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 https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=user-designed-libraries-design4impact

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 https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/At-new-teen-library-space-nobody-s-hissing-6336358.php

Pewhairangi, S. (2014). A beautiful obsession. Retrieved from https://287.hyperlib.sjsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/WEVE_May_2014.pdf

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 http://www.ala.org/alsc/compubs/childrenlib

Zaharako, S. (2015). Information barriers faced by tweens (unpublished research paper). San Jose State University, San Jose, California. Retrieved from http://www.sarahjozaharako.com/research-paper.html

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 https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/28/do-we-need-libraries/?utm_campaign=ForbesTech&utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_channel=Technology&linkId=13831539#54796e0a6cd7

Entrepreneurship.org (August 28, 2013). Guy Kawasaki: Creating enchantment. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRitd2RXrdM

Goodreads. (n.d.) Enchantment: The art of changing hearts, minds, and actions [reviews]. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9895917-enchantment?from_search=true

Matthews, B. (2012). Think like a startup. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/bitstream/handle/10919/18649/Think%20like%20a%20STARTUP.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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

Stephens, M. (September 20, 2017). Librarian superpowers [blog post]. Retrieved from https://sjsu-ischool.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Viewer.aspx?id=2d0f28cc-2337-4aaf-ae88-4f133c509f67


Applying the Hyperlinked Library Model

The future of libraries depends on patrons’ perception. School libraries are in a unique position to influence young patrons’ attitudes about libraries at an age when they are developing life-long library habits. This begins with determining who our users are and what are their needs and desires. In a school, it might seem obvious that all the students are library users. Indeed, all the students are obligated to attend weekly library classes and are heavily encouraged to check out books. This does not guarantee that the library has made a positive impression or has met the needs of all the students. Indeed, forcing an active child to sit quietly through storytime then forcing them to check out a book may damage their relationship with the library long-term. What we need is a participatory library in which each child holds a stake. In describing the Library 2.0 model, Casey and Savastinuk emphasize the need for constant evaluation and feedback (2007). Denning states that, by asking the right questions, librarians may determine the future direction of their libraries (2015). Inspired by these writings, I decided to start the school year with a simple questionnaire designed to harvest user information from the fifth grade students. My goal was to better understand those students who seemed to dread library class, were reluctant to participate in activities, rarely visited the library outside of class, or demonstrated resistance (to put it politely). In other words, I targeted the “Long Tail of potential users”, hoping to empower them to participate in creating a more relevant library (Casey and Savastinuk, 2007).

I gathered feedback in two ways. First, I created a simple survey on Piktochart, which is a simple, user-friendly tool for creating infographics, presentations, and flyers.

HRS Library Survey

(click the above link to see a clear version)


After completing the survey, students were asked to imagine their dream library. They described their ideas on paper leaves, which we will use to create a tree with the heading, “My Library Is . . .”.

The user feedback was surprising. Sure, a lot of kids confirmed that the library should be a quiet place with lots of books to read. But many users hope the library can be a place to take a break from the hectic nature of the school. They want more interactive projects, especially using technology. They want more independence during library class to explore our online resources. They like being read to even though they’re big kids. Stephens outlines six characteristics of an effective school library, which directly align with my students’ feedback. These are curiosity; exploration; transparency and openness; creativity; flexibility; and play (Stephens, 2017). Schmidt takes this a step further and reminds us to examine our long-held assumptions and be open to how we contextualize new ideas (2014). This is particularly true in a school library, which is simultaneously a classroom, social space, and discovery zone. What else could it become? Stay tuned for updates as we attempt to conceptualize our school library.


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 https://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2015/04/28/do-we-need-libraries/?utm_campaign=ForbesTech&utm_source=TWITTER&utm_medium=social&utm_channel=Technology&linkId=13831539#54796e0a6cd7

Schmidt, A. (2014). Exploring context. Library Journal 139(8), p. 22.

Stephens, M. (March 2, 2010). The hyperlinked school library: Engage, explore, celebrate [blog post]. Retrieved from http://tametheweb.com/2010/03/02/the-hyperlinked-school-library-engage-explore-celebrate/

PREFACE to Future Blogs


A couple weeks ago, my plan for this semester took a little turn. Although I vowed not to work a full-time job until I finished grad school, I have suddenly found myself working 50 hours a week. Last year I had a wonderful librarian apprenticeship at a K-12 school. I worked as a library assistant for two generous and experienced librarians who taught me everything from processing books to designing programs, leading classes, and running the many specialized systems needed for the two fully functional libraries in that school. The night before school started this semester, one of the librarians fell down the stairs and shattered a bone in her arm. She asked if I would act as interim librarian until she could return in October. It was a no-brainer: not only am I the only available person familiar with the elementary library systems and students, this was a way for me to repay my mentor for everything she’d taught me. But let me tell you, this job is a hum-dinger! I’m also trying to maintain my part-time jobs (I’ll need them when the sub position ends) and then there’s my three kids…

This situation requires a bit of creativity. The solution to not going crazy with so many moving pieces is to grasp the connectivity of those pieces. Although MLIS coursework could easily topple my house of cards, the Hyperlinked Library offers an opportunity to glue it all together. The concepts in the Hyperlinked Model apply directly to my surprise role as librarian. Stay tuned for Reflection #1



Hello Fellow Hyperlinkers,

Welcome to my new site, still under construction. I am excited to begin this course and to explore new possibilities for connecting people with ideas and curiosities. My primary LIS field is youth services but I am interested in all areas of public librarianship. After 20 years as a professional musician, I expanded into librarianship in order to participate in a broad community, support human rights through equitable services, and fascilitate meaningful connections. I’m hoping this course will strengthen the tech skills I already have, and give me the confidence and common sense to navigate a constantly evolving world of communications. I would like to feel more independent in my ability to troubleshoot tech issues and understand “how things work” in order to use tech in a creative and social way. For me, this involves feeling organized with the technology I use. For example, when I first encounter a new platform (like this blog) I don’t know where anything is so I stress that I’ll miss important information or lose my work. It takes a little while not to feel overwhelmed but, after nearly 4 years of SJSU, I know I’ll get it soon. I’m sure I’ll feel more solid after this course.

Here’s a couple favorite photos. I have 3 kids, who start school on Monday 🙂 and a dog who LOVES to bark. He just loves it. Can’t wait to connect with you all…. best, -SJo