From Gatekeepers to Gate-Openers: Our Future Lies in Designing Meaningful Library User Experiences

By Bell, Steven | American Libraries, August-September 2009 | Go to article overview

From Gatekeepers to Gate-Openers: Our Future Lies in Designing Meaningful Library User Experiences


Bell, Steven, American Libraries


As gatekeepers we can aspire to only a limited professional role: making information accessible. But in today's crowded information-provider landscape, that role fails to distinguish the many great assets libraries bring to their communities. Our future may depend on our ability to differentiate what libraries offer and what library workers contribute to communities. The library profession should consider an alternate vision for our future: the library worker as gate-opener. In that role we shift from a focus on creating access to resources to creating meaningful relationships with community members--both those who use and those who don't use our libraries. One way to differentiate ourselves while building these relationships is by designing great library user experiences.

Last year, I attended a presentation to librarians by author and entrepreneur Seth Godin, a leading authority on nontraditional marketing methods. One thing Godin said stood out in my mind as a critical piece of advice for library workers: "You need to stop being gatekeepers and start being gate-openers." He gave examples of profit and nonprofit organizations that created loyal and dedicated followers, groups he described as "tribes" that emerged as these organizations transformed their core purpose from gatekeeping to gate-opening.

Godin explained that people join tribes, whether as leader or follower, because it offers them something in their lives that provides meaning. In other words, they seek and find a unique experience. Likewise, Godin urged the audience of librarians to better understand what their community members need to accomplish, and to then open up the gates in order to deliver the resources they need for their learning, their research, their lifestyle, and their well-being, and to invite them to discover meaning through personalized relationships with library workers.

Delivering meaning

Our nation is still reeling from the Shockwaves of a severe recession. As homes, jobs, and invested savings were lost, our country experienced a cultural shift. In the years leading up to the global economic crisis Americans were on a buying spree, much of it fueled by easy credit. Individual meaning was often found in the acquisition of material objects. In the aftermath of the economic meltdown both consumer confidence and spending took a nosedive. Americans ended their buying binge, which ended the culture of "stuff" in which accumulating goods was highly valued, but failed to end people's need to find meaning in their lives. That's where the cultural shift happened.

On his Marketing Knowhow blog, Harvard Business School marketing professor John Quelch observed a new type of consumer emerging from the collapse of mass consumption, whom he called "Simplifiers." One of the four characteristics of the Simplifiers is of particular relevance: "They want to collect experiences, not possessions," Quelch noted, adding that experiences "do not tie you down, require no maintenance, and permit variety-seeking instincts to be quickly satisfied." A growing school of thought in the field of user-experience design promotes the idea of the experience as being about creating something meaningful for people, something that gives them intrinsic value for leading a better life.

The notion that libraries enhance the quality of life in their communities was central to the creation of www.atyourlibrary.org, launched this year by the American Library Association with funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Emphasizing services to families, youth, and job seekers, the @ your library website for the public encourages consultation, exploration, and multimedia as intrinsic parts of library use.

If Godin and Quelch are accurate in their perception of the shift from consumerism to experience-seeking, that bodes well for libraries. Libraries are organizations dedicated to enabling citizens to prosper from the accumulation of knowledge, and to leverage that knowledge for personal satisfaction, advancement, or to help others. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

From Gatekeepers to Gate-Openers: Our Future Lies in Designing Meaningful Library User Experiences
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.