them to build on their diverse and natural talents, we created a setting where everyone could thrive.

The exhilarance of the Dream Library Design project inspired me to explore more ways to actively engage students in our school library. I have been a long-time fan of podcasts and have recently read some exciting articles about creating podcast programs in libraries. With this Emerging Technology Plan, I will outline a project-based lesson plan, which can be set into motion as a mult-week Podcasting unit. Podcasts can serve many purposes in a school library. First of all, podcasts can be a valuable source of information for research and personal interest. Recently the fourth grade teacher asked me to build a libguide of social studies resources. She specifically asked for video and audio sources for students who interact better with these formats than traditional text. Podcasts, which appeal to multiple literacies, can be a powerful information source for students who might otherwise lose confidence due to reading differences. Second, learning to make podcasts offers an opportunity to explore technology and information gathering in a creative, social way. Third, podcasts can be shared by and archived in the library via our website and social media, creating a student-generated collection and a direct link to our community. Fourth, project-based experiences provide insight into the interests and personalities of our student patrons, allowing us to better meet their needs. Finally, a podcasting program gives the library an outlet to connect with the rest of our school community. Interested teachers can be involved in the project by offering their time, expertise, or resources. The project gives the library visibility in the school and draws the school community in. The enthusiasm buzzing around a project like this is infectious.



Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

  • Introduce podcasts as an inspiring and legitimate format for research and entertainment.
  • Engage the diverse and natural talents of fifth grade students to build a thriving program.
  • Build visibility of the library and generate buy-in from the school community.
  • Instill confidence and build project skills for soon-to-be middle schoolers.
  • Create a community-generated podcast collection.
  • Achieve a deeper understanding of patron interests and personalities in order to grow a responsive, participatory library.
  • Present the school library as a hive of innovation and activity that everyone wants to be a part of.

Description of Community:

The Podcasting unit will be designed for fifth grade students. During their last year in elementary school, fifth graders are honing the research and project skills they will need in middle school and beyond. As instructors, one goal is to empower students to become independent thinkers and to have the confidence and direction to self-motivate. Project-based experiences like creating podcasts offer a platform to practice these skills in a creative, active setting. As tweens, fifth graders are beginning to think about what is possible, so activities that encourage exploration and discovery support their burgeoning enthusiasm. Furthermore, tweens’ prefered method of information seeking is social with face-to-face interactions at the top of the list. The Podcasting unit is designed to support social interaction by working on teams, conducting interviews, and working closely with the librarians. Tweens are more likely to seek help from adults when they are engaged in something that excites and interests them, rather than a forced topic that has been assigned.

The staff is made up of dedicated, open-minded teachers and specialists who enjoy collaborating. The school encourages project-based learning experiences and curates independent thinking from an early age. This is an ideal setting to try new programs, especially ones that support classroom learning.  

Action Brief Statement:

Convince students that by making podcasts they will have fun, gain skills, and make connections, which will make the library a positive place because they will have a voice.

Convince the school community that the library is an innovative hub of activity that reinforces and supports classroom learning through project-based experiences that allow every student to thrive.  

Convince fellow school librarians that making podcasts is a way to reach out to our community and better understand the interests and personalities of our patrons so we can grow a responsive, participatory program.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

American Association of School Librarians. (n.d.). AASL standard framework for learners. Retrieved from

ALA. (2008). Teens podcasting @ your library. Retrieved from

Friedman, L. (2009). Sound Unwound. Public Services Quarterly, 5(3), 212-216.

King, D. L. (2018). Chapter 3: Practical Ways to Incorporate New Technology Trends. Library Technology Reports, 54(2), 24–29. Retrieved from

Loertscher, D. (2008). Flip this library: School libraries need a revolution. Retrieved frm (n.d.). StoryCorps@your library: A toolkit for success. Retrieved from

Robinson, K. (2010). Bring on the learning revolution!. Retrieved from

Rodgers, L. (2018). Time for podcasts. Retreived from

Stephens, M. (March 2, 2010). The hpyerlinked school library: Engage, explore, celebrate [blog post]. Retrieved from

TechTeacherNate. (November 29, 2017). Making a podcast in iMovie (audio only) [Youtube video]. Retrieved from


Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

The following excerpt describes the school’s goals and philosophy for its library and technology programs.

Librarians design project-based instructional experiences that promote curiosity and encourage collaboration. By engaging the diverse and natural talents of our students, we ensure they make a meaningful and personal connection with the resources that best fit their information needs. Assessing the outcomes of these participatory projects allows librarians to curate a user-focus library program that is responsive and engaging.

The above paragraph, which I was asked to draft for the school’s accreditation document, is based on principles of the participatory library combined with revolutionary ideas of education. In his blog post The Hyperlinked School Library, Michael Stephens writes that technology is not longer an extra in education (2010). Young people integrate technology into their lives as seamlessly as we adults once used No. 2 pencils. Technology formats like podcasts are the modern tools for interacting with and understanding the material taught in school. More importantly, creative technology like podcasts allow students to deeply explore subjects on their own terms, rather than conform to traditionally rigid means of instruction (Robinson, 2010). The students are the driving force behind the content, production, and promotion (ALA, 2008), which adds meaning and value to the experience. As Stephens points out, there are six characteristics that are key to a successful learning experience: curiosity; exploration; transparency and openness; creativity; flexibility; and play (2010). Podcasting meets all these criteria.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service:

The podcasting project will require no additional funding from students or the school.

The school provides each fifth grader with a Chrome Book, which can be used to access all technology needed for this project including the library website, Google docs, Google classroom, and iMovie.

Staff is invited to opt in as interview subjects, which will require donated time.  


Action Steps & Timeline:

The Podcasting project will unfold as a unit that takes place during the forty-minute weekly library class.

Week 1: Introducing Podcasts

Prepare: Build a cache of podcasts for students to peruse. Linda Rodger’s article Time for Podcasts offers a great list to start with. Post the list on Google Classroom or, better yet, make the links available on your library website. My school uses LibGuides to build web-based guides. They are flexible and always available to students. You can include suggestions for podcatchers like Sticher or iTunes.

Participatory: Collaborate with classroom teachers by finding out what topics students need sources for (King, 2018). Include podcasts that support classroom projects. This helps erase the walls of the library and contributes to the concept of library as hub of information and innovation.

In class: Introduce students to the concept of podcasting. Show the guide you created and explain that many podcasts can be used as a source for research and school projects as well as entertainment. “Book talk” great podcasts.

Participatory: Invite students to recommend their favorite podcasts and add them to the cache.

Engagement: Give students time to explore the cache of podcasts. Some students will find a quiet spot to themselves while others will prefer to explore the podcasts in groups.  

Week 2: Scripting a Podcast

Prepare: Determine a series topic. This could be highlighting projects students are doing in science; family history; exploring the neighborhood of the school. For the sake of this plan, the topic will be Stories from the School Community and the format will be interviews. Add examples to your LibGuide or website so students will have examples. You may also wish to add some resources on conducting good interviews. Storycorps offers a great toolkit including resources like Great Questions for interviews.

Create a blanket policy that anyone who participates in the program agrees to share their picture, voice, etc. Notify parents that their students’ contributions may be shared and provide an opt-out form for those who don’t wish for their child to participate (Rodgers, 2018). In many cases, the school has already covered this.

Participatory: Link the podcasting topic with the school community, creating an outreach element. It could relate to a unit students are studying in social studies or could be a mission to learn more about staff members other than teachers (maintenance crew members, nurses, aides, language specialists, etc.).

Participatory: Ahead of time, ask staff to opt in to the project by volunteering to be interview subjects. If interview subjects are available during library class time, this gives them an opportunity to directly participate in the library, which will hopefully lead to inspiration and future collaboration.

In class: Introduce the podcast-making project. Explain the timeline, topic, and procedure. Present a couple episodes of Story Corps as an example of the Stories from the School Community topic and provide some information about interviewing. Divide the class into teams. Ask each student to choose a member of the school community from the list of interview subjects. Give students class time to write interview questions and plan. They can work collaboratively via Google docs, which can also be submitted to you on Google Classroom.

Students will email their interview subject to set up a time for the interview. Ideally, the time will be during library class hours but fifth graders do have opportunities throughout the school day to pursue independent projects.

Week 3: Playing with Technology

Prepare: Add an iMovie tutorial to the project page or LibGuide. This YouTube video is geared toward students and explains how to make a podcast using iMovie.

In class: Invite the technology specialist to introduce iMovie to students and explain how they can use the software to make podcasts.

Students will polish their interview questions and set up their recording software. They can practice interviews on one another.

Engagement: Give students time to play with iMovie, record, edit, add music, just mess around. In my experience, 21st Century learners learn best by doing. Let them explore, socialize, share, and ask questions as needed.

Week 4: Record the Interview and/or edit

In class: If interview subjects are available during class time, students may use this time to conduct and record their interviews. If interviews were done outside of class time, students may begin to edit their podcasts.

Week 5: Editing continued

In class: Finish editing and submit podcasts via Google Classroom

Week 6: Presentation

Prepare: Compile the podcasts and post on the library webpage.

In class: Serve popcorn and premier the podcasts.

Participatory: Invite interview subjects to attend the screening.


Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service:

The project will involve the library staff with assistance from the school technology specialist. Although the project can be curated by the librarian and assistant librarian during library class time, classroom and specialist teachers are encouraged to participate as interview subjects. They may do this during library class time or prep time. Some may choose to incorporate the project into their classroom curriculum. For example, a podcast series could coincide with units on biographies, historical events, science concepts, or social change makers. As part of their studies, students could produce a podcast on one aspect of the topic, then we would compile the podcasts into a series produced and shared via the library. In this way, the experience is documented in a way that can be shared with future students. Collaborating with classroom teachers adds support for the project, creates staff buy-in for the library, and increases the relevance of the experience.  

Training for this Technology or Service:  

Fifth graders will receive training on the interview process and recording and editing techniques. Training for technology like podcasting is free and easy with resources and toolkits produced by fellow librarians and producers. In the case of my school, I gained a lot of insight from our technology specialist, who had already experimented with podcasting. He suggested tools and tricks.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

As noted above, buy-in from classroom teachers will solidify the relevance of the project and help take it to the next level. Reach out to teachers and find out where they could use support, then make that the topic for the podcast series. For example, the fifth graders study memoirs. Students can share stories from their own life or collect stories from others to build a Memoir podcast series. Connecting library activities to classroom curriculum supports teachers, creates awareness of the library as an integrative hub, and promotes the project beyond the walls of the library.

Once the podcasts have been created, the series can be shared on the classroom webpages as well as archived on the library website. The library also has  Facebook and Twitter accounts, which can be used to promote the project.


I like the question, “What stories are you envisioning telling about this”. Stories are built into the fabric of podcasting. By giving students the opportunity to pursue their interests, choose their subjects, and write their own questions, librarians get a rare glimpse inside their diverse realities. Seeing projects like podcasting unfold allows us to understand our patrons’ needs, interests, and personalities in a deeper way then simply asking them to fill out a questionnaire. For those who choose not to engage in the library in a traditional way, projects that reach out and enchant them on a different level invites participation. When we offer choices, we will always be surprised.

I would evaluate the project using the following questions:

Does the project promote the library as a hub of innovation and collaboration that entices the school community to collaborate?

  • Does podcasting invite students to use their diverse and natural talents in a project-based experience?
  • Does podcasting help librarians better understand the needs and interests of students?
  • Does podcasting produce community-generated content for the library collection?
  • Did students have fun and do they want more?

The following graphic was designed by the American Association of  School Librarians. The words “shared foundations” and “domains” are explained through a lengthy and somewhat elusive document but the graphic alone evokes meaning for me. I see the outer circle as the library and the inner circle as the patron experience. I disregard the center because I feel obsessing over standardized competencies distracts from the humanization of the library. The words presented in the outer two circles create a mantra for envisioning an ever-expanding, participatory library.


Conclusion: The Future

Podcasting is a flexible technology trend that can grow with the library. It actually allows the library to expand beyond the walls – librarians can collaborate with teachers to document instructional experiences and student work. Individual projects can be archived or an ongoing series can be created and maintained as part of a library program. Just as the llibrary runs the fourth and fifth grade book club, it could sponsor a podcasting club. Ideally this would operate in conjunction with another staff member or department. Emerging technology like podcasting is an opportunity for the library to evolve into an innovative school hub that is central to experiential learning and invites participation from every student.


Hyperlinked School Library: Let the Brainstorming Begin

A few weeks ago, the fifth grade library classes at the school where I work as a K-8 librarian began an exciting participatory project. They are designing Dream Libraries.

After peaking the fifth graders’ interest with an *exciting* slideshow presentation featuring innovative libraries from around the world, students were divided into teams of three or four and they began to brainstorm their dream libraries. I provided a few prompts but they soon moved far beyond the constraints of my simple questions.

The Dream Library Design Project is inspired by the Hyperlinked Library model, and the process is built on revolutionary concepts in education. Sir Ken Robinson laments that traditional modes of education, which adhere to a one-track-to-success form, often dislocate students from their diverse and natural talents. When this happens, students disengage from learning and, sometimes, from their passions altogether. This is neither fair to students, nor to our future society, which is dependent on a variety of talents (2010). I see this disconnect in the school library when students are not given an opportunity to engage in ways that are natural and exciting for them. For example, some students struggle to listen to an otherwise fascinating story if they feel physically and mentally crowded among 20 classmates. Some students love to read but find themselves in a rut, stuck between middle-grade literature that is too simplistic and young adult books that are just a bit overwhelming. They need readers advisory but have trouble getting past social boundaries typical of their age. In general, many students don’t feel at home in the library. This impression will stick with them as they move into the real world.

According to Will Richardson, the gap between school learning and life learning is increasingly wide (2016). Richardson outlines 16 Modern Realities that schools need to accept in order to foster a relevant learning environment. I will sum up Richardson’s Realities by stating that it is impossible to teach students everything they will need to know because we cannot predict what they will need to know. The globally networked and connected world means that “teachers no longer stand between the content and the student” (Richardson, 2015) but that peer-to-peer interactions flourish. Finally, learning in the real world is about doing real work for real audiences, not regurgitating information on standardized tests.

The Library Dream Project reflects the modern realities by engaging students in a real life process. Students are given a concept, which they collaboratively brainstorm, research, and present. The content and mode of operandi is entirely up to them, allowing them to implement their diverse and natural talents. Once their designs have been presented, they will receive feedback from their peers, and the project will continue. Retroactively, the class will be informed that they conducted a successful research project, complete with searching techniques, documentation, presentation, and evaluation. Taught in the traditional style, research is boring for some, intimidating for others, or seemingly irrelevant to their interests in life. With The Library Dream Project, however, they are invigorated by how the process allows their ideas to come alive.

And speaking of engaging the diverse and natural talents of many different types of learners, here are some of the highlights from the brainstorming session:

What is the physical space like?

→ Circular design with rooms for each genre and and info desk in the middle

→ Reading rooms made of marshmallows (squishy and soundproof)

→ Hammocks

→ Slides that take you from fiction to non-fiction sections

→ Rock candy lights

→ Lots of nooks for reading

→ Clear spiral staircases climbing trees

What can you do in this library?

→ Home delivery service: Books delivered by drones

→ Pet library: check out a pet for a week

→ Physical Recreation – ice skating; soccer; ping pong

→ Food court

→ Digital librarians

→ Multiple gaming spaces

→ Recording studios

What does it feel like to be in your library?

→ Fun

→ Sense of freedom

→ Cozy

→ Exciting

→ Relaxed

→ Magical

→ Awesome


Next week, teams will begin to represent their library designs through a multitude of modes including Minecraft, marshmallow modeling, drawing, and image boarding. The science teacher has offered time slots for them to use the school makerspace and the art teacher is encouraging them to integrate the designs during their art class time. In this way, the project goes beyond the walls of the library, blending place and purpose in a meaningful and memorable experience.  


Richardson, W. (2016). 16 Modern Realities Schools (and Parents) Need to Accept.

Robinson, K. (2010). Bring on the learning revolution!

Unleashing the Design Potential of Tweens

The school where I work as a K-8 librarian makes a point to let students know they have a voice. They encourage independence and entrepreneurship. No class embodies this spirit more than this year’s fifth graders. During book club, they formed a committee to raise money to buy their books, then to decide which charitable organization to donate those books to when they were done reading them. I decided to use these passionate kids to explore participatory library innovation. There’s another reason I chose to focus on fifth graders. While much research and writing exists about young adult library use and much research and writing exists about young children’s library use, very little research focuses on tweens (kids between the ages of 9 and 13). Why should we be paying attention to this community? This is the age when kids form life-long library habits (Pisarski, 2014). Unfortunately, this is also the age when they face a lot of barriers to library access, including the perception that they are not welcome in traditional library spaces (Zaharako, 2015). Because tweens who stop using the library due to barriers associated with their age may not return as teenagers and adults, ignoring the tween population could be the biggest oversight a library makes when it comes to designing for future relevance.

In contrast to younger children who can only comprehend what is real, tweens begin to think about what is possible (Anderson, 2007). As I am learning from my fifth graders, they have a lot of insight when it comes to what they need and want from a library. Pewhairangi recommends rethinking how we assign value to patrons and to measure not on realized value, but on untapped potential (2014). Tweens may be the greatest source of untapped potential when it comes to library design. And so begins our fifth grade dream library project…

After conducting surveys at the beginning of the school year to gain insight into their library preferences, I decided to go a step further and let them design hypothetical libraries. A growing body of evidence suggests that inviting patrons into the design process yields libraries that they actually want to use. Some of the most successful patron-led innovations have come from youth. The San Francisco Public Library recently completed The Mix, a teen center in which youth patrons participated in the planning from the very start (Costanza, 2015). 50 teens participated in weekly planning sessions as part of the Board of Advising Youth (BAY). In San Jose, the Martin Luther King Library recently launched TeenHQ, planned by a team of designers and teens through a series of workshops (Chant, 2016). Both the TeenHQ and The Mix feature tech labs, recording studios, iPads, and cool spaces to relax, read, and socialize. Klaine Justo, who currently works as a paid ambassador for The Mix, said, “the space will serve as a living room for youth who don’t have living rooms” (Costanza, 2015, p. 3). Justo, who I heard speak at the 2017 Association of Children’s Librarians Institute when she was 20 years old, shared that she had first found refuge in the San Francisco Public Library as a homeless teen. Librarians welcomed her into the current space and she soon found a role re-designing the space that would become her future.

The Mix at SFPL. credit Ideas and Inspiration Demco

The youth participation model of design is spreading. The Mix, for example, was inspired by the YOUmedia model in the Chicago Public Library (Johnson, 2015). YOUmedia librarian Matt Jensen states that programs like The Mix and YOUlibrary are how libraries stay relevant. “If libraries don’t create a space for that 13-to-18 age segment, they lose that audience forever. The teens don’t magically come back at 21, or whatever age you become a grown-up“ (Johnson, 2015, par.11). Good point.

So, although most public libraries are yet to include fifth graders in the design process, I have decided to be innovative and reach out to this un-tapped user group. The first step in the fifth grade dream library design is a slide show to introduce innovative ideas from libraries around the globe.

The slideshow, which I presented on Friday as an introduction to the project, was a big hit. Students kept exclaiming, “Wait, that’s a real library?!”. Several students asked where they could go visit a real teen-designed library space. They were so excited to start brainstorming their own dream libraries, I could barely get through the whole presentation.

The second step in the dream library design project is a team-based worksheet, generated as a form on our Google classroom page. The worksheet encourages brainstorming and big thinking. I have given each team a one billion dollar budget so they won’t hold back. Keeping track of their process using technology like Google classroom will help me evaluate the instructional experience and just see what kinds of ideas the questions generate.

INFO287 Hyperlinked_ Dream Library Design

Teams can use physical or digital materials to map out their plans. When each team is satisfied with the design for their library, they will present their proposal to the rest of the class. Students will then vote for their favorite design concepts. We will hold a grand opening. Candy will be involved.

I will keep you all posted on the project!




Anderson, S. B. (2007). Childhood left behind: ‘Tweens, young teens, and the library. InS.B. Anderson (Ed.), Serving young teens and ‘tweens (pp. 1-27). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Chant, I. (2016). User-designed libraries: Design4Impact. Retrieved from

Costanza, K. (August 18, 2015). In San Francsco, teens design a living room for high-tech learning at the public library [blog post]. Retrieved from

Johnson, L. (2015). At new teen library space, nobody’s hissing shh. Retrieved from

Pewhairangi, S. (2014). A beautiful obsession. Retrieved from

Pisarski, A. (2014). Finding a place for the tween: Makerspaces and libraries. Childrenand Libraries: The Journal for the Association of Library Service to Children,12(3), 13-16. Retrieved from

Zaharako, S. (2015). Information barriers faced by tweens (unpublished research paper). San Jose State University, San Jose, California. Retrieved from

The Hyperlinked Library: Book Context Review

In Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions (2011), business guru Guy Kawasaki brings a fresh perspective to the art of running a successful business. His insight transforms how organizations relate to their patrons, build lasting partnerships, and ensure future viability in an ever-changing market place. Kawasaki’s philosophy is transferable to any organization that strives for relevance, innovation, and a solid foundation.

Enchantment: The title alone sold me on reading this book. When it comes to building a participatory library, a little enchantment can go a long way. Two themes are particularly applicable to the Hyperlinked Library model: enchanting your users and enchanting your staff. The two go hand in hand because it is the library staff that interacts with users. If staff members are disenchanted, there is little chance of gaining important insight into the needs of the users. If you don’t understand your users, how can you enchant them?

Chapter 2: How to Achieve Likability

Chapter 3: How to Achieve Trustworthiness

Chapters 2 and 3 pertain to getting to know your users. The Library 2.0 Model stresses that getting to know your non-users is equally, if not more, important than knowing your users (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007). Enchantment allows you to connect with potential users in order to design a product (or library) that will meet the needs of a potential user base. Kawasaki encourages readers to interact with potential users in real time, get out into the community, find shared passions, and embrace differences in order to learn what users need. He recommends being a Mensch, a Yiddish connotation that means being honest, fair, kind, and transparent.

It sounds like a Kindergarten lesson but these traits are directly related to building a participatory library. As Stephens stresses, the Hyperlinked Library model is a human model (2018). If we are to create libraries that are holistic, responsive, and human-centric, we need to begin with basic human skills. In an article titled Librarian Superpowers, Stephens recounts a professional development activity in which librarians concluded that librarian superpowers involved the “ability to listen closely to the community, take a fearless approach to community engagement, and leap obstacles to service in a single bound” (2017, par. 7).

Chapter 10: How to Enchant Your Employees.

Personally, I was a bit surprised that Kawasaki didn’t begin his book with employees. According to Dennings (2015), libraries are competing in the Creative Economy, a marketplace based on the computer age that has shifted the balance of power from the seller to the buyer. According to Dennings, “unless customers and users are delighted, they can and will take their business elsewhere” (par. 22). He goes on to explain that the creative economy runs on a horizontal management principle, rather than the traditional top down vertical approach, in which self-organizing teams are delivering value to users and receiving constant feedback. According to Casey and Savastinuk (2007), “those who work regularly with library customers have valuable insight into what your users want” (p.47). Matthews states that innovation is a culture and it is the responsibility of the administration to foster and inspire the entrepreneurial spirit (2012).

Kawasaki opens chapter 10 with this paragraph: “Here’s another Japanese word” bakatare. It means “stupid” or “foolish,” and it’s the perfect description of people who think disenchanted employees can enchant customers” (p. 151). In order to enchant employees, Kawasaki stresses three points: provide opportunity for employees to achieve mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Mastery means that employees have the chance to get better at something. Whether through professional development or new tasks, the opportunity for personal growth in an area of interest will keep employees stimulated and help them invest in the organization. As Kawasaki subtly puts it, “who wants to suck at something you do for eight hours a day?” (p. 152). Autonomy means that management trusts employees to make sound decisions based on their competency. Purpose has to do with how the organization is making the world a better place. Most people who work in a library get into the business to achieve such meaningful purpose. Allowing these wonderful people to pursue this goal is smart. Libraries benefit when staff are encouraged to use their mastery in an autonomous and purposeful way. This leads to innovation and community building within and beyond the walls of the library.

Chapter 10 also includes a section on enchanting volunteers. Allowing passionate community members to invest in their library in meaningful and constructive ways creates an invaluable and financially viable resource and a direct connection to the community.


Kawasaki’s book, targeted toward marketers, is sound insight for library management. Library leaders can and should look beyond the field of librarianship for inspiration and guidance. In order for libraries to thrive in a modern, creative economy, they must understand the modern consumer. Looking to experts in business, trends, futurism, and education will help librarians build relevant, responsive libraries that keep pace in a rapidly changing world.


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

Dennings, S. (April 28, 2015). Do we need libraries? [blog post]. Retrieved from (August 28, 2013). Guy Kawasaki: Creating enchantment. Retrieved from

Goodreads. (n.d.) Enchantment: The art of changing hearts, minds, and actions [reviews]. Retrieved from

Matthews, B. (2012). Think like a startup. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2018). The Hyperlinked Library Model [lecture].

Stephens, M. (September 20, 2017). Librarian superpowers [blog post]. Retrieved from