New Librarianship MOOC Week 1: wrap up

I continue with my MOOC on New Librarianship. I’m still behind and am just wrapping up the material from Week 1.  This post is a bit long- I guess I engaged a lot with the material!

  • Defining (Old and New) Librarianship

I found the function-based vs. knowledge/learning-based definition of librarianship very compelling. Lankes underscores that function-based definitions are doomed to fail. For example, the dialogue illustrates the problems with this view:

“I’m a Librarian, I help people get books.”

“I work for Amazon, that’s what we do too!”

“I’m a Librarian, I help people find the information they need.”

“I work at Google, we do that millions of times a day!”

Obviously we must change our definitions, hence Lankes’ emphasis on knowledge creation rather than artifacts/services/buildings in his mission statement, ‘The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities’.

  • Knowledge Creation

The major theme of the Knowledge Creation module was that knowledge is created through conversation. Lankes discusses the aspects involved in conversation: conversants, language, agreements and memory.  The main conclusions were that we need to reevaluate our systems and tools from the ground up to facilitate this conversation.

His application of L0 and L1 languages (a component of Conversation Theory) to library catalogues and the evolution of user systerms was brilliant.  L0 is basic, negotiating language, whereas L1 is a subject specific or specialist language.  Catalogues often have ‘user friendly’ L0 interfaces but with L1 processes/algorithms.  The result is that users often get poor results, whereas librarians (who are fluent in L1) get great results.

The notion of ‘recorded knowledge’ is debunked:  Knowledge is not held within the artifact itself, it re-creates and allows the transfer of knowledge from conversant to conversant (i.e. an author writes a book with his ideas, which I then read, thereby creating a conversation between me and the ideas as recorded in the book, or CD, etc.).

I find that Lankes’ arguments build on each other. So when ‘recorded knowledge’ is debunked we see that the focus moves away from building a collection to how can we increase knowledge. We can increase knowledge by rebuilding our finding systems so that they reflect the relationships which enhance the conversation (i.e. annotations and citations).  And so on…

A new system Lankes proposes is Scapes, a ‘conceptual digital reference system’. For want of a better word, I’d describe it as organic, where members and librarians create reference material to find information, highlight connections and link everything together (called ‘an entailment mesh’).  My concern was how easily mistakes could happen, and then be subsequently linked and tagged to other material, thereby perpetuating bad information.  The system would get librarian oversight, but only on demand, so I’m not sure how the credibility of all this could be overseen.  I’m reminded of the recent news story of the librarian who spotted a poem wrongly attributed to Blake…

  • Librarians as Facilitators of Conversation

The final module was about Facilitation. This is linked to the notion of librarianship being a service-based industry.  Lankes advocates an active role where libraries are platforms for innovation and learning rather than passive repositories where librarians stay behind a desk and disseminate information. His language reminds me of job descriptions of community workers who are out at grassroots levels seeing what’s going on and what the needs are; this is great but represents a big shift.  

The means of facilitation are: access (needs to be 2-way!), knowledge (empower people and widen our definition of ‘literacy’), environment (needs to be physically and intellectually safe, with a sensible approach to privacy issues) and motivation (both intrinsic and extrinsic, and librarian must make their services compelling).

His emphasis on physical AND digital/online meeting places as ways to facilitate conversation (and increase the value of librarians) in the community was excellent.  My university library’s group study area was very popular because it was a space (near all the books!) where you could turn up with your friends/module group to have conversations, and maybe study!

I was pleasantly surprised to read a comment about the gap (social illiteracy?) between qualified and un-qualified library staff (i.e. professional and paraprofessional).  Lankes advocates a meritocracy over the current, ingrained expectation of an MLS/Library Science degree (‘can’t there be a way to earn entrance into the club outside of a large student loan?’).  Whilst there are no doubt advantages to getting the library degree -a major one being it sets you apart from the million other applicants- I feel there is undue emphasis on getting this piece of paper, especially since I already have a Masters. However this is merely my humble two cents.  The Wikiman has written on this issue from the other side of the degree with some hindsight and experience.

  • New Librarians are Noble

Lankes’ big conclusion was that librarians are involved in a noble endeavour:  ‘in the hands of librarians, power is the ability to make our communities, and ultimately our society, a better place.’  And this is a notion I quite like the sound of…


Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <>.

Who was Mr Frobisher?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that digging around old documents can result in 1) deteriorating vision, 2) discovering lost Vivaldi manuscripts or, in my case, 3) finding interesting stories and getting a bit dusty.  A scrapbook I’ve been listing during my voluntary work with the West Yorkshire Archive Service has proven interesting material and piqued my scholarly curiosity.  You can read more about the particular item here, but I want to write today about a person whose name is emblazoned on many of the concert programmes and posters I have listed, yet remained elusive…

Who was Mr Frobisher?  Poster after poster lists his name, a silent reference to his musical skill and dedicated service:

‘Conductor, Mr. Frobisher’

‘Organ, Mr. Frobisher’

‘Leader and Conductor, Mr. Frobisher’

‘Mr. Frobisher will preside at the piano’

I began to wonder who exactly was this Mr. Frobisher?  Why did he crop up again and again?  And just exactly how many times did the poor man have to play Handel’s Messiah?

Joseph H. Frobisher was the organist of Halifax Parish Church, 1838-1862.[1]  I have attempted to trace him further, however it appears there was an entire Frobisher clan in the West Riding in the nineteenth century!  I would propose that the most likely candidate is one Joseph Henry Frabisher (a not insurmountable variation of the surname), christened 26 December 1813 in Halifax, son of Richard and Elizabeth Frabisher.[2] Since he must have been at least 20 years old upon taking up the church organist post, a christening date around 1818 makes sense.

He first turns up in the Halifax scrapbook at a benefit concert in 1834 and appears regularly thereafter in concert with various local choral societies and other groups.[3]  He gave two concerts in 1844 and 1845, not as a soloist but more as an organizer/conductor, judging from the programme for the second ‘dress concert’.  This included three orchestral overtures (Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1, 1st movement served as an overture) and instrumental and vocal solo music by, among others, Charles de Beriot, Shield, Mozart and Weber.  From the scrapbook, it seems that Frobisher led a portfolio-style career that may have been typical of a professional musician in provincial, nineteenth-century Yorkshire, though I will defer to my Victorian musicologist colleagues on this point.  Still Frobisher’s ‘steady job’ was at Halifax Parish Church, and he obviously was actively picking up freelance accompanying work with the various local choral societies, and occasionally staging a concert of his own.

An interesting performance practice point is the seemingly interchangeable use of the terms ‘leader’ and ‘conductor’ in the concert programmes.  Conductors, in the modern sense (directing the choir or orchestra from the front with a baton), did not emerge until the 1830s.  Previously the performers were led by the first violinist (now termed leader or concertmaster) or from the keyboard.[4]  It would seem that the usage we see here indicates that Mr. Frobisher led from the keyboard.  However based on the speed with which provincial Yorkshire performed newly composed repertoire, he may also have taken to the new trend of conducting from the front.[5]

Finally, in case you were wondering, the Messiah count stands at: 15.  The period covered by the scrapbook when Frobisher was active, 1834-1869, means that he was involved in a Messiah performance about every two years, usually around Christmas.

Some other Frobisher oratorio performance tallies for lagniappe (Louisiana term meaning something extra):

Other Handel oratorios = 44

Haydn The Creation = 12

Hadyn The Seasons = 7

Mendelssohn St. Paul = 10

Mendelssohn Elijah = 4

N.B. I’m no statistician, so my tally numbers are approximate and do not always indicate a performance of the complete work. If a work was part of a ‘mash-up’ concert (i.e. a concert combining songs from many works usually Handel oratorios) the entire programme was counted just once.

[1] Nicholas Temperley, ‘Chetham, John’,  Oxford Music OnlineOxford University Press <; [28 Jun 2013].

[2] ‘Joseph Henry Frabisher, 26 Dec 1813’ in ‘England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975’, FamilySearch <; [28 Jun 2013].  University of Huddersfield also holds a collection of papers from the Frobisher family.

[3] GB-Calderdale, West Yorkshire Archive Service, WYC Misc 514/1, p. 9ff.

[4] Clive Brown, ‘Leader’, Oxford Music Online, Oxford University Press <; [20 Jul 2013]. Brown points out that in operatic performances before the mid-nineteenth century it was common for the keyboardist to direct the singers, whilst the leader looked after the orchestra. We await Peter Holman’s forthcoming book Before the baton: conducting and musical direction in Georgian Britain for further insight.

[5] The Halifax Orchestral Society, under Mr. Frobisher’s leadership, performed Mendelssohn’s oratorio St. Paul in May 1837 only one year after it premiered in Düsseldorf, and again in 1840 with some of the singers for whom Mendelssohn originially conceived the parts.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 1.5??

I’ve started my MOOC course on New Librarianship. Unfortunately I managed to sign up to the wrong one (or maybe an older one) with the same tutor and title! Thankfully I’m in a Google Community for the master class which alerted me to the fact that everyone was talking about things I couldn’t see on the Blackboard or didn’t know were happening!


I am now on the correct class and have now got to catch up on Week 1’s assignments since Week 2 started yesterday. Yesterday I spent about 2.5 hours on the Mission of Librarians module. This was very interesting and laid the philosophical/theoretical groundwork which underpins Lankes’ concept of ‘New Librarianship’.

Important concepts that I gleaned were:

  • Worldview- a key issue because this is the ‘lens’ through which we view the world. In terms of libraries, Lankes described the older collection-centric worldview versus the ascendant community/knowledge-focussed worldview.
  • I loved the mini history lesson he used to illustrate worldviews from the library at Alexandria to Muslim scholars in Toledo, Spain to Ben Franklin and the first quasi-public library (it was actually a subscription library).
  • Lankes proposes that the mission of librarians (not libraries) is:  ‘To improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities’. His arguments are convincing, for example that functional definitions of libraries/librarians are doomed to fail when companies like Amazon, et. al can do those functions more cheaply and probably better. He sees the librarian as a participant in a conversation, a facilitator of learning, rather than someone who catalogues or lends books.
  • There are various theories and deep concepts which underpin New Librarianship, the main one being ‘Conversation Theory’. This theory addresses how people learn, namely that knowledge is gained through conversation, whether between two people or yourself (i.e. critical thought) or with an entire community.
  • The main conclusion is that our current theory or ‘social compact’ of libraries and librarians is crumbling and librarians need to adapt to survive (as they have done for millennia).  The meaning needs to be renegotiated.

I’m on board with his conclusions and now very  interested to see how they can be applied practically.

Note: Quotes are taken from R. David Lankes, The Atlas of New Librarianship (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011) and his course material for Syracuse University iSchool’s MOOC New Librarianship Master Class hosted on <;.


My self-education in coding continues: This posts shows the results of my efforts on Challenge #4 in P2PU School of Webcraft. This challenge required researching a list of basic HTML tags and then looking for examples that represented the tags in my neighbourhood.  A very clever way to get you thinking about what HTML tags mean and how to use them!  And actually in the ‘Text’ mode of drafting a post in WordPress, I see some tags I recognise and vaguely know the meaning of now.

I found this particular challenge interesting because it unearthed the complexity that underpins many of the things we do that require HTML, such as communicating with people and surfing the web for news and entertainment.

Here are my photos which represent the various HTML tags:

This section of wall which juts out seemed to say  to me, since it links two bits of wall.

This section of wall which juts out seemed to say <nav>to me, since it links two bits of wall.

An obvious choice for the tag time, which represents a time or date.

An obvious choice for the tag <time>, which represents a time or date.

This one's more interpretive, shall we say, since I saw the garage door as the extended quotation indicated by the tag blockquote.

This one’s more interpretive, shall we say.  I saw the garage door as the extended quotation enclosed by the brick, or an example of the tag <blockquote>.

Many examples of <ol> (ordered list):

IMG_3136 IMG_3137 IMG_3138IMG_3130

Finding example of  was easy.

Finding examples of <ol> was easy!

Here is my div. The paint marks where cars (the content) can be 'contained'.

Here is my <div> tag. The paint marks where cars (the content) can be ‘contained’.

Another interpretative one, the chain is the span which links two elements (gates) for security purposes.

Another interpretative one, the chain is the <span> which links two elements (gates) for security purposes.

q was easy enough.

<q> was easy enough. The text ‘SCHOOL’ is enclosed by the lines.

Not a great photo, but it is an img!

Not a great photo, but it is an <img>!

This one was tricky to find. I chose the post box because it was a stand alone item (though not in a line!).

<li> This one was tricky to find. I chose the post box because it was a stand alone item (though not in a list/line with others!).

The menu tag was another harder one. I chose the messy bins because they were both unordered and required some action (i.e. emptying!).

The <menu> tag was another harder one. I chose the messy bins because they were both unordered and required some action (i.e. emptying!).

Again p was fairly easy. This is a concert poster.

Again <p> was fairly easy. This is a concert poster.

My ul tag example. Trees growing in natural, unordered formation.

My <ul> tag example. Trees growing in natural, unordered formation.


I’ve started a MOOC

I recently enrolled on a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) offered by Syracuse University iSchool entitled New Librarianship and taught/run by R. David Lankes and others.  I signed up because it sounded interesting and relevant, and the fact that it was free (well, mostly, I had to buy the textbook) and self-directed was a plus.  I did a few online courses in my undergrad, so it will be interesting to compare the experiences.  Here is a good overview by Helen Blanchett of the pros and cons of MOOCs and general debunking of the surrounding hype (“HE is dead!”).

This particular MOOC is offered in guided mode from July, which I thought was ideal because then you can engage with the tutors.  After July it is still available but without guaranteed tutor involvement.  I’ll be blogging and tweeting about how it goes!