The Library is a Platform!

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Grassroots Library Platform Design

Michael Casey makes an excellent point that we see many libraries sign onto Web 2.0 social computing tools such as Facebook and Twitter, but use them in old Web 1.0 ways, such as with one-way communication inherent in announcements, events notification, etc. (Casey, 2011). Casey, along with many other Library 2.0 trailblazers, agree that communication and  conversation are key ingredients to the future participatory library.

The Participatory Library is a model because it seeks to change the very nature of future libraries, from the free-services model that has been the staple of the past library’s success. The main structural idea behind the Participatory Library Model that resonated with me was that the library is a platform, rather than a free service. The Infomancer Christopher Harris defines the library as a platform in the new Web 2.0 world (Harris, 2006). But what is meant by “platform” in the library paradigm?

In software companies, User Experience is an important part of the software’s development. The software is a platform for the user to create and invent, and an important part of the user’s creation process is mechanical. Is there a button for this action, and is it easy to find? What is the menu structure? Is the software intuitive for the user, or are the steps mismatched or in the wrong menus? User experience is important to the user without the user really understanding its impact – she just wants to create her spreadsheet, or photo edit, or widget.

The Participatory Library takes into account User Experience because the library becomes the platform for the user to create and invent … and share. Schmidt (2010) makes a strong case for incorporating User Experience into library design, emphasizing services before content, and preparing ourselves for refocusing library services from the warehouse model to the participatory model. Providing exciting ways to meet core needs of users is paramount.

And there are libraries doing just that! DOK Delft is at the forefront of providing the platform for users to create and share stories (Visser, 2011). The DOK Heritage Browser is a technological innovation using a Microsoft Surface Table to display material from the City Archive for patrons to interact with, by telling stories and sharing pictures (Boekesteijn, 2011). The tables also allow patrons to share recipes, hold debates, or engage in local conversations. This is the Participatory Library in action, using the library as a platform. In the Darien Library, the surface table has been implemented, along with roving reference librarians, and more easily accessible categories for books (Miller, 2009). Watching the video of the surface table in action kinda makes you want to find one and explore!

Beyond impressive is the Transformation Lab, a prototype library with flexible spaces utilizing floors, walls and ceilings for interaction and creation, and where users become more visible and involved. The physical space is used for production, and technology affects the physical library. Described as “The Augmented Library,” the prototype takes the ideas of the Participatory Library to a higher level, with the prospect that users will be able to not only check out content collected by the library, but contribute to that collection as well. The library continues to grow and develop in an ongoing fashion, while the user’s experience continues to reach new heights. This has been highlighted in the video about the Trasformation Lab below:
Prototyping the Future Library with the Transformation Lab
(may take 15secs to load)

Boekesteijn, E. (2011, February 15) DOK Delft takes user generated content to the next level [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Casey, M. (2011, October 20). Revisiting participatory service in trying times [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Harris, C. (2006, January 10). SL2.0: Synthesis 2.0 [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Miller, R. (2009, January 12). New library opens in Darien, CT; First LEED gold library building in region [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Schmidt, A. (2010, June 11). The user experience: Services before content [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Visser, J. (2011, January 22). DOK Delft, inspirational library concepts [Web log post]. Retrieved from


Mickel is an MLIS and the creator of Library Currents. His inspiration for the blog was the SJSU course "The Hyperlinked Library" taught by Dr. Michael Stephens, a course that is also a worldwide MOOC. If you wish to contact him, feel free to write to Mickel Paris at


  1. michael

    September 17, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Your description of the library of the future is spot on. Can you see the creation space melded with co-navigation space for those who have info needs? I wonder what comes next?

  2. Mickel Paris

    September 23, 2012 at 6:35 am

    I know, the DOK library really is off to a great start. Everything else just seems so far behind, it just takes a new set of leaders to take us there!

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