Librarians: Introduction

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.

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Killing the Library Quickly

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.

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Improving Society: Closing Summary

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!


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Improving Society Thread

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

Thursday: Motivation

Friday: Follow the Leader

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Monday’s Improving Society Question

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?

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Tuesday’s Improving Society Question

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?

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Wednesday’s Improving Society Question

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’?

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Thursday’s Improving Society Question

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?

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Friday’s Improving Society Question

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?

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Discussion Summary

Hi everyone!

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

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