Transparency Reflections

HomerBrainI noticed in the reading that there seems to be two types of transparency, or is it three (Lincoln, 2009), that effect libraries, or more specifically, my library.  There is the transparency that comes by sharing with the public what is going on in the library.  This is the same type of transparency that is mentioned in the readings such as Ridfin’s CEO exposing the company’s internal issues to better show the public why things were happening at Redfin (Thompson, 2007) or CEO Mark Cuban’s posting on everything that is happening to him (Anderson, 2006).  Libraries, I believe, are doing a pretty good job at this type of transparency.  Public libraries, as their name implies, are publicly accessible; budgets are exposed; choices are questioned.  Public libraries are blogging, tweeting, Facebooking or otherwise engaged in social conversations.  Public libraries are vocal about budget cuts and sometimes gain the attention of politicians.  I think public transparency is an ongoing part of libraries.

What I found more interesting and more provoking was the amount of attention in this week’s literature that enforced internal transparency. This got me thinking about how internal transparency plays out in my own library.  I commonly hear that library staff are family.  People I have known that have transferred to other jobs still come to visit their library family.  But as in any family and in an academic setting, there is an unmistakable hierarchy.  Those with degrees and credentials have an air of respectability.  I think this comes from the academic environment and it is transferred to the university library. Since the administrative positions at the library are filled with librarians or others with advanced degrees, it is not surprising that the literature talks about opening the transparency within the library.

glasscatI hold a unique position right now in my library.  I am a staff member but I have been with the library so long and my position as head of library IT has given me a “loud” voice with the administration.  And now that I am in library school, I have been invited to other faculty meetings as preparation to my future librarian role.  Only this week we were talking about blogging and it was mentioned that some of the circulation staff would be interested in posting to the library’s blog.  The thoughts of the librarians was that the staff should be allowed to submit posts as long as they went through a librarian editor.  Hmmm.  Then I believe in the lecture it was mentioned that blogging should follow the same rules as already set down in policy.  In other words, trust the staff to follow the rules.  Hmmm again.

What does this tell me about transparency and my library?  I feel my library is following the path of a hyperlinked library.  We have been incorporating trends in communications and electronic access for years.  But, there is still some hesitancy by the librarians especially when it comes down to the staff.  I think the holdup is the thought that, “What if someone writes something that is incorrect/opinionated/snarky? How does this reflect on the library?” This fits into the lecture about allowing anonymous comments and the types of comments that come through.  It also fits into the assignment about writing policy.  I think that there is always the possibility that something incorrect might be said, but there is a lot more opportunity for creative ideas to be spread.  It is time to open the blogging to staff and enforce any misbehavior with a blogging policy.  This would be for posts that are on the public web site.

But this has also got me thinking if I should create a blog within our Intranet site and open the postings to anonymous users.  Right now we have an authenticated site where writing posts is a privilege of being signed in.  Would staff members feel free to communicate if the login requirement was removed?  Would there be hesitancy still?  I don’t know.


Anderson, C. (2006) In Praise of Radical Transparency:

Lincoln, M. (2009). Transparency:

Thompson, C. (2007). The See-Through CEO:


One thought on “Transparency Reflections

  1. Thanks for sharing. I am pleased you are encountering the shifts we are talking about in class. I hope circulation staff get to blog!

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