Agreements in this thread

Conversation Theory
Creating a new social compact
Dialectic Theories
Evolution of the social compact
Importance of a worldview
Importance of theory and deep concepts
Learning Theory
Longitude example
Motivation Theories
Sense Making
The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities
The Mission Thread

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One of the things I learned in library school is that when people have an information need, they’ll always ask people they know before they ask a librarian. The trick is making sure that librarians are some of the people they know.
—Jessamyn West

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Video Introductions to the Thread

Mission Landmarks from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

The Importance of Worldview from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

Mission of Librarians from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

  • Shyni. K. G

    to understand the concept of participatory librarianship

  • Steven

    The problem with the mission statement that is the basis for this website is that it is so buzzwordy and vague that–for all intents and purposes–it provides no distinction between the role of a librarian and that of many other professions. Classroom teachers also “improve society through facilitationg knowledge creation in their communities.” So do software engineers, newspaper editors, therapists, and countless other professionals. The more generic we make our role in society, the less relevant we become to society. The key to an adaquate mission statement for librarians is to highlight those functions that are unique to librarians. A great example of a mission statement for librarians can be found at Yale University, which sees the mission of its librarians as being–in part–to collect, organize, preserve, and provide access to and services for a rich and unique record of human thought and creativity. Lankes’ deconstruction of the library profession to an inexplicit pottage of universalistic buzzwords is an indication of his lack of self-esteem as a librarian, an unfortunate condition shared by many in the field, most predominantly among those librarians who know not what librarianship is. With leaders like Lankes, I fear for the future of the profession.

    • http://twitter.com/Philbradley Phil Bradley

      Well, it’s a viewpoint Steven, so thanks for sharing it. However, I think the point that you’re not quite getting here is that this is central to what librarians do. While other professions may do this (and some do, some don’t) I would argue that it’s a by product. Newspaper editors for example have the sale of newspapers as their primary concern; everything else is subsiduary.

      However, within the information profession it’s our knowledge and understanding of assisting our members in the choice of information, our bias towards the right information for the right member, and our ethical requirement to be authoritative (though not authoritarian) which is key. I’m sure newspaper editors do have ethics, but I’m seeing a huge lack of them, especially here in the UK.

      I would further argue that any mission statement that relates to the collection of the artifact isn’t MY kind of librarianship at all. Archivists – absolutely right, so perhaps there’s a problem over terminology.

      I don’t see anything that Mr Lankes has written deconstructs as much as it reconstructs. I think there’s little doubt that we’re at a tipping point in the profession right now, and we need to look very hard at what we’re doing and where we’re going. It’s only *because* of people like Mr Lankes that I have any confidence in the future of the profession – and not only confidence but a real belief that if we are able to reconstruct and move on it’s going to be through looking at ourselves critically. For some people this is unfortunately very difficult, and extremely scary – and I’d say that it’s the librarians who lack self-esteem, confidence and belief in themselves and their colleagues who are the ones who will have real problems with this.

      • Steven

        Once again, I am not saying that Lankes’ mission statement does not describe that which is central to what librarians do.  Rather, the description is so elemental as to render the library profession indistinguishable from many other professions.  It’s the equivelant of defining humans as “warm-blooded vertibrates, that give live birth, and posess mammory glands and hair.”  It’s an accurate description but it’s not nuanced enough to distinguish humans from any other mammal.
        Your idea of librarians having knowledge in assisting members in the choice of authoritive information that is the right fit for them gets closer to an adaquate mission statement for librarians, but is still not specific enough.
        You claim that I and those like me are scared because the profession is supposedly at a tipping point due to the emergence of the digital information age.  I would argue that this has changed nothing and that librarians are just as relevant (if not more so) today as they were a half century ago.  What we need to do as a profession is to toot our horns about what we are and always have been, not to redefine ourselves into irrelevanance because we do not have confidence in what we are. 
        Incidentally, nowhere in my post did I state that a library mission statement must relate to the collection of the artifact. Rather I quoted Yale’s library mission statement which is concerned with the record of human thought and creativity regardless of its carrier (though I would argue there need be a degree of reverence for that which came before as well).

        • http://www.DavidLankes.org rdlankes

          I’m going to leave the whole library self-esteem thing alone and focus on your mission comments.

          I actually agree that the mission is applicable to a number of professions. There is a reason it comes with a 400 page book :-) the mission puts us in alignment with many allied professions such as teaching and journalism, and is intended to focus folks on facilitation, knowledge (not objects), and societal impact. I would hope that a librarian/librarians would write their mission to best meet their community’s need. It is, in essence, a mnemonic and conversation starter (which it clearly has done).

          This begs the obvious second question, how then do you uniquely identify a librarian? I would argue that it is the intersection of three things: our approach to knowledge, our means of facilitation, and the values we bring to a community. I feel you need all three. If one simply looks at means of facilitation (roughly skills and services offered) you end up with a static definition. The tools we use will change over time. If you look at knowledge alone, you bring in too many professions and perspectives. If you look simply at values you end up with idealouges that often ignore reality.

          • http://www.DavidLankes.org rdlankes

            Sorry, I clicked too soon.

            I also agree that we are as relevant as we have always been, and need to toot our horns. However, I think the digital nature of our tools is not what is necessitating a tipping point (a huge contriubiting factor to be sure). It is an increase in the ability and desire for participation. It is moving past a systems focus to a user focus, and still further to a participant focus that sees those who use libraries as co-owners of it. This is a result of digital technologies, but also changes in government, changes in media, and it is driving us back to our fundamentals.

            Those fundamentals, however, are not in the things that we have done for a long time, but the core of why we do them, a dedication to knowledge, and values. I say these things and wrote this book not out of a lack of self-esteem, but out of a great pride in the best of our profession. What I fear is that too many seek pride in functions and collections, than impacts and our larger calling.

            In any case, I appreciate you taking the time to join the conversation.

    • http://twitter.com/kaylinnic Kaylin Boehme

      I’m about halfway through the book right now, and I agree that it takes a ‘kitchen sink’ approach to librarianship at times (I have a hard time conceptualizing a library focused solely on teaching people theory and practice of manufacturing and being filled with manufacturing equipment, per page 24, and not identifying it as a school). However, it seems necessary to take the broadest view possible of our profession in order to form a mission and philosophy. Then we as individual librarians in our own organizations can narrow down to what our communities need at any given time.

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