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 <http://www.coursesites.com>>.