The New Librarianship Worldview


Killing “Good” Ideas, as viewed in R. David Lankes’ presentation at Library 2.012 Virtual Conference

Presented by R. David Lankes
at Library 2.012 Virtual Conference

A review… 

Wow! What a speaker and presentation deliverer!

When I had selected to listen to R. David Lanke’s The New Librarianship Worldview available through Library 2.0 Conference archives (or YouTube), I was totally unaware of how captivating and motivating he was going to be as a Keynote Speaker.

At the time of published recording, it is noted that R. David Lankes is a professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies and director of the Information Institute of Syracuse. His book, The Atlas of New Librarianship won the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. Lankes is a passionate advocate for librarians and their essential role in today’s society.

In this presentation, Lankes discusses how libraries over the years have put a lot of faith in technology as a means in better serving and more relevant to their communities while making some choices as to what’s cool and trendy within the library environment.

Lankes states the problem that libraries have is not coming up with new ideas but is killing them! He is of the belief as an academic librarian professional, like the least favourable task is getting rid of ideas and projects to which I fully agree, as I am one to hang onto ideas, awaiting for the moment that they (the ideas) can be bettered.  Lankes listed 5 main reasons on why it is hard for the library profession to kill off ‘good’ ideas as:

  • new projects (hard to start, impossible to kill)
  • tradition
  • interpersonal
  • hangers on
  • past success

Within the library profession, Lankes identifies traditional core services are very hard to get rid of regardless of how the pros and cons of an ‘idea’ has been debated. Removal of core services such as the readers advisory or even the reference desk would mortify not just library staff but patronage as well (including me!). When Lankes touched upon how past success were another reason why its hard to kill good ideas, I could fully commiserate with what he was saying as I know was its like to create a project, revel in the success of its deployment and fellow gratitude as I (personally) owned that idea. To hang on to past success, Lankes states these ideas do not indicate future achievement and could actually lead to future failure.

In order for the library profession to be successful, Lankes points out that it is the worldview which is the fundamental (and often forgotten) to the vision, mission, strategy and execution of library services. He said, if you look at libraries as just being in the book business, then your vision, mission and strategy is going to be bookish.

Worldviews can change the questions we ask, they open up questions to criticism ~ as to whether or not the question actually matters.  As an example of this, Lankes confided that he was approached by the McCarter Foundation to answer one simple question, “What is the future of libraries?” Of course, the McCarter Foundation expected it to be expertly researched. However as an academic, Lankes stated that the ‘question’ is the most important thing you can come up with, they are the currency of the realm and felt that this question made the assumption that there is only one future. In essence, behind this question, Lakes insists that there is a worldview, a determined view that will shake that future. If we challenged the worldview of that question to “What should be the future of libraries?” the question is viewed in a different way.

Lankes’ comparison of the Collection Centric and New Librarianship and then giving the example that libraries should be more like kitchens than grocery stores was intriguing. As he spoke, I understood and agreed with his views how libraries today should be about communities, observations and learning. Librarian knowledge is transferable to those in the community who engage with the library environment, let alone as a librarian professional be able to learn from community members while sharing their knowledge. Additionally, Lankes sees the role of the librarian as stewards of libraries that are the voices making the decisions that create and shape the library environment.

By the halfway point of Lankes presentation he states, “Open up your head and pour the worldview in. We are uniquely human and are completely dynamic!” Lankes continues to explain the worldview more in depth, giving additional examples as to the benefits of embracing a worldview perception and how the it enhances what libraries were of the yesteryear and to what the profession can evolve as, into the future.

R. David Lankes is an avid, informative, inspirational and passionate advocate of the library profession and to be able to experience listening to this particular presentation, The New Librarian Worldview is a definite must for all library and information science professionals.

I highly recommend listening to him ~ he may well change ‘your’ worldview perception!


How to be a Catalyst for Change: redefining the Library 2.0 Information Professional Technology, innovation and the library of the future The New Librarianship Worldview An ILN Engagement!