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!
Welcome to a new week of discussion! This time around we will be tackling the “Improving Society” thread. We’ll debate some controversial topics like promoting innovation in an environment that is adverse to change, whether or not social action actually fits into our everyday jobs, and whether or not, as professionals in the field, we should take on administrative responsibilities that we may not actually want. This is a topic that we know many of you are passionate about, so jump in! We don’t mind if things get a little ugly.
The discussion will follow a “question of the day” format. However, if you’re still discussing Monday’s question on Tuesday, feel free to continue. A guide for the week can be found below.
Monday: Risky Business
Tuesday: Taking One for the Team
Wednesday: Practicality vs. Idealism
Friday: Follow the Leader
Lankes describes innovation as being “at the heart of librarianship.” If you were working in a library that seemed overly averse to taking risks or testing new ideas, how might you sway them to instead value and promote an innovative atmosphere? How might you address their potential concerns about risking certain resources (financial or otherwise) in unproven or uncertain efforts? Or do you perhaps instead feel that libraries should be especially cautious in especially uncertain times?
On the topic of leadership, Lankes suggests that librarians are obligated to accept larger administrative responsibilities because they will ultimately serve their mission and communities in a better way. However, this exposes two potential problems: capability and will. While most skills can be learned, some people are better suited to leadership roles, and there are also people who, skills notwithstanding, would be more self-motivated to lead. Is it the responsibility of librarians, who have no interest in taking on an administrative role (and thus, no will), and who are virtually devoid of experience in a leadership position, to accept it, based on their mission statement? Are librarians’ personal needs dispensable, and if so, will that negatively impact their assumption of administrative duties?
The book says, “We don’t shelve books and change toner cartridges – we maintain an infrastructure for social action. We don’t reference resources and catalog artifacts – we teach and inspire.” In reality, we do shelve books and catalog artifacts… along with a huge number of other things. As you look towards your future, how much emphasis will you place on these more traditional tasks, and how much on the less traditional aspects, those associated with what we’ve been calling ‘radical librarianship’?
On page 129, Dave talks about libraries and agenda, and having a clear purpose in mind. From my own experience working in a public library, I can say that many people who use the library see it as simply being there to serve their needs, not as an institution with a purpose and agenda. Should libraries have an agenda, something to work toward, or should they be developed by the community in response to the community’s needs? If libraries do need an agenda, how do librarians remove their own biases to make sure they are best serving the needs of the public?
Toward the end of the thread, Dave talks about the “obligation of leadership” and how librarians need to have a leadership role in the institution and the community. While I agree with this, should librarians as leaders always have the final, authoritative say? Isn’t our job (among other things!) to provide knowledge so community members are informed and eventually become leaders themselves? Would this approach take away our role as authority figures in our fields of information?
Thanks for supplying some great discussion for us this week! We had a lot of good ideas for finding out what our communities want/need, and how to provide it. One thing everyone seemed to agree on–we can’t remain stagnant. Libraries that remain mere book repositories are bound by the fate of those books, but we’re better than that! More importantly, we need to make our communities AWARE of what we’re doing for them. If we don’t we’ll just keep hearing those dreaded words: “Do people still USE libraries?”
Thanks again for all your comments!
~ Rei, Marie, Jake, Jillian, Topher, Erin and Loranne
Hello everybody! This week we’ll be congregating around this idea of “community” –what it means, how it affects libraries and librarianship, and how it has been and will keep changing. Your moderators have loads of questions for each other and the world-at-large, and we’re hoping you will too! Many of them will be informed by the Atlas’ Communities thread, but others come from our personal interests and backgrounds, so don’t be shy about joining the conversation!
As a preview of what’s to come, know that each day we’ll be tackling a new subject, from the “identity crisis” that librarians are facing in their communities to the open-source movement; from metrics measuring exactly what communities want to topical centers. We’ll wrap up the week with discussion on the future of communities in libraries, and we’ll reflect on some of the ongoing questions that should be asked.
Monday: Identity Crisis!
Tuesday: What Communities Want (And How to Get There)
Wednesday: Topical Centers
Thursday: Open Sourcing
Friday: Staying Relevant in a New Era
Your moderators are Rei Becker, Marie Evans, Jake Hare, Jillian Healy, Christopher Lawton, Erin Lee, and Loranne Nasir. See you in the comments!
Librarianship is having an identity crisis! What are the communities we serve? Do they change? How do libraries as physical spaces affect their communities? Do they do so in the same way as ten years ago? 50 years? What’s your definition of the role a librarian plays in community? Taste-maker? Gatekeeper to the realm of knowledge?