Team Mission: Transcending the worldview of librarianship today, one radical comic frame at a time

511 Missionthread Comic-1

We hope you enjoyed our comic about the mission of librarians in the 21st century! We’re a group of new Syracuse University iSchool graduate students of library and information science, and we created this little gem for your viewing pleasure. We’ve read the Mission section of The Atlas of New Librarianship and it has inspired debate and some corny comic-making.

Join us in our discussion right here in the “Mission” Thread. This week we’ll dive further into R. David Lankes’s idea of a mission.

Do you agree librarians should have a mission? Should they work to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their communities? Does this sound crazy to you? Does every librarian need to have the same mission? Do we need a mission at all? Tell us what you think!

Image in the first panel courtesy OSinOH via Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/75905404@N00/6014852919/
Background image courtesy SusanAstray via Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/susanastray/4470824157/

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  • Anonymous

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    As you can probably guess from the comic strip, I have had a
    blast working with this group as we discussed the mission of librarians in the
    21st century. Before the fruition of comic strip, the group had a
    lively discussion about the mission thread; everyone was recapping their
    favorite theories from the chapter and asking provocative questions. My
    favorite question someone asked was, “do we need a mission at all?” 

     

    I thought I would start off the discussion board by giving
    my personal response to this question – of course we need a mission! I have
    worked for many non-profit organizations (mostly in the arts and humanities
    field) and believe that the organizations that are still around today have
    strong mission statements. The mission statements are embraced by the community
    and supported by all constituents in that organization. The mission statements
    also support the daily functions of the organization, without confining
    innovation and creativity.  

     

    Sadly this past year I watched the symphony in my hometown
    disappear. Having worked for the symphony, I failed to see all constituents
    rally behind the mission and believe the community failed to embrace all
    aspects of the mission. Of course this was not the only reason the symphony
    failed, but I think if the symphony had a strong mission, they could have found
    innovation solutions to the problems they faced. I believe a compelling mission
    statement is essential for the long-term survival of any organization or group
    of professionals.

     

    Now the question I am having a hard time answering is, “do
    all librarians need the same mission.” Thoughts?

    • Erin Lee

      I have just read your post, Alyssa and am very interested in your question about whether all librarians need the same mission. I have worked mostly in academic libraries and so I wasn’t sure whether librarians in private institutions, such as St John’s College, Cambridge, where I did my graduate traineeship, would/should have the same mission as public librarians.  The public library in which I have briefly worked was certainly a very different institution to a Cambridge college.

      During my time at St John’s we typically served the members of the college and researchers from all over the world.  We also held open days for members of the public to access the Old Library but, other than these special events, the library was closed to the general public.  Originally I believed that St John’s had a less community focused mission since its aim is to “provide a modern, efficient and welcoming Library service for all members of the College, and for all others with valid reasons to make use of the College’s library collections and facilities, so enabling the College to fulfil its statutory and strategic aims” (http://www.joh.cam.ac.uk/library/).  The library did provide an exhibition area, which was open to all to view and, if anyone had a legitimate reason to access our collections then they could do so.  Outreach programs were also very popular among local schools and provided students with extension materials for their syllabus.

      St John’s library was, understandably, geared towards the students but the aim of the librarians was to serve all who may need assistance from the library’s collections.  Thus, even in this institution where it would be expected that access would be denied to non college members, the mission makes it clear that the library collections are accessible to all who need them.  

      So, I guess what I am getting at is that I did not think that academic librarians would have the same mission as public librarians since they have a different audience.  I would conclude, however, that the concept of using a library’s collection as a means to facilitate knowledge creation in a community is suitable for all librarians.  The only difference is that the community will be different in each case and the access provided to that community may vary depending on the institution in question.  So, John’s was primarily geared towards students and researchers while public libraries are focused on a broader audience.  

      Thoughts?

      • Anonymous

        I agree with you Erin, but I think it’s important to note that some academic libraries provide access to the public. I completed my undergraduate degree at Binghamton University, which is a public state school, and as a result, the public was afforded complete access to library resources on site for a fee of 10 dollars every year. Because of this, I would say that Binghamton University’s library utilizes a hybrid of the traditional public library’s mission statement and the traditional academic library’s mission statement. I think all libraries should endorse the same basic mission statement, but the way they go about this should vary based on the needs of the institution, not just on the basic category they fall into.

        • Erin Lee

          Thanks, Sarah, that is very interesting.  I didn’t know that that happened in the US.  I don’t know of any university libraries working that way in Britain.  Often they will still serve alumni for a small fee but not members of the public.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000790527412 Aaron Neslin

          I want to point out that both of those missions belong to the institution. Do you think that the librarians’ mission must reflect that of the institution they work for, or  do  they have a larger mission that transcends their  the mission of their workplace?

          • Anonymous

            This is definitely an interesting question Aaron. I want to say that I think it can be both. Librarians have to abide by the mission of the institution they work for, and if they like their job, they should want to. However I still think that wherever they are working they should keep in the forefront of their minds the overall mission of community improvement. If, perhaps, the two missions clash, then it may be that the job is not the right fit. If we think of the big picture mission as trying to make this world a better place, than we can find a way to mold the missions of our separate institutions into it.

          • Erin Lee

            I agree with you, Erin.  I don’t think that librarians should be acting on behalf of their own mission to the detriment of the library’s mission but, as you point out, surely they should at least be compatible.  Librarians should be able to fulfil the mission of librarians and of the library if both missions are suitable to their subjects.  Perhaps the librarian will have to go further to fulfil the librarian’s mission than the library mission but these missions should not be in conflict with one another and should benefit the other.

          • Ben Chartoff

            Aaron, it’s an interesting question, and I think one can look
            for an answer by examining the verbs we’re using.

             

            In Erin’s example, 
            St John’s will “provide” with the full verb structure being “provide…so
            enabling”

             

            In Sarah’s example Binghamton also uses the verb “provide” (although this is Sarah’s word choice, but my guess is it accurately reflects Binghamton’s mission. Am I wrong, Sarah?)

             

            So both libraries, while serving a different community (and
            therefore having a whole different set of challenges and goals) still purport
            to do fundamentally the same thing,
            provide. My computer’s dictionary (hey, this isn’t a research paper, I’m not
            going to cite anything) defines provide as “make available for use: supply”. If
            I provide snacks for a party, I fill bowls with snacks, put the bowls on a
            table, and leave them alone. My only role is to refill the bowls if they get
            emptied. If one snack isn’t particularly popular, or the tiny bowls are
            emptying faster than I can refill them, or there are no vegan options, hey,
            that’s not my problem, I’m just providing.

            “But Ben” you might say “What if
            your mission was to provide the greatest possible snacks (just like St John’s
            has modifying adjectives after ‘provide’)?”. Well, then I would lay out the
            best snacks I could think of, hope and pray that my guests agree with my assessment of what “best possible” means, then
            fill the same passive role as I did above. If I respond to my guests by running to the kitchen
            and making a batch of delicious vegan cookies, I am fundamentally doing
            something other than providing, I am performing a new verb: reacting, correcting, or hey, how about improving?

             

            The Atlas states “The mission of librarians is to improve….” (specifically “improve…by facilitating”).
            Now that’s a responsive verb. A host who wants to improve the snacks at his
            party is saying, right off the bat, that there is something wrong with them,
            they could always be delicious-er. It’s possible to provide statically, but impossible
            to improve without changing something.

             

            So, libraries “provide” and librarians should try to “improve”?
            Is this necessary, by the nature of libraries as collectives and librarians as
            individuals? Can a library as a whole have the same mission as an individual
            librarian? I’m not sure (or, I might have ideas, but I’m curious about yours, and
            I’ve written quite a bit about snacks and I really should get back to the reading
            I keep not doing). Thoughts?

  • BWS Johnson

    A damn fine organisation if you ask me. We are mirrors of who we serve. Patrons might feel more comfortable with you than with me. If we take such a patriarchal view of things, we’ll lose dissent within our own walls. Diversity breeds innovation; this small minded view of employees as automatons is rather scary to read about. This is true in especial in a field where many of the national professional organisations claim an anti-censorship stance.

    BWS Johnson

    • Anonymous

       I think employees may interpret thier mission to be in conflict with what the employer interprets the mission to be for a variety of reasons.  It is then up to the employee as to what he or she should do.  Do they submit to the employer and revise their mission or try to incorporate their mission into the institution?   Let me give a personal example: At an institution I previous worked at, the employees were asked to engage in behavior and activities which conflicted with museum industry standards.  It was not so much the mission of the institution was the issue, but the way the employees were being asked to interpret it and follow it.  We turned to the American Association of Museums standards to justify our resistance, and in the end, we demanded a revision of policy.   It conflicted with what we interpreted to be our mission and values as professionals! At an institution I previous worked at, the employees were asked to engage in behavior and activities which conflicted with museum industry standards.  It was not so much the mission of the institution was the issue, but the way the employees were being asked to interpret it and follow it.  We turned to the American Association of Museums standards to justify our resistance, and in the end, we demanded a revision of policy.   It conflicted with what we interpreted to be our mission and values as professionals!   For these purposes, I think it is vital librarians have a broad mission which outlines acceptable standards and values.  The purpose of this is not to be arrogant or decide for our communities what they want (that is why we have redundant survey’s and evil boards!) or to or go rogue and take over the library (Can you imagine if all the librarians changed into superhero tights an all went on strike?), but rather establish what our purpose and values are.  Libraries are imperfect institutions and librarians are only human!  We need to establish some sort of core values!
      So, should the purpose of a mission be to establish a foundation of values for librarians?  Isn’t it up to the individual librarian how to interpret this mission?  If we don’t have a mission, aren’t we all rogue in a sense? 

      • BWS Johnson

        It took me a couple reads to get to the nut. If we accept that Libraries are growing organisms as Ranganathan posits, it might be considered logical by extension that missions will evolve and change with them. So that leaves us with several reasons that an employee could be at odds with the institutional mission. Perhaps they arrived after a mission was set, and neglected to check it before agreeing to work for the institution. Perhaps a mission hasn’t changed recently enough to encompass new roles. (This is a sign of entropy.) Perhaps staff were not asked for input when a mission changed. (This is a sign of poor administration.) There are more, but that would make this reply too long.

        I think the actions taken by the employees at the institution you worked in were the right ones. I’m glad that you mentioned turning to an outside source for help; as a consultant this makes me happy. A lot of times people just struggle on internally.

        Values are more related to ethics to me than mission, so in my world, I’d insert “code of ethics” where you said “purpose of a mission”. Aims and goals are closer to the word that I’d take. A mission to me is a good treasure map – it shows you where you want to go in a wide sense. Your annual plan’s job is to make this less of a napkin sketch so that you can accomplish smaller bite size portions.

        I don’t think it’s possible to be a “rogue” in absence of a mission since no one in the organisation properly knows where they’re headed in the first place.

        • Anonymous

          Its Funny you mention you are a consultant.  In addition to relying on AAM standards as outlined by what they defined museum standards and missions should be, they also assisted us with finding a consultant to advise us on everything from collections to mission statement development.  Our consultant was extremely helpful because she not only told us what to do, but why we should do it and where we could find resources to get started.   So Kodus to you for being a consultant!
          I like your analogy that a mission statement is like a treasure map.  However, a treasure map does tell you specifically how to get there and can’t really be revised!   Perhaps a more apt analogy would be to see a mission as the GPS to the treasure.  Even if you make a wrong turn, the GPS will direct you along a different route, but will always keep your destination in mind.  I think there are several ways of reaching the treasure and it is wonderful, but I don’t want librarians to not have a “treasure” to reach
          I guess my biggest fear is that without a mission, young librarians cannot define who we are.  We will not have a basis for our actions outside of our institutions and the opinions of others!  This falls under the “If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything” mentality.  If our mission is not to improve society through knowledge (though I think this should be the mission of everyone, not just librarians), then what will we fall for? 
          Plus, I do think it is possible to go rogue without a mission.  Let’s say an institution does not have a mission, so the boss lays down what he or she believes the library should do based on their opinion.  If I the employee disagree, he or she may ignore the boss’s wishes and complete a project based on their opinion.  Wouldn’t whose right normally be decided by the mission statement and code of ethics!   I think it would be interesting to see a librarian going Indiana Jones in the stacks! 

  • BWS Johnson

    I quite enjoyed reading the relevant chapter of the Atlas then booting on back home to comment. I’m glad that I resisted the urge to get the first post in favour of doing the reading in print first. It’s very tempting to get into a discussion about Library mission statements instead of Librarian mission statements.

    We certainly “facilitate knowledge creation” but I grimace a bit at that diction. It’s very sanitised and I’m afraid it probably wouldn’t make a lick of sense to funders outside of our field. We do help people learn. I realise this is knowledge creation, too. I also realise there’s more to it; we have an aesthetic goal to match our efferent ones if we’re in public. It’s more than just educating and entertaining, though. The most rewarding part of our jobs seems to share a ratio with the most persnickety materials we catalogue. We enrich lives. We build connections between our homebound Patrons. We shine when we help people through their business start up applications. We create opportunity.

    I feel like “improve society” is an outcome of our work. It’s a happy by-product of a job well done.
    The idea of a Librarian making a Library was an interesting one. We’d be nothing without our Patrons. I realise that Lankes is trying to creep away from artifacts, but we’re more than what we carry in our heads. The whole drive behind moving to a system that honours the ability of people to share an information experience simultaneously and asynchronously is much of what’s driving that.

    I was so happy to see the thoughtwork involved. It was wonderful to read the Maslow reference, for instance.

    I do think an individual having a mission is a nice concept. It would make short work of sorting out where to work. If your personal compass points East, don’t work for a Library that points West. I don’t think all Librarians can share one mission. There’s probably more ground in common than not, but there’d be variance at the very least by speciality. To each his own credo.

  • Jessica Stewart

    Amy I believe it definitely depends on the library and their particular “mission” as to whether a life-long relationship with users/members/patrons is considered a priority. However, I can speak on behalf of a special collections library, as a public services assistant, in which we keep track of every single member who enters with a sign-in sheet, database and member registration card catalog. This is particularly due to the nature of our collection of rare books and delicate documents to which members handle directly, but I believe it is also due to the efforts and hopes of continuing strong relationships with members of the academic and public community. We’ve had many returning members and we continue to keep records for our
    “dormant” members in the case they return, as many do after years have passed. Furthermore, we log the collections individual members handle allowing those in our department with access to the database to assist and facilitate more efficiently in the case a member returns weeks, months, or years later.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000790527412 Aaron Neslin

    I would be interested in how you feel about the phrase “facilitating knowledge creation” and how it relates to the notion of improving communities.

  • Anonymous

    Also, how often is this mission statement revised and do the libraries as institutions get to have input on this mission?  Comments?

  • Anonymous

    I think this question almost needs to be taken on a case to case basis. There are some people who go to the library every week and love to interact with the people there. And then there are some people who go to the library once and then never return. Libraries should definitely try to initiate that life-long relationship with its users, however the relationship goes both ways and depends on the response of the member/patron/user. I like the idea that Libraries can reach out to their communities and link to people within. It is not unrealistic to believe that academic and special libraries cannot sustain relationships with their members, like I said it depends on how the member or user sees the library and how they use it.

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t take the “improving society” aspect to mean that a librarian adopting this mission would be saying “I decide what is best for my community,” and actually something we are told not to do is put our own biases into how we facilitate patrons (or users, members, owners, or whatever you want to call them). What I took it to mean was we are improving society by giving them this information and encouraging them to make their own opinions and decisions based on this information to do whatever they want to or can do. By facilitating knowledge creation and inspiring them to think they will add to society in one way or another. It is not our mission as librarians to tell society what to do, but rather how to find the information so that they may use it in any way they want. It is like this forum, each person has their own voice and is putting their knowledge into the mix and it affects each of us in a different way.

    On another note, I do not think that “improve” necessarily implies that something is broken. If the mission stated that it is librarians duty to “fix” society, “fix” does imply that something is broken. Let me give you an analogy, say you have a cheeseburger, its delicious and there is nothing wrong with it, but someone adds bacon or tomato to it. If you like bacon or tomatoes, that is an improvement, if you don’t you can voice your disagreement or disgust. (I apologize to the vegetarians on the forum, its just what I thought of first.) So take society as the burger, and the knowledge as the bacon or the tomato, and we aren’t saying to pick one or the other (you could take both or neither, or add something else) we are just there to help you find the knowledge and add it to society, which would hopefully create something that would get others talking, not necessarily agreeing (nothing would ever change if we all agreed or all disagreed with each other) and thus creating more knowledge.

    I would be interested to see how you would phrase the mission of librarians.

    • Marie

      I hate burgers, tomatoes, and dislike bacon, but I loved your analogy, Nick. :)

      • Anonymous

        I would like having the knowledge about tamatoes and bacon Nick :)  It might inspire me to ask you to assist me with researching additional topings such as advocado or mayo!  If you had not given me this knowledge, I would not have been able to better enjoy my burger. 

        But alas!  By telling me about additonal burger toppings, you inserted your Bias!  Now we are heading down a slipperly slope where you then might impose on me all kinds of crazy things like Turkey Burgers or Tofu Burgers and then I would be forced to research and consume these healthy options!  Oh noes!  

  • Anonymous

    Professional
    organizations are self-identified groups of employees with missions that can differ
    from those of their employers. When I joined Music Educators National
    Conference, I agreed with their mission: to advance music education
    by encouraging the study and making of music by all. My bosses at
    public schools where I taught certainly did not embrace this
    mission fully. This made my job difficult, and maybe it made me into
    a rogue employee. 

  • Anonymous

    Librarians facilitate knowledge creation. The way I figure it, all the librarian-esque tasks we picture when we think of librarians—assisting in research, recommending novels, preparing
    bibliographies, managing collections, cooking up public programming—position the librarian as a catalyst for the sort of access to information that leads to knowledge acquisition. Thus, librarians facilitate knowledge acquisition in their societies. When one has access to information that results in knowledge acquisition, one is prepared to take it a step further: to create knowledge. Thus, librarians facilitate knowledge creation in their communities.

    What does it take for a society to grow and evolve? Some might say it’s the development of culture through the arts, music, poetry. Some might argue it takes the hard work of groups to establish democracies like ours and governments solving problems by legislating on behalf
    of those by whom they were elected. Others might say the it’s advancement of science and technology. There are many answers to this question. What do they all have in common? I say they all rely on knowledge creation.

    I believe librarians are natural candidates for leadership within their communities. Whether they choose to be leaders or not, and especially if they do, librarians practicing in the United States are members of this representative democracy and must take seriously the
    responsibilities that accompany this membership. If we are facilitating knowledge creation in our daily professional tasks, why not strive to take this practice to the ultimate level. Why not
    strive to improve society?

  • Matthew Gunby

    In response to your outsourcing comment, I think perhaps one of the greatest tensions in libraries today is whether or not libraries should be maintaining services in-house or outsourcing.  There are definitely arguments to be made for either.  A connected argument revolves around the type of education people entering the library field should be versed in.  Both economic and non-economic factors pull computer-savvy graduates towards start-ups or large tech companies over libraries, but should the library’s response be one of acceptance?  Is there an argument to be made that libraries should competitively seek skilled IT workers to install fully autonomous tech systems, possibly using open-source technology, in lieu of outsourcing this work to companies that specialize in this? 

    Collectivism and autonomy are not exactly synonymous, but I think creating an autonomous collective for facilitating knowledge might be an important way to think of a library.  Publishing and technology may limit this autonomy, but I think a library should make decisions with this idea in mind.  Should a library have commercial advertising within it?  Should data architecture be in-house or outsourced?  Should databases be subscribed to, or created?  Should texts be purchased through primary publishers, booksellers or directly from self-published authors?  Should the library belong to a consortia?  Should it be linked to other libraries that do not follow similar criteria?  I do not think any of these have absolute answers, but I think they all need to be considered in light of the autonomy of the institution.

  • Anonymous

    I tend toward verbose arguments. Maybe that wordiness in my post above got in the way of me making a simple point. 

    I see this mission in a graphic way:

    librarian helps a community member access information –> member may choose to use information to gain knowledge –> member with newly-acquired knowledge may choose to create knowledge –> this knowledge creation may improve society

    The librarian is involved in the first step. It’s up to the community member to use the information as she will–which may or may not lead to the member improving society. All ’cause the librarian helped out in the beginning! Bing, bam, boom, librarians improve society.

  • Christopher Lawton

    For me, one of the most empowering aspects of a mission statement like
    this one is the very encouragement to “go rogue.” I think we, as humans,
    have an obligation to make the world a better place, whether we do so
    by helping others, creating art, even something as simple as maintaining
    a garden. While I’m fully aware that this is an idealistic concept,
    idealism has traditionally been one of the only ways to get something
    accomplished.

    We organize to facilitate our personal interests; organizations do not
    exist without people constantly working within that type of structure.
    To say a library organization is a limiting factor on the librarians
    running the place is to reveal an organization in desperate need of
    updating.

    Librarians make libraries, not the other way around. As a librarian,
    it’s my obligation, my calling, to change the lives of others, by
    providing the best possible information at the best possible moment. The
    ethics of those judgement calls, and the skillset required to find the
    information, are two of the many reasons why librarianship requires a
    graduate degree. 

    • Anonymous

      Toph, thanks for reminding us that librarians typically have master’s degrees. We need skills and theoretical and ethical knowledge an average library technician doesn’t. It’s what makes our profession a distinguished and learned one. Asking questions and participating in discussions like the ones on this page will make us more reflective practitioners and better at our job.

  • Smatthews

    In a word  – yes – as far as any mission of librarianship is concerned. 
     
    Virtually everything you assert is subjective and based in personal values. I agree that improving society in “our” common perspective excludes Hitler-ish type “improvements”, but yet it still happened, meaning that “improvement” is totally subjective.  Any time a profession starts down the slippery slop of deciding how to interpret subjective ideas, like what constitutes “improving society”, it naturally ends up incorporating personal bias – philosophically speaking.
     
    All this conversation is philosophical (from my perspective) because I have the highest esteem for the integrity of individuals within our profession.  However, adopting a librarianship mission that includes subjective concepts opens the door for personal interpretation.  “Facilitating knowledge creation to improve society” is so totally filled with such subjective connotation as to be either dangerous at worst, or useless at best.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like you have gotten to work on some cool projects!

  • BWS Johnson

    I’m tempted to just say “Yes.” rather than John Kerry this reply.

    “Unintuitive” is not a word I’d want anywhere near a mission. I’m pretty sure that you meant a better way to state it. I think the deep problem I’m wrestling with for this particular mission statement is that it’s too concise to encapsulate what’s transpiring and where we want to go. I feel like this statement should be like a fork. We’ve got one tine, but we might want to think about 3 or 4. Usually one wants a mission to be brief, but if we’re dealing in complexity, we might want to err on the side of easier to understand and more lengthy.

    If you have to turn to the SEP, are you not constructing something that’s beyond the reach of a lot of your audience? If a Patron were trying to figure out what we did and how, would you be comfortable sending them there?

  • Smatthews

    If you’re not familiar with TED Talks, you should be, for both the educational and entertainment value, as well as the simple WOW! value.
     
    What we learned from 5 million books is one of those WOW educational and fun video presentations.  More importantly it opens up a look at the future of how technology is impacting the role of the 21st Century librarian, which consequently may impact the “mission” of librarians, assuming that there is such a thing.
     
    Have you played with Google Labs’ NGram Viewer? It’s an addicting tool that lets you search for words and ideas in a database of 5 million books from across centuries. Erez Lieberman Aiden and Jean-Baptiste Michel of Harvard University show us how it works, and a few of the surprising things we can learn from 500 billion words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000790527412 Aaron Neslin

    Dr. Lankes puts said something interest, that an empty room with a librarian is a library.  In fact, the mission statement doesn’t mention   artifacts.  However we are not philosophers. The knowledge we facilitate isn’t some a priori Truth that we discover through self reflection. We use our expertise to aid people using various artifacts and use various artifacts ourselves in that process.  Do you think the mission statement ought to include something about the tools of our trade?

    • Anonymous

      I see what you’re saying, Aaron, but I think that it is implied that librarians use tools. A librarian would never (hopefully) just make up an answer using no tools or resources to support the answer. Additionally, a librarian can use any resource he or she has around them, whether that is a book, a library database, or something that won’t fit on a shelf, like a famous building to talk about architecture, or information from their own minds. Since using tools is so integral to our profession, I think the idea would be more appropriate in a general description of what it means to be a librarian, not necessary within a mission statement.

    • Anonymous

      I agree that that an empty room with a librarian wouldn’t be seen as helpful or popular, but when you think in terms of libraries with extremely limited resources you realize that the quality of librarianship doesn’t have to suffer just because the tools are lacking. In the empty room situation a librarian would still be able to perform some essential skills. They can still have a reference interview to help frame the questions and tease out supporting information from both the librarian and the info seeker, envision resources that would help, and point the information seeker to the next place to ask questions. As with a library with limited resources (and they all seem to be limited in one way or another), all the librarian can do is give the best advice or instruction he or she is able to with the resources available, and intelligently refer out questions beyond his or her knowledge base; the empty room might be a little heavy on the referrals…

  • Jessica Stewart

    I think an important aspect of the mission is motivation. What motivates you as a librarian, whether you are aspiring to be one or have been for years? Does your motivation allow for a better understanding of what motivates members of the community? Does motivation make us as librarians more proactive and in effect more adept to facilitate knowledge?  

    • Anonymous

       I have been inspired by the idea of creating a social compact; I agree that our mission to improve society is only effective if it is supported by the community served. I have held positions in the past that focused on community outreach and patron relations and I love working for a community that is valued and embraced by a community. The social compact librarians uphold with their community should not just be viewed in terms of our survival (our call to action when budgets are on the line) but is at the core of what we do.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you Jessica. If you just view being a librarian as just another job, or a way to pay the bills, then you obviously won’t buy into the whole overarching mission. Instead if you see librarianship as an important part of the community and a way to influence people to be proactive, then we can let our mission guide us. Librarians should be going out into the community and finding out what it is that motivates people. Then, how can they use that to bring people together and generate new ideas? I hope that as librarians we will be motivated by our love of helping people and the need to bring knowledge where there is ignorance.

    • Anonymous

      I definitely agree that motivation is a key aspect of Librarianship and improving the community. If we are not motivated we would essentially just be information babysitters and little knowledge would be created out of our efforts. I also think that it requires both parties to be motivated, librarian and community.  If the librarian is motivated to facilitate knowledge but the community is not, the librarian’s efforts are wasted.  If the community is motivated to create knowledge, and the librarian is not, then the community is not going to find what they need and are going to go elsewhere.  I agree with Erin that Librarians need to be going out into the community to find out what motivates them, not only is this a way to help facilitate knowledge creation but it will encourage them to use the library and its services. However, what do you do if the motivation is not there for either party? Also, if you prescribe to this mission, but you personally cannot find the motivation, how does that reflect upon your identity as a librarian?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=17102081 Matt Upson

    We created an instructional ZOMBIE comic for McPherson College this spring with the intent of connecting with students in a new and meaningful way. We just wanted students to see the library in a new light.  That is really what it came down to.  Everything else stemmed from that.  You can read about the development of the resource and our motives via the various links below:
    PDF Comic: http://bit.ly/gFUNmd
    College and Research Libraries News Article: http://crln.acrl.org/content/72/7/390.full
    The Outreach Librarian interview: http://bit.ly/h5x7Z2
    My website: http://upsonlibrarian.weebly.com

  • Matthew Gunby

    This was dealt with a little in the discussion with Clifford Lynch on the inability of graduates to access databases in their former universities.  While I understand the economic constraints in opening these databases to alumni, I think there is a missed opportunity to aid the university.  First off this is in regards to reputation.  If an academic library provided the resources for a graduate to complete  a research project, then the library should be credited for this.  Also, by continuing to have graduates engaged in high-levels of scholarship, you enhance the visibility of the university, possibly influencing the number of students competitively seeking to attend the school, and opening up possible grant opportunities.  Finally, by broadcasting this resource you might further attract future students.  I believe that, in general, the alumni who used the library resources after they had graduated would be those most involved in the new scholarship, and I absolutely think the value in maintaining a professional relationship with these individuals outweighs the cost involved.  There also seems to be an, admittedly non-formal, trend in this direction, as Dr. Lynch noted many schools will hire scholars in adjunct roles, so that they can gain access to library resources.  Admittedly, a case by case approach is important to keep in mind, but in general, I think we do a disservice to scholarship, the school’s reputation, and learning in general, by trying to completely restrict our knowledge resources (including the librarians themselves) to currently paying customers.

  • Anonymous

    A Message From the Mission Thread Facilitation Group, A.K.A. The Radical Comic Creators: Thanks for everyone who took the time to participate in or read our discussion this past week. We’ve enjoyed heated conversations about whether a single mission is appropriate for all types of librarians, we’ve loved the strangely appetite-inducing analogies, and we’ve can’t wait to continue discussing the purpose of knowledge facilitation, its place in the community, and our mission as librarians. It is through open dialogue that we share and discuss the validity of ideas, and it is these active conversations that determine the future of librarianship. We hope you gained as much from the conversation as we did. There’s lots more to discuss! Join us as we participate in this week’s discussion about Conversation at http://www.newlibrarianship.org/wordpress/?page_id=20 Casey, Jessica, Alyssa, Aaron, Mia, Teya, and Nick