Folksonomies and Social-Tagging

by Kate Baker

Introduction

Folksonomies were recognized around the beginning of the 21st century as new internet phenomena in which users, not professionals, added their own keywords (tags) to information objects. These tags could then be used by anyone to sort and share items. Folksonomy,  a portmanteau of folk and taxonomy (Vander Wal, 2007), became the word most commonly used to refer to this system of tagging, though ethnoclassification, social classification, and distributed classification persist as commonly used synonyms. As Park notes in her article A Conceptual Framework to Study Folksonomic Interaction, many of the terms in this field are used interchangeably, such as tagging system and folksonomy (Park, 2011, p. 516). However, there are key distinctions between terms. Tagging is the actual process of creating one or more keyword labels (tags) and associating them with a digital information object, such as a website, picture, video, or even a library catalog record. A folksonomy is the classification system that arises from these tags. This paper explores examples of web-based folksonomies as well as how libraries are integrating folksonomies into their catalogs; advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of tags and folksonomies; and where the technology may be headed in the next few years.

Folksonomies vs. traditional classification

Folksonomic classification varies from established metadata schemes in a number of ways. Library classification schemes, to this point, have focused on a top-down categorization using indexes, controlled vocabularies, and hierarchies (Park, 2011, pp. 519-20). However, as most librarians who provide reference services discover, this top-down categorization often uses words that are either unfamiliar or unintuitive to most online public access computer (OPAC) users.

An example of this is the children’s picture book Olivia by Ian Falconer. Olivia is a spunky, red-dress-wearing trouble-maker. She is also a pig. A common keyword search combination created by a patron who can’t remember the title of the book and is used to using Google and Amazon might be “children’s book pig dress.” An Amazon general keyword search in all categories returns Olivia by Ian Falconer as the fourth result (amazon.com, March 3, 2012). This same keyword search in Google returns the official Olivia website as the tenth result with several earlier results referencing the book or author (google.com, March 3, 2012). When this keyword string is entered into the OPAC search for the LYNX! Consortium, the search garners only one result which is not Olivia (www.mld.org, March 3, 2012). Even in WorldCat, Olivia doesn’t show up on the default relevance sorted list of results until sixty-eighth (worldcat.org, March 3, 2012). A look at the subject headings shows the lengthy “Olivia (Fictitious character : Falconer) – Juvenile fiction” and “Swine – Juvenile fiction” as the first two related subjects in WorldCat (worldcat.org, 2012) while “Swine – Juvenile fiction” and “Children – Conduct of life – Juvenile fiction” are the first two subject headings from the LYNX! Consortium (www.mld.org, March 3, 2012).

As evidenced by this example, it is unlikely that a patron will find Olivia through either a keyword search (if they don’t recall the title) or by subject headings. It is even less likely that a child searching for the book would find it in this way. While many argue that the role of librarians is to facilitate this type of search and to provide the necessary reference for these patrons, the fact is that library search systems are increasingly being developed to allow patrons to perform searches on their own. Indeed, most OPAC systems are accessible to patrons 24 hours a day via the internet. This is a service that many patrons have come to desire and expect. The likelihood is that library cataloging (through the use of subject headings) has not kept up with improved service to patrons. This means that libraries have provided patrons with the services they’ve asked for without ensuring that patrons know how to use these services.

One of the main problems with LC subject headings is the structure. The hierarchical subcategories separated by dashes is obscure for most patrons. Further, many find the selection of the words used in the subject headings to be just as confusing. For example, while it may seem perfectly reasonable to a cataloging professional to search for items about World War II under the Library of Congress subject heading “World War, 1939-1945,” most patrons using the catalog will be unacquainted with this type of terminology. This is the type of categorization Shirky discusses in his article Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags where he argues that a collaborative agreement created from the bottom up, that is by the users, is more valid than one view imposed from the top down, by professionals (Shirky, 2005). Willey cites Mathes argument that the community’s influence over users’ tags creates a de facto top-down organization. For example, when users add or edit their tags for an object based on what others in the community have done, the community creates a controlled vocabulary on their terms (Willey, 2011). Furthermore, Willey cites research from Stvilia and Jorgensen which indicates that group moderated collections within a folksonomy also exhibit a top-down mentality (Willey, 2011).

Speller continues this discussion by explaining Surowiecki’s four steps needed to develop this collaborative agreement: diverse opinions, independent decision-making, decentralization of power, and a way of aggregating opinions (Speller, 2007). Tagging and folksonomies provide users with the means of reaching this collaborative agreement. Because most current systems that facilitate tagging don’t require any sort of text verification or controlled vocabulary, the diversity of opinions allowed in tagging is limitless and users independently select which tags they will use. As there are no professionals or catalogers, the power in the system is always in the hands of the users. Finally, folksonomies provide the aggregation of these opinions in the form of systems such as Flickr, LibraryThing, and Pinterest.

Park relates tagging and folksonomies to information foraging and scent theory. Park explains foraging as “looking to see what is available, browsing and gathering, relatedness” (p. 518) while information scent is explained as the “user’s perception of the value and cost of accessing a piece of information based on perceptual clues available (p. 516). Folksonomies, by presenting tag clouds, improve the user’s perception of related resources. A tag cloud is a visual grouping of the words that all users have attached to an object through tagging. Words are usually ranked in a tag cloud by frequency, so that the larger a word appears in the grouping, the more people have used that tag in association with the object. This collection of perceptual clues gives the user the opportunity to follow the information scent to objects that other users have labeled as relevant. If a user searched for the tags “dog training,” a tag cloud might appear with “dog behavior” and “Cesar Millan,” allowing the user to click through and access other objects through foraging and scent.

Opponents have been quick to point out that tagging and folksonomies provide a number of difficulties in terms of information organization. First, and foremost, is the lack of any regulation or standardization for tags. Free text means just that users can enter whatever text they want, from keywords to punctuation to numbers to sentences. Other contributing factors to this lack of precision include variations between sites in what types of tags are allowed. Some only allow one word, so spaces may be left out between words to comply with this requirement (such as spaceshuttle) while other tagging sites allow anything within a certain character count. This means even a single user may not be able to guarantee uniformity to their own tags spread across a number of different folksonomies. Combined with differences in languages, plural and singular word forms, synonyms, and misspellings, it seems unlikely that any defined set of useful tags would arise from varied users (Willey, 2011). However, Avery points out that “one of collective indexing’s greatest strengths” [is] “the ability to quickly overcome sub-par agent-level indexing through a rapid emergence of stability at the global level” (Avery, 2010).

Several studies have shown that folksonomies provide a number of user services that are not currently being met through traditional cataloging. According to the research quoted by Willey, LCSH have a limited cross-over with user-created tags, meaning objects are classified using two sets of distinct terminology. As a result, user queries have fewer zero-hit results since their search terms are likely to be found either in the user-created tags or LCSH which improves access to objects (Willey, 2011). The tendency of folksonomies to self-correct means that, generally, the more useful an object, the more users tag it. The more users tag it, the greater the number of tags and the more likely it becomes that tags applied to the object become increasingly easier to discover.

The three most common types of metadata shed light on the likelihood that folksonomies will replace traditional library cataloging. As enumerated by the 2004 NISO booklet Understanding Metadata, metadata is categorized as descriptive, structural, or administrative. Descriptive metadata refers to information about an object that can be used for discovery, such as title, author, and subject. This is the type of metadata that tagging can best capture, as most users tag descriptively to help them find articles or images later. Structural metadata describes “how compound objects are put together,” while administrative metadata gives information about when and how an object was created as well as how that object has been modified or adapted over time (NISO, 2004, pp. 1). Tagging has been least successful at capturing structural or administrative metadata simply because most users don’t find it helpful in accessing objects in the future.

To further understand this, it is helpful to examine the needs of three types of metadata creators: professionals, authors, and users (Speller, 2007). Up until the last few decades, nearly all cataloging and categorization has been completed by professionals: information scientists and librarians. Professionals are deeply committed to publishing all three types of metadata. Descriptive metadata helps them find objects (and helps them help users find objects); structural metadata provides necessary information about the organization of an object; and administrative metadata helps professionals track and assess the authority of an object, as well as ensure proper maintenance, rights management, and preservation.

As authors move beyond creating content to publishing their content (whether physically or online), it has become more useful for them to create metadata associated with that object. Authors are likely to find administrative metadata quite useful. An author who publishes digital pictures may find that having metadata recording the creation date as well as adaptations and changes to the object will help them manage their photos and collection over time. Additionally, this author is likely to include rights management metadata in the object to ensure proper attribution. Finally, authors may also use descriptive metadata, though to a lesser degree than users, to help them organize, group, and find objects.

End users generally don’t require any of the administrative metadata that professionals and authors find valuable. Because users are most often using metadata (in the form of tags) to store resources for later recall, their choices will be specific to that purpose. For example, if a user is compiling resources about kitchen design, structural and administrative metadata do not prove useful for future retrieval via keyword (tag) searches, while descriptive metadata does. Adding descriptive tags such as “kitchen” to all objects in their collection, “table” to some objects, “lighting” to another subset of objects, and so on, the user will be able to access any or all of these related items through querying a single word. However, if the user adds administrative tags describing the creation date of objects in the collection, there will be little significance in the groupings, and, in the absence of descriptive metadata, the user would have to seek out each item individually by recalling the creation date.

Images on the web post a unique set of problems. While a number of folksonomies exist for images, such as Flickr, the very personal nature of many images, and the specificity of terms used to facilitate retrieval, makes tags nearly meaningless for collaborative purposes. For example, names are a common tag type in Flickr, and unless the person named is famous, they hold little value for other users. The flip-side of this argument is the low likelihood that the images themselves will hold value for other users.

A website that attempts to address this issue is Games with a Purpose (Gwap). Gwap provides a number of “games” that encourage players to generate metadata for images, songs, and videos. In the ESP Game, two random users are paired and shown the same image. Users type in words that they believe describe the image and/or that their partner may choose. When both agree on a word, it is recorded and the players move on to a new picture. These tags are then associated with the images and affect search engine query results in the future (Gwap, 2008).

The future of folksonomies

Folksonomies have the potential to change library catalogs. Based on the data and studies available at present, it seems unlikely that folksonomies will replace traditional metadata structures. The evidence does suggest that a hybrid approach can improve recall, search result relevancy, and usability. While not all integrated library systems (ILS) will support incorporating folksonomic techniques into the user interface, Willey offers a number of examples of libraries that have integrated tagging into their catalogs. The University of Pennsylvania’s PennTags system allows users to tag URLs, journal articles, and OPAC records without limits (Willey, 2005). The California State University-Northridge Oviatt Library uses LibraryThing for Libraries tags (2011). LibraryThing attempts to mitigate problems with tagging by providing a database of 84 million tags, and using a review process to determine whether new descriptors facilitate location (LibraryThing for Libraries, 2010).

Folksonomies, and the ways that they support user-generated metadata, are evolving. Organizations like Gwap give users incentive to improve search engine query results by providing entertainment. Such creative approaches are low cost and may prove even more effective as user data drives improvements. New and better social tagging sites are made available each year. Some, like Delicious, Flickr, and Pinterest, garner huge public responses and support, rapidly developing into giant folksonomies almost overnight.

The success of folksonomies offers libraries an opportunity to provide better service.  By understanding search behaviors such as information scent, foraging, and community generated subject terminology, libraries can adapt tools to meet the needs of their patrons. Making library processes more user-friendly and intuitive increases their relevance and utility. In an increasingly visual world, descriptive metadata has become king. What better way to capture the discoverability of objects through descriptive metadata than by providing federated search systems that incorporate folksonomies.

Kate Baker is the Bookmobile Coordinator for the Meridian Library District and is working on her MLIS.

Resources

Avery, J.M. (2010). The democratization of metadata: Collective tagging, folksonomies and Web 2.0. Library Student Journal, 5. Retrieved from http://www.librarystudentjournal.org/index.php/lsj/article/view/135/268

Gwap. (2008, May 13). Hello world [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blog.gwap.com/2008/05/hellow-world.html

LibraryThing for Libraries. (2010). Catalog enhancements. Retrieved from http://www.librarything.com/forlibraries/

National Information Standards Organization. (2004). Understanding metadata. Retrieved from http://www.niso.org/publications/press/UnderstandingMetadata.pdf

Park, H. (2011). A Conceptual Framework to Study Folksonomic Interaction. Knowledge Organization, 38(6), 515-529. Available from http://www.isko.org/ko.html

Shirky, C. (2005). Ontology is overrated [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.shirky.com/writings/ontology_overrated.html

Speller, E. (2007). Collaborative tagging, folksonomies, distributed classification or ethnoclassification: a literature review. Library Student Journal, 2(1), 1. Retrieved from http://www.librarystudentjournal.org/index.php/lsj/article/view/45/58

Vander Wal, T. (2007, February 2). Folksonomy coinage and definition [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://vanderwal.net/folksonomy.html

Willey, E. (2011). A cautious partnership: The growing acceptance of folksonomy as a complement to indexing digital images and catalogs. Library Student Journal, 15. Retrieved from http://www.librarystudentjournal.org/index.php/lsj/article/view/227/314

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Spring 2012, v. 62, no. 1

Welcome to the Spring 2012 issue of The Idaho Librarian! We feel that the new platform on WordPress is working well in presenting the Idaho Library Association’s journal publication. Please enjoy the articles and feel free to comment or share using WP’s features.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Spring 2012, v. 62, no. 1

Editor’s Note

Something for Everyone, Everywhere

Peer Review

The Horror, the Horror: Graduate Student Information Seeking and Horror in Academia Bibliography by Lizzy Walker

Featured Articles

Getting Bombed in Boise: Yarn Bombing and Libraries by Ruth Patterson Funabiki

Library Advocacy – An Annotated Bibliography by Cheryl Hoover

Basques in the American West: An Annotated Bibliography by Sonja Humphries

The USA PATRIOT Act by Teresa Lucas

Tech Talk

Technology and Teens: A Winning Combination by Erica Compton and Sue Walker

Using Google Apps to Teach an Online Course by Memo Cordova

Teacher Technology Grant a Boon for School Library by Becky Proctor

New York Public Library’s Biblion App: A Review by Lizzy Walker

Field Notes

Idaho Legislative Committee by Becca Stroebel Kabasa and Audra Green

The University Authors Recognition Reception at Boise State University: A Celebration of Scholarship by Julia Stringfellow and Michelle Armstrong

ALA Resolutions:  Why do they do that? by Gina Persichini

Perspectives

Opportunity of a Lifetime: ALA Emerging Leaders Program by Kristi Brumley

2011 Boise Public Library Community Survey submitted by Joanne Hinkel

Everywhere You Want to Be by Kathryn Poulter

Reviews

Working the Land: The Stories of Ranch and Farm Women in the Modern American West [Review] reviewed by Laura Abbott

The Girls of No Return [Review] reviewed by Sue B. Bello

Body of a Dancer [Review] reviewed by Ellie Dworak

ALA Guide to Economics & Business Reference [Review] reviewed by Melissa Gains

Destination Idaho [Review] reviewed by Spencer Jardine

Cecil Andrus: Idaho’s Greatest Governor: A Reminiscence [Review] reviewed  by Becca Stroebel Kabasa

A Year of Programs for Teens 2 [Review] reviewed by Gena Marker

Small Business and the Public Library:  Strategies for a Successful Partnership [Review] reviewed by Jill Mitchell

How the Mistakes Were Made [Review] reviewed by Heidi Naylor

Embattled Ecumenism: The National Council of Churches, the Vietnam War, and the Trials of the Protestant Left [Review] reviewed by Kent Randell

Writing and Publishing: The Librarian’s Handbook [Review] reviewed by Lizzy Walker

Articles prior to Fall 2011 are archived HERE.

Your feedback on our new format is welcome; just email the editor and let us know what you think.

Joint-Use Libraries: An Annotated Bibliography

by Cheryl Hoover

Introduction

Libraries are noted for sharing resources and look for ways to serve the most users in the most economical fashion . Library administration and staff are experienced in creating cooperative agreements to meet goals and improve service. They partner to form consortia to increase purchasing power, share bibliographic catalogs,as well as lend and borrow materials reciprocally through interlibrary loan. Entering into a joint-use agreement with another organization takes partnership and cooperation to the next level.

Joint-use libraries serve two or more distinct user communities through shared governance and cooperation. This idea has been around for a long time but has become more familiar to the public and library professionals with the completion of some major joint-use projects. There are different models of joint-use libraries but, in general, they operate from the same building using a combination of staff from both organizations. There are many advantages to libraries combining resources into a dual-use facility.  Joint-use libraries capitalize on using each other’s assets and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses.  For example, one library may have a larger staff and collection; whereas, the other library may have land available to build a library. Combined libraries provide longer hours of service, provide access to more resources, and offer increased programming options to library users.  The staff of joint-use libraries grow through the cross-sharing of ideas and skills. There are an array of joint-use agreements formed today between libraries, including public and academic libraries and school and public libraries.

Strategic partnerships between joint-use libraries are complex by nature even on the smallest scale.  There are many important legal and operational considerations regarding the merger of separate institutions. Difficulties arise despite best efforts to anticipate and head-off potential problems with the shared governance model. Merging staff into one harmonious group is tricky and is one of the largest challenges for joint-use libraries. Different staffing and pay structures, varying organizational cultures, and dissimilar staff practices or role confusion factor into the joint-use facility’s ability to assimilate staff into a cohesive, positive workforce.

This annotated bibliography provides suggested reading material to library administration and staff considering a strategic alliance with another library. The readings are divided into four areas. The first article provides basic information on important considerations that must be addressed when forming a joint-use library partnership. The second section provides articles with research findings on joint-use libraries. The third section provides articles with examples of actual joint-use partnerships. The final article takes a look at the future of joint-use libraries. Will this model grow in popularity?

The Basics

Henderson, J. (2007). Exploring the combined public/school library. Knowledge Quest, 35(3). 34-37.

Henderson discusses the basics requirements and issues important to the merging of two libraries into a joint-use facility.  The early planning process requires each entity to define their respective roles and input should come from all constituents including the public. An open discussion that articulates needs and concerns and discusses strengths and weaknesses  helps create a win-win situation for both entities.

Careful consideration of location of the new facility is important.  School libraries should be close to classrooms; whereas, public libraries should be located in an active part of the community.  Architects and staff need to consider important aspects respective to both user communities such as entrance areas, parking, children and adult space, outdoor lighting, meeting rooms, hours of operation, and more.  Communication and commitment of staff is essential to the success of the venture. Staff and management need to work out the details of the daily operations of the joint-use library. Contracts detailing the specifics of funding are critical to the success of the operation.  Other important requirements include developing a collection development policy that addresses the needs of all patrons and includes details of the physical arrangement of the collection that provides the best access to library users. For example, are the collections of each institution combined or kept in separate areas?

The final component is to create a formal and informal process to continually evaluate the partnership. The ongoing feedback is necessary to improve the functionality of the library and best serve the needs of the users.

This article was selected because it addressed basic concerns for the formation of a joint-use library.  It seemed like a good introduction to set the stage for more complete research articles and specific examples of joint-use facilities.

Research Findings

Calvert, P. J. (2010). Why do staff of joint-use libraries sometimes fail to integrate? Investigating cultures and ethics in a public-tertiary joint-use library. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(2), 133-140. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2010.01.003

Calvert discusses how the organizational culture, professional ethics and staff attitudes affect the success of a the Waitakere Central Library joint-use library in Auckland, New Zealand. This library exists as a shared facility between the Waitakere  Public Libraries and the Unitec Institute of Technology. The building is located on Unitec’s Henderson campus. A common weakness of joint-use libraries is the inability of staff for the different institutions to work together harmoniously. Calvert studied the cultures and values of the staff of both partners, using focus groups in order to obtain qualitative information that provided insight into how the separate groups think and feel.

There are many factors that contribute to a shared staff’s inability to function cohesively within the joint-use library.  Librarians learn their roles through organizational culture and through interactions with staff and customers. Focus group participants mostly agreed on their top three important values as librarians; however, academic librarians valued information literacy and the public librarians placed more value on intellectual freedom. Calvert’s findings showed a lack of formal and informal communication between the partners, which reduces the likelihood of cultures successfully uniting.  A lack of integration between the staff of these libraries decreased the success and benefits that comes from sharing ideas.

Disagreement occurred regarding customer service outcomes.  The public library staff felt library users should leave with something and the Unitec staff focused on educating users on how to find the information themselves.  The joint-use library lacked a shared collection development policy and each partner had different philosophies in regards to such policies.  For example, the public library believed in aggressive weeding practices and the Unitec staff preferred to keep older materials for future research value.

The Calvert article was selected because of the qualitative research on how cultures and ethics affect staff integration of joint-use libraries.

Matthews, K. (2008). The critical success factors for school and community joint use libraries in New Zealand. Australian Public Libraries and Information Services(Aplis), 21(1), 13-24.

There are more than 30 joint-use libraries in New Zealand who serve communities, ranging in population from a few hundred people to several thousand.  These joint-use libraries generally take the form of a combined school and public library. They fill a void, particularly in rural areas, following the loss of major financial support by the National Library . Matthews discusses research on the factors critical to the success and effectiveness of New Zealand joint-use libraries and presents a comparison of those success factors with success factors of joint-use libraries on the international level.

The study surveyed as many of the dual school/community libraries as possible with three goals in mind for the project: 1) determining critical success factors important for the success of joint libraries, 2) determine if these factors vary significantly from factors identified in the international literature review, and 3) determine how to plan and manage to maximize future success. Three of the surveyed libraries were chosen to provide additional research data by participating in observations and interviews of staff.

Matthew provides a general summary and analysis of the survey data. The author concludes there are similar success factors between New Zealand joint-use libraries and those identified in overseas literature with the exception of a stronger dependence on volunteers in New Zealand. The author’s overseas literature review found more disharmony and failure in joint-use libraries than what was found in the New Zealand survey results. Lastly, the outlook for joint-use libraries in New Zealand remains positive if the survey results are reliable and if all planning and management success factors are observed.

This article was included for its research on success factors and because it provided an international perspective.

Joint-Use Library Models

Fontenot, M. J. (2007). A case for an integrated model of community college and public use libraries. Public Libraries, 46(4), 46-49.

The College Hill Library in Colorado is used as a case study for Fontenot’s article on joint-use libraries. This partnership was formed between the Colorado State Board for Community Colleges and the City of Westminster to provide a dual use library to serve the communities of Westminster and the Front Range Community College. The library opened in 1998 and the costs were shared sixty/forty with the community college assuming the larger percentage.

Fontenot identifies challenges that must be addressed for a joint venture to be successful. Communication and planning are critical to success. Staff from both institutions should be involved in planning and encouraged to interact with each other to increase staff buy-in of the project. Good working relationships between staff and administrators is vital.  To facilitate communication, regular staff meetings are suggested.

Academic and public librarians can both learn valuable skills by working with each other’s patrons. A public librarian can learn to educate the user in becoming self sufficient when seeking information and an academic librarian can learn to adapt to the high volume requests and the need to find information quickly common to public libraries. Patrons benefit by having more access to different types of material and professional expertise. Children who use a library of this type are exposed earlier to post-secondary education than children than what is considered usual.

This article was selected because it provided an example of a successful partnership between a community college library and a public library and discussed important challenges that must be overcome.

Marie, K. L. (2007). One plus one equals three: Joint-use libraries in urban areas–the ultimate form of library cooperation. Library Administration and Management, 21(1). 23-28.

Joint-use libraries involve different types of partners and have unique structures based on their community needs.  The author provides two examples of successful large-scale joint-use academic and public library facilities and the issues they faced:  Nova Southeastern University/Broward County Public Library in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and San Jose State University/San Jose Public Library in San Jose, California. Both partnerships overcame both similar and unique challenges to make their partnerships a reality.

Nova Southeastern University serves a private enrollment of 29,000 students and Broward County has a population of over 1.7 million residents.  After two years of planning, they combined forces to build a 325,000 square foot library, which is one of the largest joint-use libraries in the world. Their 54 page agreement addresses issues such as ownership, funding, staffing,  job functions, and more to ensure effective and relevant service and programming to all library patrons.

San Jose State University enjoys a population of about 28,000 students and is located centrally in San Jose, which has a population of 900,000. The initial idea to form a joint-use library began in 1994 but serious efforts did not begin until three years later when funding problems became more serious for the city.  The nine story building enjoys 477,000 square feet and cost $177.5 million. This joint-use plan received much more public opposition than that of Nova Southeastern/Broward County but is a success with 12,000 patrons visiting the library on a daily basis.

This article was included because of its focus on two large-scale models of successful joint-use libraries.

Powers, J. (2007). A library for all. American School Board Journal, 194(8), 50-51.

Different types of entities combine forces to establish joint-use libraries. Powers discusses a joint-use agreement between a county library and a public school district. The North Valley Regional Library serves two small communities north of Phoenix, Arizona and is the first joint-use library in the district. The school district initially approached the community developer and library district to establish the joint-use library that would also provide service to school-age students.  The intergovernmental agreement provides details on financial terms for maintaining the facility and for collection development.

Planning research of other similar joint-use libraries discovered important items necessary to ensure success of this joint-use school/public facility. The library should be separate from the school and have separate entrances.  The library needs to be visible from the street and have available parking.  School monitors should be available following school hours to help manage the post-school rush hour traffic.

The joint-use facility has been acknowledged by the industry for its focus on students of all levels and to the community and won a citation from judges in the 2006 ASBJ’s Learning by Design contest.  Programs for all ages from children through adult are part of the success of this library.  They’ve forged strategic partnerships with the Phoenix Zoo and Phoenix Suns basketball team.  The efforts of North Valley to create a successful joint-use library partnership has led it to become a prototype for other joint-use facilities.

This article was selected for the bibliography because it was a forerunner and model in its community in the creation of joint-use libraries.

Smith, D. A. (2009). Joining together for a new era in Hull’s history. Library & Information Update, 8(1/2), 62-63.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant and matching funding provided the money necessary to create a joint-use partnership called the Hull History Centre. The likelihood of a library to win a Heritage Lottery Fund grants is slim. Hull enjoyed the key support of community members and many important constituents, including elected officials, library/council managers, and university administrators who are committed to ensuring access to the rich history of Hull.

This new facility combines the Local Studies Library, the Hull City Archives, and the University of Hull Archives collections. The building is located in the center of the United Kingdom city of Hull. Combining the three collections under one roof provides better access and service to patrons and allows for more hours of operation.

Staff includes librarians and archivists and maintain their original job titles and are cross trained to work between the disciplines to provide efficient service to the public.  The building enjoys a green space, which is becoming more and more unusual for city facilities. The facility offers a variety of spaces. There’s a lecture hall that seats 120 people, a library area, teaching and activities spaces, archival or rare item areas, and microform/IT space.

This article was selected as it demonstrates the importance of advocacy groups and provides an example of different entities combining to provide a joint-use facility that is important to the local community and beyond.

The Future

McNicol, S. (2008). A whole in one. Public Library Journal, 23(4), 20-25.

McNicol provides the history of joint-use libraries and comments that while they have been around for more than a century, the awareness of this library model has recently increased due to the completion of some large scale joint-use library projects. There are different models of joint-use libraries. Examples include:  school/public, university/public, college/university, college/public, government/university, and tourist information/public.  Most agreements are formed between two entities; however, agreements between multiple entities are becoming more popular.

Joint-use libraries benefit the community by encouraging an inclusiveness and providing access to an increased amount of information and resources to users that would have been otherwise denied.   McNicol believes that the inclusive nature of a joint-use library model improves community cohesion and builds a fairer, more equitable society. For example, in a public/university model, the public library patrons would have improved access to scholarly research material than what would be accessible to them in their local public library.

Financial constraints will result in the formation of a larger variety of joint-use library models with a focus on cooperation between different professions and sectors. These will be collaborative and innovative models of service that bring  diverse user groups together in one environment that is flexible and responsive to their needs. Future models will be user-centered and share a vision and commitment to service. Their design will not resemble that of a particular type of library; they will have their own unique design that appeals to and best serves their broader and more diverse user base.

This article was included because of the author’s opinions regarding the future of the joint-use library model.

Conclusion

The success of joint-use libraries is reliant on many factors. Proper planning and the successful integration of all staff are two crucial components to creating a win-win environment for both partners. The process is complex; there are successful joint-use models and there is some research available for those institutions considering this alternative structure. Tough economic times may necessitate the need for more libraries to look at these partnerships as a viable option for providing library access and service to communities.

Cheryl Hoover has an MLS from the University of North Texas. She works at the Montana State University –Billings Library.

Libraries vs. Google in the 21st Century

by Shawn Behrends  

Recent statistics released by OCLC’s Perception of Libraries, 2010 do bear out the assertion that users rely heavily, if not exclusively, on Internet search engines for information search tasks.  Their survey showed that 84% of respondents reported starting a search on a search engine, and not a single respondent reported beginning on library websites (De Rosa et al., 2011, p. 32).  If libraries have traditionally been the gatekeepers of information people need, how do they maintain relevance in this new information-seeking paradigm?

This essay examines what we mean when we talk about authority and credibility for Internet sources.  It discusses the question of whether free Internet information services like Google really can compete as an alternative to traditional library reference services.  Finally, this essay considers the practical implications for libraries and it offers solutions for living comfortably within the free and open online information landscape.

What Google Offers Users

Users have sound and valid reasons for relying on the Internet for their information needs.  Internet search engines offer information that is self-service, free, and available 24/7 in one’s own home (Anderson, 2005).  The Google web browser has been a driving force in this perception.  Anderson states that “Google has succeeded wildly at finding its users the information they want in return for a minimum investment of time and energy” (p. 32) and Timpson (2011) observes that for searchers Google offers a one-stop shopping experience and a very usable interface.  Critics of the Google-style information search have countered that it returns too many results—and too many irrelevant results—and that most people lack the skills to form an effective search.  Anderson argues that the same could be said for libraries.  They also suffer from information glut and users have no better success formulating effective queries on library websites and databases.  One could argue that they have even less success on these.  What users do get from Google, however, is good enough quality information (Anderson, 2005).

What is quality information?  How do we judge it?  These questions of authority and credibility of Internet information sources have been the object of much debate and are central to whether we, as librarians, allow ourselves to embrace or reject this 21st century reality.  Perhaps no website has been the object of as much derision by the library community as Wikipedia, the online open source encyclopedia.  Yet Wikipedia has proven, over time, to be at least as authoritative as mainstream published encyclopedias (Lankes, 2008).  It is, in fact, verified for accuracy of its scientific articles against the science journal, Nature (Brindley, 2006).

Establishing Authority and Credibility on the Internet

The question of authority—a trusted source—on the Internet is compounded by the problem of so much information, so many choices.  Lankes (2008) has made some very engaging observations about how users navigate the Internet information space, how they choose information sources, and how they make judgments on the credibility of the information they find.  In contrast to the old model of going to the library to consult librarians and trusted resources for credible and authoritative information, Internet users must operate on a self-sufficiency model.  Because Internet users cannot engage physically with the items they encounter, they are dependent on information they can glean about the items.  (For example, one can pick up and examine a book in the bookstore or the library, while one must depend on the information provided about the book on Amazon.com).

Whom does one believe?  Lankes (2008) posits that credibility is derived from trust and expertise.  On the Internet, that means that users are dependent on information provided by others.  According to Lankes, that explains the power and popularity of social web applications of Web 2.0.  The desire to participate and engage the feedback of others is at the heart of credibility on the Internet—and reliability, Lankes claims, is the currency of credibility.  On the Internet, it is reliability that is more powerful than authority.  It is through the consensus of the participatory Web environment that one can determine the reliability of information sources on the Internet.  Establishing authority on the Internet in yet another form comes, very famously, from Google’s PageRank algorithm that is based on consumer input from links generated between web pages (Regalado, 2007).

The implication for libraries is two-fold.  One calls for an attitude adjustment in terms of the message libraries broadcast about authoritative sources and the Internet.  According to Lankes (2008), that has been, generally:  Internet bad.  Library good.  Lankes asserts that the relative ease of use of the Internet and other digital resources makes authoritative sources easy to find, and that because the Internet provides access to raw data (e.g., NOAA for climate data) users feel empowered as authorities.  The second implication is for the services that libraries provide.  As information service providers, libraries need to get on board with social Web applications and the kinds of linked data schemes that allow them to add value and context to the information they already disseminate.  Lankes observes that librarians (and users) must “be fluent in the tools that facilitate the conversation” (p. 682).

Does Google Work Better Than Libraries?

Surprising—to we librarians, at least—is the popular perception that other sites have better information than libraries (Timpson & Sansom, 2011).  Timpson and Sansom conducted a study comparing students’ perceptions and search performance of Google Scholar against library research discovery platforms and databases.  In keyword searches—which were how students actually preferred to search—Google Scholar performed better than the library products.  Students were biased toward the single search box and they were satisfied with the precision and recall of search results on Google Scholar.  Although Google Scholar did not out-perform the library databases for relevance in subject specific areas, the authors noted that the trend in academic libraries seems to be toward the types of Google-like search interfaces that students feel comfortable with.  They also noted that the students’ satisfaction with the Google results may reflect the kind of research documents they prefer.

Practical implications of this research can be drawn for libraries.   Timpson and Sansom (2011) suggest that publishers put more effort into creating the kind of one-stop research experience that students prefer.  Libraries can vote with their pocketbooks to effect these kinds of changes.   Timpson also reflected that Google can be an effective search tool.  Librarians must be proactive in teaching student researchers techniques for getting the best results from Internet searches, and to appreciate the power and the limitations of library databases (Regalado, 2007).

The kind of service Google offers to searchers differs from that of libraries as well.  Beyond the obvious appeal of the convenience of providing search on demand, Anderson (2005) discusses ways in which Google’s search capabilities are superior.  Google’s search is more granular because it can search at the article level.  Libraries’ search engines are not so sophisticated—one can only search as deeply as the title of a book, for example.  Google also has full-text search capability.  Essentially, Anderson observes, Google can search the content.  The library catalog can only deliver the container.  But Google isn’t the only Internet information service that exceeds the online library catalog in granularity.  Amazon.com has announced a new service to make books available at the page and chapter levels (Brindley, 2006).  What does than mean for libraries?  We need to design better search engines.

Strategies for Making the Library’s Online Services More Relevant to Users

Users’ confidence in Internet resources represents a crisis that needs to be met by libraries if they wish to have a presence and be competitive as the “go-to” resource for online research and reference queries.  There are several avenues that libraries can take to respond to this challenge.

Embrace Internet Information Services and Technologies

Anderson (2005) observes the ambivalence of librarians toward services like Google’s.  While publicly they disparage Google, privately they have adopted it in their own information seeking practices.  That approach seems hypocritical and disrespectful to the vast majority of users who view the Internet as a self-service cafeteria for finding the information they need.

Web 2.0 technologies have introduced a number of different tools that are preferred by Internet users and can be adapted by librarians to improve service to their patrons.  These include using instant messaging tools for reference, wikis for pathfinders and subjects guides, and blogs and RSS feeds for library news events (Regalado, 2007).  Libraries have also begun to embrace social networking technologies such as Facebook and Twitter as effective and free communications tools.  All of these tools operate on the conversational principle that has proven to be an important component for users to judge the reliability of Internet resources.

Re-Imagine Reference Services

Reference services are the main point of contact of libraries to information seekers.  Popular and scholarly literature concerning reference services is replete with suggestions for luring patrons away from Google and Wikipedia and into library vetted online resources.  Like many reference service providers, Arndt (2010) recommends helping users to navigate that vast information landscape they encounter on the Internet as a key service that libraries can provide.  Arndt’s literature review reveals that younger users still desire and value the assistance of face-to-face reference services.  Research concerned with keeping library reference services alive and relevant to users includes ideas such as services that require librarians to leave their desks and meet users at computer stations, in the stacks, in academic departments, in coffee shops, and through research skills workshops.  Arndt concludes that researchers still desire reference services but that the way libraries provide these services must change.

Join the Internet Community

Lankes’ (2008) discussion on the importance of user input and conversation for verifying credibility of online resources hints at the need for libraries to employ these social technologies in the online services they provide.  Although the ideals of authority and credibility are implicit in library-sponsored online content (and users recognize that), users have come to expect and prefer these resources that incorporate user feedback and context.

New technologies also allow libraries to link to outside sources.  Newly emerging linked data technologies allow libraries to create a web of links that allow users to access library resources from outside of the library’s websites (Miller & Westfall, 2011).  Thus, users may still begin information searches in Google, but they may discover answers within the library’s resources.  Using linked data schemes libraries can position themselves in the center of Internet information spaces.

Conclusion

Although it is not true that all of the information that users seek can be found on the Internet (the difficulty of accessing the deep web exemplifies this notion), a great deal of information that is good enough to meet the needs of users can be found there (Anderson, 2005).  Many of these sources are, in fact, as authoritative and as credible as those that can be found in libraries (Lankes, 2008).  Lankes reminds us that systems for determining credibility have shifted as Internet users are left to make these judgments on their own.  The conversational exchange that is enabled through social web technologies has filled this credibility gap by allowing Internet users to leverage vast pools of user input (e.g., customer ratings, forums, and complaint sites) to judge the credibility of information based the reliability of its providers.  Sometimes this means that Internet users abandon traditional news service providers in favor blogs and other informal sources or, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina, Lankes (2008) reports that information seekers turned to local chat rooms and community sites to verify contradictory reports.

Libraries must recognize that they are increasingly not at the center of information seeking behaviors of Internet users.  Several strategies, however, can be employed to counter this.  Inside of the physical library and community environments libraries can find innovative ways to push reference services to users.  They can be proactive in educating searchers in more sophisticated search techniques and demonstrate the utility of their database products.  Librarians should be engaged in lobbying electronic resources publishers to create databases with more appealing user interfaces and superior functionality.  Libraries must also take seriously the need to have a presence online and create points of access that make their resources discoverable by Internet browsers.

OCLC’s (De Rosa et al., 2011) 2010 perceptions report reveals that although library resources still rank high for being trustworthy, users have confidence in their abilities to make determinations about Internet sources for themselves—and they are equally as confident about the trustworthiness of the Internet.  Add to that the convenience of information seeking on the Internet and one can only conclude that the library will need to work very diligently to maintain relevance as an online information provider.

Shawn Behrends has an MLS from the University of North Texas. She works at Madison Public Library in Madison, South Dakota.

References

Anderson, R. (2005). The (uncertain) future of libraries in a Google world: Sounding an alarm. Internet      Reference Services Quarterly, 10(3/4), 29-36. doi:10.1300/J136v10n03_04

Arndt, T. S. (2010). Services in a (post)Google world. Reference Services Review, 38(1), 7-9.  doi:10.1108/00907321011020680

Brindley, L. (2006).  Re-defining the library. Library Hi Tech, 24(4), 484-495.  doi:10.1108/07378830610715356

De Rosa, C., Cantrell, J., Carlson, M., Gallagher, M., Hawk, J., Sturtz, C., . . . Oleszewski, L. (2011). Perceptions of libraries, 2010: Context and community : A report to the OCLC membership. Dublin, Ohio: OCLC.

Lankes, D. R. (2008).  Credibility on the Internet: Shifting from authority to reliability, Journal of Documentation, 64(5), 667-686. doi:10.1108/00220410810899709

Miller, E., & Westfall, M. (2011). Linked data and libraries. Serials Librarian, 60(1-4), 17-22. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2011.556427

Regalado, M. (2007). Research authority in the age of Google: Equilibrium sought. Library Philosophy & Practice, 9(3), 1-6.  Retrieved from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/libphilprac/

Timpson, H., & Sansom, G. (2011). A student perspective on e-resource discovery: Has the Google factor changed publisher platform searching forever? Serials Librarian, 61(2), 253-266. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2011.592115

Creative Commons – Saving the Internet One License at a Time

by Michelle Armstrong

Traditionally copyright has been inflexible, creating few opportunities for those who wish to share or use a new work.  Copyright is automatically assigned as soon as an original creation is fixed in a tangible medium.  Although registering a work with the U.S. Copyright Office may be beneficial, is not required for an author to receive the rights and protections provided by the federal law.  Under this system, anyone wanting to use a creation is limited to the allowable uses outlined in the law or must justify their use through a fair use analysis.  All other applications of a work are only allowable if permission has been granted by the author or the organization that owns the rights to the work.  There is no way for an author to communicate other uses that are acceptable to them.  In an information world that now thrives on the sharing and exchange of new information, the restrictions of copyright are onerous and confusing.  It was because of these limitations that the desire for something more proactive came about.  Authors needed a system that would allow them to say up front what they were willing to let people do with their work.  As a result Creative Commons licenses were developed.

Developed by Creative Commons, a non-profit foundation, the licenses are legal agreements that communicate what a person can do with a specific work.  Creative Commons licenses however do not replace the protections provided in the U.S. Copyright law.  Those rights are still retained by the copyright holder and should be respected by anyone wanting to use the work.  With the addition of a Creative Commons license, an author is now able to communicate other uses that are acceptable to them.  They help bridge the gap between the “all rights reserved” environment established by the existing copyright law and the free for all atmosphere prevalent on the web.

Depending on what an author would like to allow, there are certain conditions that they can select from:

Attribution: Regardless of which version of the Creative Commons license that is chosen, all licenses require the user to attribute the work to the original creator.

NonCommercial: Users are limited to only those who wish to use the work for non-profit purposes.

ShareAlike: Users may only use the work if they also share the modified work under the same terms.

NoDerivatives: Authors only allow their work to be utilized as it is.  No one may revise or modify the original creation.

These conditions are then combined in a variety of ways to create six Creative Commons licenses that specify how a work can be used.  These licenses include:

Attribution
Attribution –   ShareAlike
Attribution –   NoDerivatives
Attribution –   NonCommercial
Attribution –   NonCommercial – ShareAlike
Attribution –   NonCommercial -NoDerivatives

Each of the Creative Commons licenses has associated with it an icon, specific legal code, a human readable version of the license known as the Common Deeds, and a machine readable layer which enables search engines and other digital tools to identify the rights assigned to a work.  The legal code and Common Deed detail exactly what is required if a Creative Commons licensed work is to be used.  To release a work with a Creative Commons license, an author simply needs to select a license and mark their creation, which may vary depending on the format.  To help authors assign the licenses to their works, Creative Commons created an easy to use License Chooser tool and released a brochure explaining how to mark a work.

The use of Creative Commons licenses is becoming increasingly widespread and many tools have been developed to help librarians and patrons find these resources.  The Advanced Search features in the main Google site, Google Images, and Flickr all have an option that allows users to limit their search by usage rights.  YouTube allows users to filter their search results to videos that have been released with a Creative Commons Attribution license.  Other sites such as Wikimedia Commons, OER Commons, and Jamendo specifically focus on resources that are openly available through Creative Commons licenses.  In addition to these resources, there are many other sites that have incorporated Creative Commons content into their services.

Libraries are also finding the use of Creative Commons licenses valuable in their work.  Many organizations such as the Hood River County Library District and Texas State Library and Archives Commission have incorporated Creative Commons licenses into their public documents.  MLibrary at the University of Michigan, Harris County Public Library and UCLA Library all make the content of their websites available under a Creative Commons license.  Both the University of Florida and Red Deer College Library include Creative Commons licenses on their LibGuides.  Many institutional repositories use Creative Commons licenses to disseminate their university’s research.  ScholarWorks at Boise State often uploads faculty scholarship published with a Creative Commons license.   Similarly Pacific University and Indiana University allow students to disseminate their works with a Creative Commons license.  Other libraries such as the Knox County Public Library and the Cumberland County Library System include Creative Commons licenses on their blog posts and podcasts.

In addition to helping patrons find needed resources and openly sharing their knowledge,  librarians have a terrific opportunity to talk with their users about copyright, intellectual property, and open access issues.   Although many patrons have borrowed and shared all types of content, few understand the legal and ethical implications of their actions.  In contrast librarians deal with copyright issues in many areas of their work.  Library staff working in acquisitions, reserves, interlibrary loan, institutional repositories, and instruction design, confront copyright issues on a regular basis.  This experience and expertise can be used to help patrons as they distribute and utilize creative works.

There is no doubt that the world of information has changed dramatically.  Patrons want more content and less barriers.  Creative Commons licenses provide librarians ways to meet both needs, expanding the resources available to their patrons.

Useful Resources:

Creative Commons
http://creativecommons.org/

Creative Commons – Get Creative
http://youtu.be/io3BrAQl3so

Licenses
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/

License Chooser
http://creativecommons.org/choose/

Licensing & Marking Your Content with Creative Commons
http://wiki.creativecommons.org/images/6/61/Creativecommons-licensing-and-marking-your-content_eng.pdf

Wikimedia Commons
http://commons.wikimedia.org/

OER Commons
http://www.oercommons.org/

Jamendo
http://www.jamendo.com/en/

Michelle Armstrong is a librarian at Albertsons Library at Boise State University.  Before joining Boise State, she managed the “Victims of Crime with Disabilities Resource Guide” grant for the University of Wyoming and served as the Coordinator of Information Services for the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities.  Since the fall of 2008, Ms. Armstrong has overseen the development of ScholarWorks, Boise State’s institutional repository and serves as the Library Liaison for the Graduate College and Department of Mathematics. Continue reading Creative Commons – Saving the Internet One License at a Time

Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators [Review]

reviewed by Kay Flowers

Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators
Carrie Russell
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-1083-2, softcover
192 pages, $50.00
eEditions PDF e-book, $40.00

Copyright is a complex subject, and practical books that address copyright issues in day-to-day settings are few and far between.  Carrie Russell’s Complete Copyright for K-12 Librarians and Educators, however, is one of the practical reads.  Written for K-12 teachers and librarians, and using a school as a backdrop, the book addresses many of the common and new copyright questions that arise in the K-12 setting in a light and engaging manner. In her conversation with the reader, the author acknowledges the complexity of copyright while offering evidence and suggestions on the best interpretations available.

Carrie Russell speaks from extensive experience.  She is the director of the Program on Public Access to Information in the Office of Information Technology Policy of the American Library Association.  As part of its concern with access to information, the Program monitors copyright and its role in providing public access through fair use.  In her introduction to the book, Russell mentions that many of the issues covered were originally questions she was asked in earlier presentations.

The strongest element in the book is the review of current uses of copyrighted material, from digitized books to downloading music and everything in between.  Every chapter is presented in terms of activities that are common in schools but can be murky in terms of copyright.  One example is the music video.  Many students enjoy making their own music videos, using copyrighted music and/or copyrighted images.  Such videos can be used as projects in classes, so understanding their copyright implications is essential.

Another strength of this book is that the author presents copyright questions in terms of a conversation between the teacher and the school librarian.  Both are encouraged to conduct a fair use evaluation of any proposed use of copyrighted works.  In this way, the librarian does not always say “no,” and the teacher is encouraged to examine her instructional goals as part of the evaluation.

The author places a strong emphasis on fair use and the practice of conducting fair use evaluations for any proposed activity involving copyrighted material.  This emphasis is in purposeful contrast to reliance on the guidelines that have directed copyright policies in the past.  In fact, the author notes that guidelines are not law and do not carry the force of law.  She also points out that though guidelines were written as a safe haven, and were never meant to represent the maximums allowed under the fair use doctrine, they have, nevertheless, been interpreted in that way.  Too many school districts and teachers are reluctant to test fair use beyond the guidelines, so the institution and its instructors have limited their teaching options.

The supplemental material in the book includes information on a 2008 copyright survey sent to members of LM-Net (discussion group for school library media specialists).   The copyright guidelines mentioned above are also provided as appendices.  There are several sets of guidelines that have been developed in the years since the Copyright Act of 1976, varying from interlibrary loan to multimedia projects. Regardless of the author’s emphatic support of fair use, the guidelines are part of the history of copyright policy, and teachers and librarians should be aware of them.

The only weakness in the book is the placement of information about copyright lawsuits so early in the text.  The complexity of copyright litigation is stultifying, and introducing it in Chapter 2 might discourage further reading.

Any library that provides support for K-12 teaching would benefit from acquiring this book.  School libraries are the obvious first choice.  Universities and college libraries that support departments of education should also consider including this work in their teacher education collections as a resource for pre-service teachers.

Kay Flowers is currently the Director of Academic Programs in the Student Success Center at Idaho State University.

Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership [review]

reviewed by Laura Abbott

Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership 
Kate Marek
Chicago, IL: ALA Editions, 2011
ISBN-13: 978-0-8389-1079-5, softcover
120 pages, $50.00

The children’s librarian should not be the only professional sharing stories in the library on a regular basis. According to author Kate Marek, a Professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University, those with library leadership positions will want to increase their organizational storytelling ability in order to more successfully communicate values and vision and to initiate change.  In Organizational Storytelling for Librarians: Using Stories for Effective Leadership, Marek points out that the power of narrative comes from the storyteller’s ability to tell his or her own authentic stories in order to create meaningful bonds and to inspire people.

Marek’s intent is to enable librarians to begin developing and utilizing leadership storytelling skills, and through her fluid writing style, solid content, and efficient organization, she succeeds with this endeavor. She writes, “You must engage a listener’s heart as well as his mind if you truly want to generate commitment for change or for a new idea.  Stories pull the listener in and make individual human connections that data and information alone cannot make” (9).

The author acts as a motivational cheerleader inspiring the reader to discover the simple power of story that is in each of us.  She divides organizational storytelling into four basic concepts that can be easily used by managers based on their library’s needs: communicating visions and values through storytelling, using stories to navigate change, using stories to build community, and telling stories through buildings.  An example of some of the useful advice Marek gives is “Telling your own personal story with honesty and humility, especially in terms of things you have learned along the way, opens you up to connections with others and at the same time provides a unique mechanism for them to understand your values and priorities” (22).

Marek sees the vital importance and potential power of libraries in the community and explains that “the library is the perfect place to facilitate sharing [of stories]. In doing so, the library expands its role from a community information resource to a key player in transforming community” (51). Throughout the book, the author gives real-life examples of library leaders who have used storytelling to improve their position and that of their library in the community. For those who need a little more confidence boosting in the art of storytelling, the last chapter includes practical tips on how to build and strengthen organizational storytelling skills.

Written in a clear and straight-forward style, this relatively quick read is enhanced with chapter notes, a lengthy current resources list, and an index. I would recommend that any public, school, or academic librarian make room for it in the staff resource collection, especially if he or she wants to find new ways to communicate ideas and to build trust whether it is with coworkers, a library’s governing body, or with the public.

Laura Abbott is the Children’s Services Librarian at the Nampa Public Library.