New Librarianship MOOC Week 4 wrap up

Well I’ve finished up the coursework for New Librarianship Masterclass. Interestingly (and rather bravely I think) in the final module Lankes gives links to criticisms and reviews of New Librarianship and the Atlas by various authors and bloggers. I found this reading and the module discussion boards highly thought-provoking stuff. As I reflect on the the course as a whole and what I’ve learned, some aspects of the MOOC stand out.

I approached the masterclass in a practical fashion. As a newbie in the field I am, pardon the expression, a bit of a ‘blank slate’ since I have yet to complete any formal librarianship training and had only my own learning as a starting point. The philosophical discussion at the beginning of the masterclass on worldview, Conversation Theory and constructivism was important. I agree that a solid worldview and values, whether stated or unstated, underpin our thinking and the way we approach the world and librarianship. However the constructivist idea that knowledge and truth are created and agreed on by individuals and the community is one I’m not entirely comfortable with. Lane Wilkinson discusses this much more intelligently in his blog.

Philosophical nitpicking aside, I found the course very eye-opening, interesting and sensible, and again with many practical take aways for my professional practice. For example the focus on the community and a participatory framework. Librarians regard themselves as serving the community. Therefore it makes total sense that you would need to have conversations with that community to figure out what their needs, dreams and aspirations are. Lankes is right to point out in the Deficit Model module, though, that viewing a member/community as a set of problems that need solving is unhelpful. Instead of trying to ‘fix’ everything from the outside, librarians should get into the community and figure out together what their aspirations are, using those as a starting point for community action rather than constantly reminding people of their failings. Lankes illustrates with an example of low literacy or poor performance in schools; rather than looking at reading as a problem that needs solving through something like tutoring services, Lankes says look at reading as a means of exploration, a questioning of authority and writing as a way to express our ideas. Taking this positive approach opens the door to more innovative, radical marketing and event planning (e.g. banned book weeks). What I take away is that by keeping the community and knowledge creation at the heart of new librarianship, we are focusing not on our services but on what the community needs and aspires to and shaping our services around them.

The library as platform was another concept that stood out to me as sensible, exciting to be part  of and very apt for these times where we definitely need to be demonstrating our value. And, it has lots of practical applications. I love printed books, but the library can (should?) be much more than an artefact-centred collection. In the school I’m about to start work in, the library is already used as a platform for literacy and learning. I’m excited about how I can help and innovate in that, particularly in improving reading scores which are lower than desired at the moment. New Librarianship has given me lots of ideas to do this, which all make perfect sense when viewing the library as a platform.

Whilst the Atlas and New Librarianship might have some shortcomings, I’ve found it a great learning experience and would recommend the MOOC and the Atlas as a thought-provoking entrance into one view of a new librarianship.

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 <>.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 3 wrap up

I’ve been putting in some serious effort to finish the  New Librarianship Masterclass before the deadline. This post wraps up the Week 3 material. We have stepped back a bit from last week’s practical nuts and bolts such as competencies of librarians, how to lead, and asset management, and moved to a wider angle view of libraries generally: their mission, why we need them and the challenges and opportunities they face. Some thoughts:

  • Expect more than books. Lankes shows that the current book-centric attitude of many libraries and the drive for comprehensive collections is a relatively recent phenomenon. In the early 1900s, there was information scarcity (information was hard/expensive to get) therefore libraries sought to collect lots of material for members. This drive coincided with books becoming cheaper to publish, hence we got bigger collections and libraries were fast becoming ‘book warehouses’. However now, in a digital age with Wikipedia et. al in our pockets, we no longer have information scarcity but time and attention scarcity. So more information in the form of libraries amassing larger, more comprehensive collections is exactly the opposite of what we need! Not to mention problems of space and resources. This of courses leads to issues such as information literacy/research skills, credibility/reliability and the librarian as information curator.
  • Importance of a mission statement. Most organisations these days have mission statements. They’re great. They help you orient yourself around a central purpose that reflects your values. Lankes critiques some examples and winners include characteristics such as:  succinctness, clarity and delineates boundaries of the community. Mission statements should be thought of as an invitation to the community to join in and not to just say what you do (‘we provide access to a wide range of digital and print materials’).
  • The Why Libraries? module spells out several justifications for libraries. These were all great and included, for example, the library as a collective buying agent, centre of learning and safety net. Another that people on the discussion boards mentioned which wasn’t explicitly included in the coursework (though implicit throughout) was the library as a social space. People mentioned the importance of the library as a neutral, public space where individuals (perhaps without other social networks such as stay-at-home moms and retirees) could come and be social. Several school librarians said how important the library was for their students since many didn’t have a ‘third space’, i.e. somewhere safe and fun to hang out with their friends other than home and school. As I embark on school librarianship myself, I’m keen to see if/how the school library is being used this way.
  • Think of the library as a platform, not as a service or collection. This concept is integral to New Librarianship and reflects all the values espoused in Weeks 1-2. The main points were that the library is a place to share expertise, share facilities and share interests. Rather than librarians controlling everything and delivering all the training, the community is free to bring its own resources and expertise and use the library as a platform to better the community (with the facilitation of the librarians).
  • The Grand Challenge to librarians, according to Lankes, is ‘how to coordinate a knowledge infrastructure (technology, people, sources, permissions) to unlock the potential and passions of Society’. But I’ll leave you to figure that out for yourself…

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 <>.

New Librarianship MOOC Week 2 wrap up

A flurry of job applications and week away in August have set me slightly behind in the New Librarianship Masterclass MOOC. But I soldier on and am very grateful for the extension to complete it! This week’s material was great and narrowed down from the big picture ideas of Week 1.

The Communities Module

What Lankes calls ‘the pressure for participation’ is based in, to use marketing lingo, customer demand.  The Internet and social media have proven that users go to platforms where they can participate, have a voice and influence.  Librarians need to respond to this.

Lankes discusses various environments (public, academic, school libraries) but emphasises that their mission is the same whilst their communities can be radically different, with different conversations, and therefore library services will vary.  Still the facilitating model applies, that is, how the community can create knowledge (access, knowledge, environment and motivation). Lankes proposes a useful evaluation/assessment framework for determining the conversations happening in your community and how librarians can prioritise them.  I especially liked his notion of ’embedded librarians’.  Librarians who are out and about, learning about the conversations, about the community and, in the process, making themselves indispensable!

Improve Society Module

Some interesting conclusions from this module:

  • One of the values of new librarians is intellectual honesty, not being unbiased. Coming from academia this was a new but sensible point for me:  that I can never be totally unbiased but I do need to be honest about my conclusions and how I got to them.
  • You -yes you!- can be an innovator, leader and ‘radical change agent’! At least Lankes proposes that all librarians should be (and not just the young whippersnappers or those who present at conferences). This makes complete sense when you remember that librarians are out to improve society; that requires some leadership and innovative thinking.

Librarians Module

This module emphasised the skills and competencies of new librarians, where they are now, how they’re changing and how theory should be integrated with practice. It involved a large chunk of reading in the Atlas in which Lankes proposes -sometimes radically – transitions/changes/adaptations of current library practice and the training which librarians receive (both at library school and CPD throughout their careers).  A lot of the new approach is born of necessity as librarianship really is in a time of great transition (i.e. how do you train librarians to cope with the massive scale of information and data produced in the digital age?). Some ideas which were new to me:

  • The community as an integral part of your collection. The better we understand the community the better we can utilise resources like buildings, books and computers. This is again moving away from the artefact-centric approach of traditional librarianship.
  • Librarians need administration and management training. Again makes complete sense to have a grounding in these skills when you are running a library (no matter how small) or just part of it.
  • Circulating experts. Some libraries let you ‘check out’ an expert for an hour or so, say a businessman or lawyer or librarian. What a great idea!
  • Technological skills. This is a no-brainer nowadays, but Lankes says we keep up with IT to principally benefit the community, perhaps even learn it together…
  • Interestingly in his critique of the MLS (Master of Library Science) in the US, he proposes a new system whereby students would do a one-year Masters (as they do in the UK) but with a four-year Bachelors, after which you would be certified as a librarian. This sounds brilliant, but it’s not clear if your Bachelors is in librarianship or something completely unrelated…

The final module was on the Salzburg Curriculum, which basically summed up and reiterated a lot of New Librarianship in a concise, eloquent way. It is a high level curriculum that’s meant to apply to a librarian in any organisation (and also museum professionals). Check it out here.

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 <>.

Visit to Sheffield Hallam Adsetts Learning Centre

I recently went on a visit to Sheffield Hallam University’s Adsetts Learning Centre organised by CILIP Academic and Research Libraries Group (Yorkshire & Humberside division).  I wanted to write a post and include some pictures to share (with their permission) because they had an interesting story to tell!  Hallam have been refurbishing the library in stages for the past few years and had the good fortune of being able to incorporate in-depth research some of the staff had just done on student usage/likes/dislikes/wishes into the planning and redevelopment process.

Central stair well

Central stair well

It was a merry bunch, about 15 of us total and all new faces for me!  The group was mostly other academic librarians, but I didn’t get to meet everyone.  We started the visit with lunch (mmm…) and then were treated to presentations about the history of the university library and the research staff had done, and also tours of the special collections and library itself.  Since my husband is from Sheffield, some of the names in Sandy Buchanan’s history talk rang a bell…The main library (Adsetts) developed over time as various collegiate and other collections were combined.  The current facility was built in 1996, but they’ve been redeveloping it since 2007-8.  Sandy said it’s been a manageable process to work around for students and staff since the redevelopment was done in stages, basically by floor.

Bea Turpin and Deborah Harrop gave a presentation of their research on ‘What makes a successful informal learning space?’  This was excellent; their research included qualitative and quantitive research, and in the process debunked or adjusted various preconceptions they/we have about what students want in a learning space and how they actually use it.   Their research included ‘observational sweeps’ at various times and locations (which consisted of student questionnaires) and also coordinates and photographic mapping exercises (which pinpointed how/when spaces were being used).  They developed a typology of attributes based on their data and if you want to know more, their work is being published in the New Review of Academic Librarianship (2013) 19.

Some of the conclusions and results I found most interesting were:

  • The variety of types of spaces students valued, i.e. dedicated silent study space, group work areas and also a kind of middle ground where students wanted individual study space but where they could still ‘study together’ with their friend next door.  This translated into the redevelopment mainly through a wide range of desk and partition types. Some desks were actually movable where you could create a bigger space.  Some had high partitions between study spaces, whereas others had small ones or none.  They also had super cool bookable meeting rooms and booths with built-in dry erase boards!

    Super cool, bookable booths with dry erase/marker boards and IT stuff.

    Super cool, bookable booths with dry erase/marker boards and IT stuff.

  • Requirements of the environment, i.e. lighting, privacy, access to IT/power outlets, ergonomics, easy access to refreshments.  Some of the other librarians were raving about some tables in a casual group space near the cafe that had the power plugs installed right on the table top!  This was both convenient for students and prevented health and safety risks of trailing power cords.  The natural light was limited in the building, but the redevelopment has maximised that and their new lighting system is meant to mimic natural light since students preferred it.  They also took decibel readings to see how quiet or noisy spaces were since this was an important learner preference (i.e. silent spaces really should be silent!).

    Casual space with plug points

    Casual space with plug points on the table.

  • Inclusion and display of student artwork and other projects.  This was a brilliant idea since it raises awareness of student’s work, uses those random little niches in the building and adds to the vibrant atmosphere.  I really liked a wall that doubled as a partition to a chill out area which had several TV screens showing student’s animation and computer graphics projects.

    Wall with integrated TVs displaying student animation work.

    Wall with integrated TVs displaying student animation work.

  • The main conclusion was that their aim of ‘evidence-based means for change’ was highly effective in planning study spaces that met students needs and that used the space most efficiently.   Thanks for a great, informative day out!

    Self-service laptops station, students need their technology!

    Self-service laptops station, students need their technology!