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