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 <>.