Thank you for your participation in the Librarianship thread. Our thread aimed to highlight new directions and dilemmas that we as librarians will most likely face. The results of this weeks discussion leave us with the following reflections: In the future of libraries, resources beyond artifacts will become increasingly important. While this will expand the capabilities of the library, it will also add new complexities to catalog design and organization of information. With expanded information access, should all librarians focus on knowledge creation and reference, or will this expanse change the role of the librarian from being a source of information towards a motivator of members. Finally, given that a constant state of change is not beneficial for any industry or society, how will we as librarians adapt and assure that our field settles into a usable service for a diverse set of members.
As new LIS students, many of us feel eager and excited to enter the career of Librarianship amidst great uncertainties and change for the profession. Our lack of investment in traditional libraries may make it easier for us to adapt to the new environment than other long-term librarians, including bibliofundamentalist. How do you feel about entering a profession in a time of rapid change with an ambiguous future job description? Does this make it an ideal time to be receiving an LIS degree? What difficulties do you anticipate encountering in the long awaited “refreeze” period in library innovation?
On page 159, Professor Lankes describes how a public library reached out to the local (Syracuse) community by interacting with a children’s hospital. In this way, they were reaching out to their community in a unique way. How does collections development affect community, but also how does the community affect collections development?
This concept also ties in with the innovative ideas occurring in circulation. As librarians start thinking about the community and how to develop their collections, they need to figure what materials can be lent out. The idea that “…[y]ou can “check out” a lawyer, accountant, or librarian for… one-on-one attention…” (from page 169) is fantastic. How does this change in the communities around us? This is not a rhetorical question. Think about the community that you live in and other communities you have been a part of (your hometown, where you went to college, etc.). How would you like this unique process to affect libraries and the communities they serve and how they grow?
David Lankes wrote, “Rather than cataloging artifacts and assuming they are self-contained, we need to build systems that focus on the relationships.” This quote proposes the idea of building catalogs which are functionally different from what we see in libraries today. Instead of basic inventory systems, which can be cumbersome or useless for members of the library, Professor Lankes proposes that future catalogs be structured to include information that is more contextual in nature. This poses a few questions. If we push for this new system of cataloging, who should contribute in the design and development of this new system? How much influence and involvement should members have in their design? How should librarians address value of contextual information and judge its inclusion in the catalog? Should contextual information value be differentiated based on categories of the materials within the catalog (ex. fiction vs. historical, etc)?
Also, in addressing the discourse of “Public Service,” Dr. Lankes illustrates the Reference Librarian as an active facilitator of the patron’s general knowledge and not simply an agent that “[provides] the member with a pointer” (pp. 155). Specifically, he make the claim, “you must facilitate the knowledge from access, to knowledge, to environment, to motivation.” The passage goes on to make some very interesting and provocative claims about user tracking; however, what I’m interested in is the role of the librarian as motivator. (See also pp. 26-27 for a brief overview of Lankes’ more broad treatment of motivation).
If part of librarianship and knowledge facilitation is motivation, how must we rethink the relationship that the librarian has with his/her patron? Does the motivation begin with user-initiated transactions and behave like a cycle or are librarians responsible for preemptive motivation (be it user-specific or broad)? Can motivation (perhaps in excess) problematize the relationship between the librarian and the user?
In the Librarian thread, Dave talks about the role of new librarianship in relation to the notion of public service. He suggest that new librarianship is not about artifacts; its about facilitation. Artifacts are no longer the primary focus of librarians, but rather tools that aid the process of knowledge creation. If providing access to artifacts is no longer the primary public service function librarians, what capacity do reference librarians serve in the information age? Should reference transactions be a specialized area, or should every new librarian make reference work their primary function in order to facilitate knowledge creation? How can new librarians become socially active reference authors in order to meet the demand of the public?
“The real debate, and it is sure to be vicious, will come from within our own ranks. It will be from the annoyed librarians of the world who seeks the status quo and see their mission as recorded knowledge, the collection of artifacts, and the maintenance of organizations labeled libraries.” Lankes believes that change-averse “bibliofundamentalists” can be “convinced and shown the way,” but also that there comes a point when “the debate must end,” and “we will have to leave them behind.” This is a hugely important issue I can almost promise you you will be dealing with after graduating and getting a job. What will you do when, bright, bubbly and full of ideas and ideals, you are faced with the staunch ‘old guard,’ unwilling to change or entertain new approaches to things? Will you try to convince them? Make the changes seem innocuous? Fight them? Let them have their way? Wait for them to retire? Or just walk away and leave them behind?
Welcome to the last week of discussion! This week we will be discussing the “Librarians” thread. In particular we will be analyzing the future role of librarians as they seek to advance their mission in different ways.
Our format will provide one question per day on different topics such as: motivation; social activism; what to do with bibliofundamentalists?; when will the refreeze period of the library arrive; collection as community; and cataloging.
Please feel free to participate in one or all of the discussions posted.
A few weeks ago I did the Keynote at NELA and it was received very well, including a very thoughtful blog post by Agnostic, Maybe. I needed to create shorter more pithy version for the iSchools webpage, and so edited it down from an hour to 25 minutes. I thought it might be useful to others, so here it is:
if you want the longer version with more jokes, ums, and New England references you can find it here. Also, due to popular demand I should be able to post a transcript of the original this week.
Thank you everyone, for a week of really great discussions. Although we may have different ideas on how, where, or when librarians should work to improve society, it seems that we can at least agree that that is part of our job description. Today’s information professionals seem to view themselves not only as authority figures in the realm of reliable information, but the people to whom the rest of the community can look to for assistance and leadership. Now it is up to the rest of us to figure out how we, in our future positions, can address the problems of our respective communities and bring about the best possible changes. Thanks for all your comments and insights!