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 <;.


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