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R. David Lankes, The New Librarianship Field Guide – Join the Conversation at MELA

Join the Conversation!
The New Librarianship Field Guide by R. David Lankes

We’re sure excited for the Maine Library Association’s upcoming annual conference, and we hope you are, too! R. David Lankes, one of this year’s keynote speakers, is a favorite author of ours, and his latest book, The New Librarianship Field Guide, is both a call to action and a practical resource for all who care deeply about librarianship and its mission.

“Librarians aren’t in the information business—we’re in the knowledge business,” writes Lankes, Director of USC’s Library and Information Science Program, and as he explains, this means “the conversation business.” Advocating for a library mission that actively facilitates learning and knowledge creation for our diverse, twenty-first century communities, Lankes emphasizes the power of libraries to create positive change.

In anticipation of what is sure to be an inspiring address, here’s a sampling of a few of our favorite chapters in The New Librarianship Field Guide.

Ch. 4 Knowledge Creation
Knowledge is created through conversation, Lankes argues, and rather than serve as passive cataloguers of “artifacts of knowledge” or “packets of info,” libraries facilitate learning encounters for their members. To do this, librarians need to ask questions to understand the context of what members already know in order to figure out what they need and where they want to go. This is equally true for answering a member’s reference question and determining book acquisition and classification systems. And this mission extends beyond the physical walls of a brick and mortar library—to a library website, its social media presence, the activities it sponsors within the community. “By seeing learning as conversations not confined by a space or a time, and librarianship as independent of the buildings and institutions called ‘libraries,’” says Lankes, “we can expand our mission of improving society further than ever before.”

Ch. 5 Facilitation
Librarians “create the conditions for people to learn,” and they do so through four key areas: access, knowledge, environment, and motivation. They can facilitate two-way conversations by bringing in experts and promoting the expertise of members; they can expand the definition of literacy beyond reading to include literacy in mathematics, finance, technology, and culture in order to strengthen members’ abilities to continue learning. They can create welcoming spaces, both physical and virtual, that inspire and facilitate safe, diverse conversations, and they can motivate members to learn by understanding where they’re at and where they want to go.

Ch. 7 Improve Society
Libraries and librarians make choices that shape their communities, says Lankes. They are neither neutral nor passive. Rather than shy away from this power, librarians can wield it to empower their members and serve their communities. The library mission, argues Lankes, is a mission for social justice, and as trusted, credible community authorities, librarians are in a position to effect real change. By questioning systems and pursuing improvement, seeking diverse community input, protecting the freedom to pursue all ideas, and by continually examining their own beliefs, librarians can create a better world.

We hope to see you at the MLA conference November 14-15! And don’t forget the Library Partner Summit on December 9. We’re looking forward to talking about facilitation and going into these ideas in more depth.

Come on out, have fun, and join the conversation!