On Racism, Ignorance, and Librarianship

I begin this post by condemning the racists, white supremacist, and Nazi actions in Charlottesville.

The past few days have been extremely troubling, and left me wondering what I can do. I then remembered I was asked that exact question after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France. I put together this post: https://davidlankes.org/charlie-hebdo/

This morning I re-read it and while I stand by it, I don’t think it went nearly far enough, and I need to amend it.

In the post, I talked about three things librarians and libraries could do in the wake of a terrorist act:

  1. fight violence with information and understanding
  2. help the community develop their own narrative
  3. continue to be the resource for your communities to come together

I still think this is a good game plan for any library in the wake of violence and tragedy. Counter false and ignorant claims with knowledge and learning; help the community construct and disseminate their own story so that one is not imposed from outside; and continue to be a place the community relies upon. A library should be a safe space, but it will only be that if librarians continue to understand the threats all their community members face and work to overcome them.

What struck me upon re-reading the post was a stark difference in the situation between Paris and Charlottesville. In Paris, the worry was that a shocked community would turn against an innocent and valuable part of themselves, namely Muslims and immigrants. My post was a call not just for the importance of diversity, but an acknowledgement that immigrants and Muslims were part of the community and a need to come together a better understand each other.

In Charlottesville, there is absolutely a need to acknowledge that racists are part of the community, but librarians should not be giving them an equal voice or justifying their beliefs. Also, to be VERY clear, the community I am talking about here is the American community, not just one city in Virginia, or the South. Put simply there are times when a community must face the fact that parts of that community are simply antithetical to the ultimate mission of a library.

Racism is a state of ignorance. It deliberately denies the positive effect of diversity and inclusion. Purposefully living in a state of ignorance is counter to the values and mission of librarianship. Therefore, giving voice to racism does not further the conversation or learning of a community.

Now stating that racism is bad is a pretty obvious call. Talking about libraries not promoting racists views is also a pretty easy call. Here’s the thing, stating that as a librarian you have to choose or take a side in this situation is another thing altogether. It means acknowledging you are not neutral, and that as a professional you must take a stand against part of your community is hard.

Shouldn’t libraries be place for all voices in the community? No. Libraries are not neutral microphones placed in a town square open to all comers. They are platforms of learning that acknowledge the full range of the views in a community, but with the community develop and support a learning narrative that pushes against racism and bigotry.

I watched the press conference yesterday when the Virginia Governor, the Charlottesville Mayor, the City Manager of Charlottesville, and the city’s Chief of Police talked about outsiders and how their community would become stronger in the face of the racists violence. It was a moving moment. I am imploring the librarians in Charlottesville and throughout the country to be part of that process. To engage and model the power of inclusion and diversity. Don’t simply inform your population, help them learn. Don’t think that open doors are sufficient to be sanctuaries: actively engage and invite in people of all classes, and races, and creeds.

Don’t ignore the systemic racism and the passive attitude that allows white supremacy to fester. Understand also that your fighting the ignorance of racism doesn’t start nor end at the door of a library. Fight for better transportation options to allow greater economic opportunity for under-served peoples. Be a source of healthy foods and meals in the summer and food-deserts of our cities. Work to make a library card a symbol of equity to all people, not just those who can or choose to come in the door.

This is not about ideology or political party, this is about our mission: to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in our communities. Racism is antithetical to this mission. Period.

I will end this post as I ended my Charlie Hebdo post.

To my Charlottesville colleagues I ask, how can I help?

Library Renaissance: Building the International Knowledge School

tl;dr version:

Two years ago I did a world tour where I talked about a librarianship based on knowledge and community engagement. I ended up doing a lot more listening than talking. I met amazing librarians, I found common cause, and ideas of how we all could work closer together. So, now it’s time to bring together those seeking a new librarianship into an emerging school of thought. We’re having a planning meeting in Florence, Italy on September 18th. If you are unable to join us in person, we will also be bringing in folks virtually. At that meeting a group of amazing librarians, library organizations, and partners will plan a sort of international progressive conference. Want to play?

Full Version:

There is an emerging school of thought around librarians, libraries, and their relationship to their communities. This school of thought seeks to go beyond data, materials, and information to knowledge, helping people make meaning in their lives, and focusing on communities making smarter decisions. A school of thought goes beyond a smattering of innovative services, or single lighthouse agencies. It is a comprehensive approach to a discipline that ties in theory and practice. The power of these schools of thought can be seen in architecture (modernism that transformed urban living with skyscrapers), economics (changing how countries see debt and how to build global financial marketplaces), to the arts (impressionism), and research (naturalistic inquiry, critical theory, postmodernism).

Right now, this new school of thought in librarianship can be seen in a FabLab driving through the Netherlands, an advocacy campaign in the United States focused on transformation, on new service models in the cities of Brazil, in an atlas of new librarianship, in the advocacy MOOCs of Canada, and a distributed digital library master’s degree in the European Union, and a new public square in Pistoia. It is being shaped in the field, the classroom, and the halls of academia. It is championed by an international cast of librarians, scholars, government workers, and library supporters. The work has resulted in numerous publications, videos, and Internet sites.

There is a loose and growing network of people across the globe working to push the field of librarianship forward. This network exists in email threads, Tweets, Facebook groups, and conference sidebar conversations. It is time to pull this network together, forge a common narrative for the future of libraries, and produce an actionable agenda to equip global change agents to enact new library service in communities across the face of the Earth. While this change will happen with and within existing associations, institutions, and agencies, there needs to for a separate conversation to share knowledge, tactics, and resources to make these changes possible.

To this end, I am proposing a series of national “inventories” leading to an international academy where delegates of the national events share and learn with colleagues to build a strong collaborative network. The shape and nature of this network will emerge from the process and is seen not as an organization or “place,” but rather as an inter-personal connection for projects, mentoring, and support. The ultimate goal of the network is to constitute the new school of thought around a librarianship of knowledge and meaning over materials and buildings. The ultimate goal of the school of thought, what in South Carolina we have been calling the Knowledge School, is to improve society through helping our communities make smarter decisions.

As you can see there are a lot of details to be worked out. However, we already have a number of resources developed from text books, to curricula, to project plans, to documentaries. We also have initial buy in of several international organizations. On September 18th we will be gathering (in person and virtually) in Florence, Italy to plan for the international events.

I’ll be keeping folks up to date here as details and concrete plans emerge.

If you and/or your organization are interested in helping organize this endeavor let me know: rdlankes@mailbox.sc.edu

Access and Impact

[Originally posted to Facebook]

Ok I’m feeling preachy.

Repeat after “me access does not equal impact or knowledge or improvement”…Unless you are also talking about access to education, economic opportunity, good schools, good nutrition, transportation, and resources.
Yes libraries are part of a whole network where we meet Maslow’s needs, but we can’t simply assume all these needs are met. We must be part of a proactive system that seeks to ensure them. We are not simply doing collection development with books and databases, but with schools, faith communities, philanthropies, social services, government. We must seek to connect the vast and diverse players toward equitable access across our communities.
School librarians working with teachers, and nurses, and counselors is access.
Academic librarians working with student services, career services, teaching centers, and crisis centers is access.
Public librarians working with homeless shelters, prisons, and churches is access.
Medical librarians working with patients, doctors, care givers is access.
Librarians working across library type to ensure a student transitions to undergraduate to worker is access.
Here ends the

New Design

Nothing like a misbehaving WordPress theme to motivate a site redesign. The good news is that the site loads a lot faster. I’ll no doubt be tinkering with it a bit, but interested in your comments.

All the content and links should be unaffected, but please let me know if you see broken stuff.

Hearst awards major grant to College of Information and Communications

Hearst awards major grant to College of Information and Communications
Posted July 5, 2017
by Rebekah Friedman
Photo: Students, faculty and staff participate in South Carolina’s “Read-In” at the State House.

The College of Information and Communications has received a $100,000 Hearst Foundations grant to strengthen South Carolina communities through comprehensive literacy efforts.

The grant will fund the Community Based Literacy Initiative, a partnership between the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy (SCCCBL) and USC’s College of Education. The initiative builds upon work already being done by Cocky’s Reading Express, SCCCBL’s statewide outreach program.
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Summer SLIS Update

Greetings my Friends,

Normally summer is a slow period in academia, but not at the School of Library and Information Science. The faculty, students, and staff have been busy moving forward Carolina’s Knowledge School.

The big news is that the school’s graduate program in library and information science has been reaccredited by the American Library Association! This has been a multi-year process that has involved all parts of the school. The faculty worked with our National Advisory Council and our Diversity Leadership Group to put together a program report that covered all aspects of the school. ALA looked at everything from our curriculum, to the moral of our students, to the condition of Davis College. While there are always things for us to improve upon, the committee gave us the thumbs up.
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University of South Carolina LIS Program Re-accredited

The American Library Association (ALA) Committee on Accreditation has granted re-accreditation to the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at the University of South Carolina. The designation, effective for seven years, is held by only 60 programs nationwide.

“Having accreditation from the American Library Association not only allows us to continue to serve the citizens of South Carolina and libraries around the world, but it’s also a mark of quality,” says Dr. David Lankes, director of the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS).

Members of the ALA’s External Review Panel visited the university in March to review all aspects of the MLIS program, from curriculum to faculty quality. Following that visit, the panel identified four strengths: community engagement, vision and strategic planning, graduate student access to faculty and faculty advising, and high morale among students and employees.

The accreditation announcement comes just months after U.S. News and World Report ranked USC among the top 20 ALA-accredited programs in the country and among the top five for the School Library Media specialty.

Lankes credits the SLIS community with the program’s success.

“This is the result of thousands of hours of dedicated work by faculty, staff, students and professionals from the field,” Lankes says. “We believe that time was well spent and represents our dedication to librarianship and the power of librarians to transform lives and communities across the globe.”

For more information on the School of Library and Information Science, visit http://www.sc.edu/study/colleges_schools/cic/library_and_information_science.

Eulogy for the Information Age: The Future is Impact Not Access

“Eulogy for the Information Age: The Future is Impact Not Access” ALIA New Librarians Symposium 8. Canberra, Australia (via Skype).

Slides: Slides in PDF
Speech Text: Read Speaker Script
Audio:

[This is an edited version of the script I used for my talk. However, it is not a word for word transcript.]
I realize the New Librarianshipin the event’s title refers to new to the profession, but I’d like to think of it for my talk as a reference to a new view of the profession. I would also like to let you know that many of the ideas in this talk were strongly shaped by ongoing conversations with Darin Freeburg at the University of South Carolina. The good stuff is his, the bad stuff are my fault.
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Forget the Future: Our Time is Now

“Forget the Future: Our Time is Now” RUSA President’s Program, American Library Association Annual Conference. Chicago, IL.

Slides: Slides in PDF
Speech Text: Read Speaker Script
Abstract: Our communities-our colleges, our towns, our schools, our businesses-need us. As those we serve face growing tensions of nationalism, xenophobia, racism, extremist politics, and social media sites that seems better at building filter bubbles than societies there is a need for a community of professional dedicated to the common good and founded on knowledge. However, our communities don’t need us to gate keep a collection, offer up workshops, or staff a building. They need us adding value to their lives with them in their homes, classrooms, offices, and devices. This talk will explore how reference and user services not only remain relevant, but mobilize to addresses the real challenges of today’s community.
Audio:

[This is an edited version of the script I used for my talk. However, it is not a word for word transcript.]

Every year the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science have a hooding ceremony for graduating librarians in Rutledge Chapel on the historic Horseshoe of campus.

The chapel is in Rutledge College, the first building built for the South Carolina College – now the University of South Carolina – in 1805. It was built, in part, with slave labor.
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A Carolina School of Librarianship

“A Carolina School of Librarianship” Metrolina Annual Conference. Charlotte, SC.

Abstract: In academic and disciplinary circles there is a rare occurrence when a school, an organizational unit, transforms into a school of thought. This kind of school of thought galvanizes thinking between scholars and practitioners to change how we think about something. Classic examples include the Chicago School of Architecture where new building technologies lead to a way of designing city buildings that eventually defined modernism, the modern skyscraper, and changed the look of cities forever. There was also the Chicago school of economics and social science. These influential communities of thinkers and doers can change the whole world.

I think we are ripe for a Carolina School of Librarianship. In North and South Carolina we have a concentration of outstanding scholars and libraries. We have library leaders in public, academic, school, and special libraries. If we can come together to think together, to develop common impacts, to share we can forge an agenda and way of thinking about the field that would have global influence. In this talk I would like to outline some aspects of that school that I think can serve as a foundation for this and talk about the outsized influence the people in the room can have across the globe.
Slides: Slides in PDF
Audio:

Metro from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.