New Librarianship and the Library as Platform

“New Librarianship and the Library as Platform” Ticer 15th International Summer School on Digital Libraries 2012, Tillburg, Netherlands.

Abstract: Change in academic libraries is nothing new Piscines gonflables. From digitization of materials, to the move of scholarly communications from journals to online venues, librarians are becoming accustomed to constant reinvention. Now, however, libraries must become platforms for innovation throughout the entire academy. Librarians should be active in online education, new models of student learning, and helping the faculty adjust to disruptive change. Rather than being the heart of the university centered on a collection, libraries must become hubs that spread new practice throughout the organization.


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Announcing Expect More

The Atlas of New Librarianship is written exclusively for librarians. It has received a lot of good attention. However, one stream of feedback I have received was “it is great for librarians, but what about my board/faculty/provost/principal?” I have been often asked to help communicate the concepts of new librarianship to non-librarians (and frankly some resistant librarians who don’t go in for 400 page books with a map).

Since the Atlas has been published I have visited with friends groups, higher education administrators, public library boards, and school administrators talking about the possibilities of libraries and librarians. Over that time I have both honed the message to non-librarians, and extended my thinking. For example, the Atlas talked a lot about librarians, but not much about the institutions of libraries. That was deliberate. I wanted to see if we could define the profession outside of the building. In my new book Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries For Today’s Complex World, I explore the value of the institution (as well as librarians).

Expect More adds three new ideas to the new librarianship discussion: Library as Platform, The Grand Challenges of Librarianship, and Defining Librarians Beyond the MLIS. It does so in a “read and pass” approach. What I really hope happens is that librarians read the book, then pass it on to their members to have a conversation.

So is there stuff in there you already know as a librarian? Yup. If you’ve read the Atlas will this just be a repeat? No. Certainly some of the Atlas concepts are there, and in some ways Expect More is a sort of gateway to the Atlas: A gateway for librarians to get a sense of new librarianship before they tackle the Atlas; and a gateway for the ideas of the Atlas to the wider community. But there are also new ideas, and new directions. What I intended is to give progressive librarians a tool for community engagement. Elevate the discussion of libraries in communities from books, ebooks, and nostalgia to action, community aspirations, and improving society.

Loved the Atlas and want to energize your board or talk to your administration about moving beyond books? That’s where Expect More comes in. I wrote it to be a fast one-sitting read for the busy decision maker. I wrote it for paperback and ebook. I tried to make it affordable. It has a cute fish on the cover – everyone loves a cute fish!

One last note. I am fortunate to have an international readership. The Atlas came from a primarily North American perspective. Expect More is written with U.S. communities in mind. I use U.S. stats for example, and a lot of the roles of libraries in democracy have a distinctive U.S. flavor. However, as with the Atlas, the larger concepts I hope translate. If it doesn’t, I’d love to come over an ocean for a year and spend some time making the international edition.

Visit the Expect More site and order your copy…available via Amazon, Smashwords in a DRM-free ebook for most readers, and for iPad.

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New Librarianship: From Sharing to Lending and Back Again

“New Librarianship: From Sharing to Lending and Back Again” Tennessee Library Association Brown Bag Series, Webinar.

Abstract: This talk examines a bright future for libraries that can build strong connections with communities. This includes co-owning the library space, returning to a sharing model of libraries, and focusing on the aspirations of the community. Several examples of libraries acting as platforms for community advancement will be discussed.


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World Domination Through Librarianship

“World Domination Through Librarianship” Kansas Library Association Annual Conference, Wichita, KS.

Abstract: In an era of battling walled content gardens, disruptive change, social media-enabled revolutions, and truthiness there has never been a greater need for librarians bouncy inflatables. Sorting through mountains of data, ensuring a civil discourse, repairing the fragmenting commons are vital for our country, and librarians are the right profession to lead the way. However, this is not a simple matter of declaring ourselves prepared, it will take new skills and a new librarianship not focused on buildings and artifacts. This talk lays out a foundation for this new librarianship, and a call to action to save the world.


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Anna Maria Tammaro interviews R. David Lankes

A nice short interview for an Italian conference (but it is in English). For me the most interesting question was at the end about why aren’t we all just information scientists.

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Expect More

“Expect More” Hunters and Gatherers: Reshaping College Libraries for the 21st Century, Syracuse, NY.



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Atlas Acknowledgements

As I announced, the Atlas of New Librarianship has received the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. While I have been extremely grateful for the notes of congratulations, I cannot take all the credit. While the Atlas has my name on the front cover, it would not have been possible without the contributions and support of a lot of remarkable people. I put this list in the book, but it is always worth repeating (and augmenting a bit):

Atlas Research Team

This is the crew that did the heavy lifting on the Atlas manuscript through editing, reviewing, arguing, and generally getting it done. Todd Marshall, Angela Usha Ramnarine-Rieks, Heather Margaret Highfield, Jessica R. O’Toole, and Xiaoou Cheng. Special thanks to Julie Strong for her help.

Agreement Researchers

One of the advantages of being in an innovative school like Syracuse University’s iSchool is that every so often I get to make classes up. So I did. The students did a fantastic job of slogging through rough drafts of the threads and doing a lot of really amazing work on the agreements and discussion questions.

Jocelyn Clark, Amy Edick, Elizabeth Gall, Nancy Lara-Grimaldi, Michael Luther, Kelly Menzel, Andrea Phelps, Jennifer Recht, Sarah Schmidt, and William Zayac.

Participatory Networks White Paper

The work in this Atlas really began with the formation of participatory librarianship. That happened because Rick Weingarten and Carrie McGuire of the American Library Association’s Office for Information and Technology Policy (OITP) commissioned a white paper on social networking in libraries. Much of the foundational work on these concepts came from long hours of conversation between my co-authors, Joanne Silverstein and Scott Nicholson.

From the white paper on, OITP has been a great support in the work. I thank them and all the folks at ALA’s Washington Office: Emily Sheketoff, Rick Weingarten, Carrie McGuire, and Alan Inouye.

Starter Kit Sites

Most of the examples and experiments throughout the Atlas come from a wide variety of library and information settings. The following folks were gracious enough to open their doors for me and share their insights.

Blane Dessy and the librarians of the Department of Justice Law Libraries.

Linda Johnson and Sandra Horrocks of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, and Elliot Shelkrot, Joe McPeak, Kyle Smith, and all of the great librarians (past and present) of the Free Library.

Jeff Penka, Susan McGlamery, Paula Rumbaugh, and Tam Dalrymple of OCLC’s QuestionPoint service.

Robert Johnston and the librarians of LeMoyne College.

Elizabeth Stephens of the Glendale Library.

Participatory Librarianship Research Group

After the white paper was out, a group of talented faculty and doctoral and master’s students worked with me to further refine the ideas now in this Atlas: Todd Marshall, Angela Usha Ramnarine-Rieks, Joanne Silverstein, Jaime Snyder, Keisuke Inoue, David Pimentel, Gabrielle Gosselin, Agnes Imecs, and Sarah Webb.

Special thanks to Meg Backus for her ideas on innovation.

MIT Press

Marguerite Avery, Senior Acquisitions Editor, for giving the book a chance.


Kathryn Deiss, for insisting that I had to publish with ACRL, and Mary Ellen Davis, who told me I was allowed to piss off anyone I needed to.

The ILEADU Team, the State Library of Illinois, and IMLS

Thanks to Anne Craig, Gwen Harrison, and all the folks involved with the ILEADU Project for giving me a chance to try out some of these ideas.

A special thank you to Mary Chute of IMLS for her reaction and support. Her leadership has pushed the field forward.

The John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation

Thanks to Kathy Im and Elspeth Revere for supporting a study on the future of libraries and the development of the Reference Extract Idea. It is a rare treat to find funders who are great collaborators and ask the best questions. Also thanks to Connie Yowell for support on my credibility work.

Reference Extract is very much a product of brilliant collaborators like Jeff Penka, Mike Eisenberg, Eric Miller, and Uche Ogbuji.

Ideas and Reactions

I do practice what I preach. Most of my learning happens in conversations over lunch, coffee, and in hallways. What I love about the field of librarianship is that you are never at a loss for interesting company. I am going to miss a lot of people in making this list, but I wanted to give a shout out to some of the folks who had patience with me droning on about new librarianship.

Scott Nicholson, Joanne Silverstein, Meg Backus for the brilliant concepts on innovation versus entrepreneurship, Joe Janes, Eli Neiburger, Jill Hurst-Wahl, Mary Ghikas, George Needham, Chuck McClure, Michael Eisenberg, Joe Ryan, Megan Oakleaf, Blythe Bennett (who cemented the name for the Atlas), and Buffy Hamilton.

An apology to those I forgot.

General Acknowledgments

Thanks to my family, who had to see a lot of my back while I was typing in my office. Riley, I marvel every day at the man you are becoming. Andrew, you are the epitome of infectious joy. Anna Maria, my wife and love of my life, you make me a better man and the world a better place.

Thanks to all of the audiences of my presentations. Your questions, comments, and challenges honed these ideas. What’s more, they demonstrated that the best days of librarianship are ahead of us.

Thanks to the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, for the time to write this book.

Thanks to the Free Library of Fayetteville for the place to write. I can’t tell you the number of tough fixes I worked through on the Stickley furniture.

To Ray von Dran, who taught me true mentorship. He gave me my first real job, his trust, and faith. His time on Earth was too short, but his impact was great.

To my dad, who taught me that everything is retail. Whether you’re selling ink or ideas, you still have to sell. I miss him every day.

To my mom, who has every one of my books and may well be the only one to have read them all (including me).

To Michael Eisenberg, my one-time advisor, but always mentor and friend.

To Chuck McClure, who has shown me that staying on the top of your game throughout your career is possible.

To Joan Laskowski, my real boss.

To Lisa Pawlewicz for all her hard work in helping me play with technology.

To Marie Radford, who covered for my Atlas obsession on that other book.

To Liz Liddy who is the queen of encouragement and for her addiction to innovation.

Thanks to the creators of Galcon who gave me the perfect activity to think things through (well technically, take a break from thinking things through). And damn you Plants vs. Zombies for that lost week!

Librarians Who Have and Continue to Inspire Me

Abby Kaswowitz-Schear, Blythe Bennett, Joann Wasik, Pauline Shostack, Holly Sammons, Rivkah Sass, Sari Feldman, Stewart Bodner, Stephen Bell, Stephen Francoeur, Donna Dinberg (who is no doubt whipping Heaven’s reference desk into shape as we speak), Franceen Gaudet, Joe Janes, Nicolette Sosulski (a one-woman reference SWAT team), Jenny Levine, Karen Schneider, Joan Stahl, John Collins, Linda Arret, Nancy Morgan, Melanie Gardner, Joe Thompson, Buff Hirko, Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Nancy Huling, Jane Janis, Joyce Ray, Bob Martin, Tasha Cooper, Mary Chute, Keith Stubbs (although you may not have the degree, you have the brain, heart, and soul of a librarian), Joe Ryan (the first and second), Linda Smith, Pauline Nicholas, Kathleen Kerns, Meg Backus, Mary Fran Floreck, Kate McCaffrey, and Lorri Mon.

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Atlas Wins Award 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature

Immediate Release
Mon, 02/27/2012 – 09:48
Contact: Cheryl Malden

CHICAGO – “The Atlas of New Librarianship” by R. David Lankes has been named the winner of the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. The award, which is given annually by the American Library Association, will be presented at the association’s Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in June.

The book was co-published by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, and The MIT Press. In his book, Lankes articulates a new purpose for librarianship: “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” He envisions a profession based not on books and artifacts but on knowledge and learning which are created through conversations. The innovatively structured text, graphics and accompanying website are designed to stimulate further conversation about the field of librarianship.

The Award Committee praised the book for its unique visual map of ideas and their relationships to theory and practice. One committee member declared, “It made me think critically about our profession and our future…. I was taken out of my comfort zone and that was a good thing.” Other members praised the Atlas as “challenging,” “complex,” and “exciting both in its ideas and its design.”

Describing the book as “rich in optimism,” Kathryn Deiss, ACRL content strategist, said that “The Atlas of New Librarianship” creates “a platform for vital conversations about the future of librarianship.” The book’s unusual format presents more than 140 Agreements (statements on aspects of librarianship) and visually represents the threads that connect key ideas.

R. David Lankes, PhD, is a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies and director of its library science program. He also directs the Information Institute of Syracuse (IIS), a research center and think tank. Lankes was the provocative speaker for the Midwinter Conversations at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas.

The members of the ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award jury were: Chair, Susan E. Searing, Library & Information Science Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; June L. DeWeese, head of access services, University of Missouri at Columbia; Jasmine Y. Posey, training services librarian, Greenwich (Conn.) Library; John C. Sandstrom, head of acquisitions, New Mexico State University; and William Newbold Schultz, Jr., catalog librarian, Appalachian State University.

About ACRL

ACRL is a division of the American Library Association (ALA), representing more than 12,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. ACRL is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic and research librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments. ACRL is on the Web at, Facebook at and Twitter at @ala_acrl

About MIT Press

The MIT Press is the only university press in the United States whose list is based in science and technology. This does not mean that science and engineering are all we publish, but it does mean that we are committed to the edges and frontiers of the world–to exploring new fields and new modes of inquiry. We are a major publishing presence in fields as diverse as architecture, social theory, economics, cognitive science, and computational science, and we have a long-term commitment to both design excellence and the efficient and creative use of new technologies. Our goal is to create books and journals that are challenging, creative, attractive, and yet affordable to individual readers.

THE MIT PRESS | 55 Hayward Street | Cambridge, MA 02142

About “The Atlas of New Librarianship”

For more information about “The Atlas of New Librarianship,” visit

To purchase “The Atlas of New Librarianship” visit

The ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature Award will be presented at the ALA Award Ceremony and Reception, Sunday June 24 at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

More information about the ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature including how to submit a nomination is available on the ALA website.

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Joining the Conversation: School Librarians as Facilitators of Learning

“Joining the Conversation: School Librarians as Facilitators of Learning.” Lankes, R. D. (February, 2012). 39(3). Teacher|Librarian pps. 8-12.

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Expect More: Our Most Important Conversation Part 2

“Expect More: Our Most Important Conversation Part 2″ ALA Midwinter 2012 Presidents Program, Dallas, TX.

Abstract: Description from the program:

Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities: join these conversations and leave Midwinter with new tools to become a better advocate. Libraries rely on partners within the community to advocate on their behalf more than ever before. But how can libraries stay relevant to these stakeholders in an environment of ever-changing priorities? Join visionary professor David Lankes, author of “Atlas of New Librarianship” ( (, in two afternoons of innovative and interactive conversations about harnessing the evolving role of libraries, and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.

Facilitators from the graphic recording company, Sunni Brown (, will help create visual images of the plenary conversations that conclude each afternoon. The Saturday, January 21, 2012, session focuses on “Understanding Your Communities.” The Sunday, January 22, 2012, session focuses on “Transforming Librarianship.” Both run from 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Sessions are open to all Midwinter Meeting attendees; please add them to your Scheduler to indicate that you plan to attend. Attendees will also receive a coupon for 5% off the price of David Lankes’ galvanizing “Atlas of New Librarianship” (ACRL/MIT Press, 2011) at the ALA Conference Store.


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