Lankes Awarded Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award

Portrait, Isadore Gilbert Mudge, dated April 1897 and "circa 1932", Historical Photograph Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.
Portrait, Isadore Gilbert Mudge, dated April 1897 and “circa 1932”, Historical Photograph Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.

I am humbled to be “selected as the 2021 winner of the Isadore Gilbert Mudge Award, the Reference and User Services Association’s highest honor. In recognition of his 30 years of visionary leadership in reference services; for his national leadership in virtual reference; for his ongoing work in expanding reference services to build stronger communities; and for his excellence as an LIS scholar.” RUSA Website

I have to give great thanks to the selection committee. I am also indebted to the incredible Joe Thompson (who should be the next winner) for nominating me.

I am proud to join a list of awardees with some of my reference heroes on it like Joe Janes, Marie Radford, Cheryl LaGuardia, Nancy Huling, David Tyckoson, Linda C. Smith, Joan C. Durrance, Anne Lipow, and William A. Katz.

Lankes Named Visiting Researcher at French National Library School ENSSIB

I am proud to announce that I have been appointed as a Visiting Researcher to ENSSIB (École Nationale Supérieure des Sciences de l’Information et des Bibliothèques), the national library school in France. Previous Visitors include: Marie Martel, professeur et bibliothécaire à l’université de Montréal and Michael Buckland, Professor Emeritus at the University of California Berkeley’s School of Information.

This year I’ll be working virtually with faculty and students to organize some master classes on the topic of post-neutrality librarianship and some other projects. Thanks to ENSSIB director Nathalie Marcerou-Ramel and to Raphaëlle Bats for this amazing opportunity. I can only hope enough folks get vaccinated for me to actually travel to Lyon in the fall.

To prevent confusion, this is in addition to my current position as professor and director of the iSchool at the University of South Carolina.

How Libraries Can Help Us Make a More Perfect Union – The Long Version

On January 22nd Publisher’s Weekly published on OpEd of mine in their Soapbox. It was based on a longer piece I wrote on Facebook. Here is the longer version.

On January 6th insurrectionists invade the Capital in Washington DC to attempt to subvert the will of the American people by attempting to overturn the presidential election. They did so after a morning, and indeed, months of instigation founded on misinformation, false grievance, and a climate that increasingly defines politics as a pursuit of power over the judicious use of power at the behest of the people.

It has taken me several days to begin to make sense of this, to get over my anger, and to affirm for myself a way forward. For me, as an information scientist; as a director of an academic program that prepares librarians and information professionals; as an author and speaker, the way forward is clear: we must rebuild the civic and educational structures that bring communities together.

This is not a shocking conclusion. One could even rightly say it is a self-serving one. After all, as a scholar, educator, and author I am invested in the success of these institutions. However, I am invested because I continue to see their value and positive transformational potential.

I am invested because I have seen when libraries break out of the artificial bounds of collections and neutrality, they become instruments of community cohesion. I have seen libraries host difficult conversations on race. I have seen libraries bring together a people on issues of immigration. I have seen libraries fight for the poor, and the incarcerated, and the all too forgotten in attempts to remove the alien nature of neighbors. From drag queen story hours, to human libraries, to simply providing a collection that captures the value and richness of the human experience, our public libraries must continue to weave together a fragmented social fabric one person, one neighborhood, one nation at a time.

I am invested because I have not only seen for myself, but read study after study on the power school librarians in the education of our youth. I have seen dedicated educators in out school’s largest and most inclusive classrooms, school libraries, make a safe space for the marginalized. I have seen school librarians go beyond the limits of testing to engage children in true inquiry and spark the passion for learning. I have seen school libraries with books and makerspaces, and hydroponic gardens, and talent shows, and whole programs give students status and meaning in an education system all too often focused on outcomes and curricular standards. And I have seen school librarians from the cities and the states again and again and again sound the alarm that literacy in this era must be more than reading and arithmetic but understanding and the ability to interrogate messages and claims in the media, on the net, and in the very conversations we have as a nation. Alas, I have also too often seen these heroes and their programs cut based on the false premise that the only learning that occurs in a school is tied to a textbook.

I am invested because I have seen academic libraries and archivists not simply preserve our cultural heritage, but make it accessible and meaningful to their universities, and the world at large. I have seen stewards of the record of our history, with a degree, or without, force us all to honestly acknowledge a past of racism, bigotry, exclusion, and authoritarianism that does not simply inform our present, but is part of our present mechanisms of systemic racism and political ideologies. I have seen medical librarians ensure that today’s front-line health workers are prepared to face the savage reality of COVID and the savage reality of non-critical thinkers that dismiss science for adherence to political messaging. I have seen academic librarians dedicate themselves to prepare college students of this nation to do actual research, embracing Google and social media, but also the scholarly record, and the foment of investigation.

I am invested because I have seen the power of the information professional, the IT worker, the social media strategist, the data scientist when they are prepared with the ethical skills to complement their technical ones. I have seen the IT manager and the business process analysts ensure that we never see our fellow citizens as simply consumers or dopamine triggered users, but rather as human beings. Human beings that at their core seek safety and certainty and meaning in their lives – and when an unjust society deprives them of means of engaging in the democracy and the economy, they have no choice but to turn to demagogues who mask narcissism in patriotism, and self-interest in twisted visions of greatness.

The future of this nation is not the sole property of a political party. The future of this nation is in the capabilities and education of its citizens. Again and again and again we see that when “enemies” come together in honest and civil conversations – when they are exposed to “the other”- they find commonality. It is too easy to hate through a screen, particularly when the person on the other end may not be a person at all.

My own work seeks to better understand the role of librarians in society. As part of that I have come to the conclusion that there is no neutrality in the work of information. All views are not equal, all visions for the future are not the same nor must they presented in an unbiased or equal fashion. A vision of the future where elections are overturned by the group most willing to tear down social norms and resort to violence is not as valid as a future where righteous protest over inequity are protected. A future where profit drives national narratives and is preferred over community forums of civic engagement is not the right future. A future where libraries and schools are restricted to providing only a prepackaged version of “objective belief,” must be rejected. In its place we must all embrace and prepare for a complex world where human desire for meaning must temper a baser desire for power and exclusion.

I am invested in the success of libraries, and schools, and academia because I believe they are the essential social infrastructure to move us past the dark actions of January 6th. I ask that we all invest in them and ensure our voices are heard and our democracy strengthened. I am not asking us all to magically agree, but to agree that it is through debate and seeking fair and equitable mechanisms (elections, governance, education) that we will be great. And I am asking us all to acknowledge that we are not there yet. I am asking us to invest not in a person or a party, but in our neighbors whatever their color, or whoever they love, or however they identify themselves.

I also acknowledge that I am making this request from a place of privilege and economic stability. I am making this request on lands taken from indigenous people, and I am asking for peaceful revision to a system that all too often used violent means to suppress people of color.

This country was founded with the following words:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

These words were a mission, not a statement of fact. It was the starting point…we did not form a perfect Union, we formed a government to seek one out. We, as a nation, a colonizing power, a slave owning nation, an imperfect collection of very fallible human beings, put in writing not some statement of success, but of aspiration. An aspiration that we MUST continue today. WE ARE NOT A PERFECT UNION. We will never be a perfect union because the definition of such a thing will change with the advent of new understandings of physics that can enlighten or build bombs; with new medical capabilities that both save lives and bankrupt those unable to pay for them; with new understandings of sexuality and gender that can both liberate and evoke fearful condemnation; and, yes, with new technology that can connect mankind and allow the worst of our human nature to seek out its peers.

I am invested in seeking out a more perfect union, and believe such a pursuit begins with equitable education, information, and conversation.

iSchool 2020 year in review

Greetings iSchool community,

Today is the last day of a semester that often felt like a sprint. We all nervously watched the COVID-19 Dashboard in August and read the stories of pool parties and thought for sure we would close the campus. But the numbers fell, the mitigation procedures worked, and we carried through. The school has had a few close calls, but we remain healthy. As we come out of Thanksgiving and into the holiday season, we do indeed have much for which to be thankful. 

We can be thankful for growing applications and enrollments in the MLISprogram. The investments of the past year in our reputation, our curriculum and in marketing the program are paying off. We can be grateful that our BSIS program enrollment has remained steady despite worries of dramatic reductions in on-campus enrollment. And we are seeing our BSIS grads getting high-paying jobs. We can be thankful that our Ph.D. program has just undergone a long developed program policy revision.

And our academic programs have not simply maintained but are growing. We approved significant changes to our gradate certificate, allowing students to get a specialized certificate along with their MLIS. The first specialization is in equity, diversity and inclusion and starts in the spring semester. Development of specializations in public, academic and data science are all underway building on our commitment and continued investment in the school library certification. The faculty also approved the creation of a new joint master’s in data communications with our colleagues in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. This will be the first college-wide joint degree.

We are thankful to begin a search for a new faculty position, focusing on the intersection of race, data, media and society. The new professor will join a faculty with a growing track record in research productivity and funding. This year we have multiple faculty awarded grants from IMLS — including the prestigious Early Career program at IMLS — and the Library of Congress.

New efforts in public scholarship like a podcast and regular column with Publishers Weekly join an impressive array of grants, peer-reviewed articles, book publications and conference participation. According to Academic Analytics, we rank ranked third among our peer iSchools for total number of books published by faculty and fourth in terms of the percentage of a faculty having published a book. That success continues with new projects under contract with MIT Press, Rowman & Littlefield and ALA Editions. And our works have been translated into French, German, Italian, Dutch and Spanish, with Arabic and Chinese on their way.

Our faculty continue to work internationally. We are part of an ERASMUS+ grant in the European Union and a British study for the World Intellectual Property Association. Our faculty have presented at conferences like ALA, ALISE, ASIS&T, the iConference and IFLA. We have presented to bodies such as the Advisory Group for the National Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland, and the National Library of New South Wales in Australia strategic planning group. 

We are thankful for a public scholarship agenda always seeking to increase an already impressive impact within the South Carolina community. Even in a pandemic, the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy has brought Cocky’s Reading Express to thousands of children online, with a mayor, a university president and even “trombone guy” demonstrating the importance of literacy. SCCCL has secured tens of thousands of dollars to continue to distribute books, provide professional development in diversity in literacy, and even deliver mental health training to the citizens of the state. 

We can be very proud as well as thankful that this semester we put real action and resources behind the school’s standing commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion. The work of the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair, with public lectures and conversations, is joined by new Spectrum scholarshipsto recruit and support diverse MLIS students and the development of new diversity fellowships with the Thomas Cooper Library. 

To end this update, let me say how I am personally thankful to be a part of the iSchool community. This age of pandemic, racial awakening, divided politics and an economic downturn has been hard on all of us. Isolation and anxiety exact a toll. We all worry about our loved ones as well as ourselves. Yet through it all I have seen students be resilient. I have seen faculty and staff devoted to student success. And I have seen alumni, students, staff and faculty rededicate themselves to making a better society through knowledge and service. 

So, let me end with this. Thank you all.

The Skillset Podcast

A quick introduction to the new Skillset podcast from The University of South Carolina iSchool and Publishers Weekly:

Check out the latest:

Here’s some text from the announcement:

We’re delighted to announce the launch today of The Skillset Podcast, a new free weekly podcast hosted by University of South Carolina professors R. David Lankes and Nicole A. Cooke.

The podcast is a joint effort from the University of South Carolina School of Information Science, the Augusta Baker Endowed Chair, and the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy, and Publishers Weekly.

Each week The Skillset Podcast will feature conversations with librarians and other key players in the information world seeking to illuminate the complex issues facing libraries and other institutions in these unprecedented times. New episodes will post on Fridays and will be featured in Publishers Weekly’s Preview for Librarians e-newsletter

“This podcast began with a problem,” says podcast co-host R. David Lankes. “Here at the University of South Carolina School of Information Science we had just added a course on Community Engagement and Service to the core of our library science degree. And suddenly, in 2020, with the impact of the Covid-19 crisis and a long overdue racial and social justice awakening, everything we thought we knew about the subject went out the window. These massive disruptions have shaken the library world to its core. Libraries have long rested on their virtue, and their connection to the community. And suddenly, libraries were separated from their communities as their physical buildings were forced to close. And as a profession, librarians are finally committing to addressing their own issues, including the legacy of systemic racism, vocational awe, and the safety and well-being of our workers.”

Season One of The Skillset Podcast will focus on libraries in the wake of protests and the pandemic, and will feature conversations with an array of library directors, activists, and educators exploring how libraries are changing to meet the needs of their communities amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the movement for social and racial justice. And each season will be aligned with the academic semester, giving listeners an opportunity to explore the issues and themes being addressed by library science students today.

Last month, Lankes and Cooke also joined Publishers Weekly senior writer Andrew Albanese for the first webinar in a new, free series, Live From the Library Lounge, for a discussion that focused on how libraries are changing in these unprecedented times

“This podcast is an amazing opportunity for us to continue building those bridges between theory and practice,” says co-host Nicole A. Cooke. “It is an opportunity for us to connect with library professionals who are actually ‘walking the walk’ and using their expertise to educate our students about the true meaning of community literacy, and to expose new ideas and practices to a wider audience.”

School of Information Science statement on diversity, equity and inclusion

The University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science community strongly condemns the systemic and systematic oppression of Black people, indigenous people, and all people of color. We stand with everyone who is actively fighting against repressive systems and we offer our support to those organizing proactive ways to combat racism. We stand with Black Lives Matter.

As scholars, educators, librarians, students, information scientists, and those who support educating the next generation of knowledge professionals we must instill great empathy in our students and equip them to directly fight racism. We seek a world where difference is sought out, the vulnerable are actively protected, and service is listening and learning more so than teaching and telling.

We pledge to not only promote equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in our curriculum, research, and servicework but to reach out and purposefully include and promote the work of people of color. We pledge to hire, support, and promote people of color on faculty and staff. We pledge to protect in these challenging economic times community literacy centers and diversity laboratories. We pledge to support and encourage faculty with research agendas in uncomfortable and “challenging” topics like microaggressions, service to the LGBTQIA+ communities, and the refugee populations. We pledge to defend faculty who are active on social media and give presentations on #BlackLivesMatter and police brutality. We pledge to double our efforts to recruit and retain students of color in our programs and in the profession.

We must use diversity, inclusion, and acceptance as the guiding principles in the fight to end acts of prejudice, racial bias, threats of violence, and even blatant killing based solely on a person’s race or ethnicity.

The Faculty and Staff, Diversity Leadership Group, and Library and Information Science Students Association
School of Information Science, University of South Carolina

School of Information Science

This month the Board of Trustees approved a name change for the School of Library and Information Science to the School of Information Science. This post is the memo created by the faculty of the school requesting the change, documenting the process that led to the name change, and outlining a continued commitment to librarianship.

TO: Dean Tom Reichert

FROM: The Faculty of the School of Library and Information Science

RE: School Name Change

DATE: January 10, 2020

With this memo we are formally requesting the Board of Trustees change the name of the School of Library and Information Science to the School of Information Science. The request is made for several reasons:

  • To reflect the expanding academic and research programs of the school beyond the master’s of library and information science
  • To solve internal and external confusion identified in the College of Information and Communications strategic planning process, particularly as it relates to the university library
  • To reflect trends in peer library and information science programs at other universities

On December 7, 2019 the faculty and staff voted to change the name of the school with a vote of 16 yay, 5 nay, and 2 abstentions. A second vote then approved the name “School of Information Science,” 9 yay, 8 nay, 2 abstentions.

This comprehensive memo outlines the process of eliciting feedback from the school’s key stakeholder groups including current students, alumni, and employers of our graduates. This memo also outlines key issues identified in changing the name and corresponding responses. Finally, the memo seeks to make clear the commitment of the school to librarians and the libraries they run.

Why a Name Change

The issue with the current name of the school can be put simply as “people think we are either the university library, or that all we prepare are librarians.” The brand of library is strong, and due to the efforts of school faculty, getting stronger. Unfortunately, that brand is so strongly centered on functioning libraries, that people have a hard time seeing a school of library and information science as an academic endeavor that investigates: areas of librarianship, education, data, knowledge management, archives, records management, social media, user experience design, and strategic use of information in a business context.

  • To reflect the expanding academic and research programs of the school beyond the master’s of library and information science

The School of Library and Information Science currently offers a nationally ranked master’s in library science, a certificate program in school librarianship, a certificate of graduate study in health communication (an interdisciplinary certificate administered by the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior; the School of Journalism and Mass Communications; and the School of Library and Information Science), and a specialist program in library and information science. It also offers a growing bachelor’s of science in information science and a Ph.D. in library and information science. We are currently developing new programs with the School of Journalism and Mass Communications in data, media, and society at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

The undergraduate program prepares information workers and knowledge management experts for industry. Information science graduates connect people, technology and business objectives. Our undergraduates obtain jobs with employers such as AgFirst Financial, Colonial Life, IBM, and government agencies. They take positions with titles such as data analyst, knowledge manager, systems analyst, web developer, or information architect and several go on to graduate school, including our own program in library science. Our Ph.D. graduates go into faculty positions in information and business schools in addition to research and practice-based roles in archives, museums, and the information technology industry.

Our current faculty conduct research related to all types of libraries. They also explore important issues related to big data in the health industry; information use in faith-based organizations; universal design; diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice; copyright, publishing, and scholarly communication; community engagement and outreach services; issues related to literacy; technology and technology-enabled learning; fake news; knowledge management; and social, political, and theoretical implications of information access and use. Our faculty seek funding from multiple agencies such as the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the U.S. Department of State, the National Science Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the Hearst Foundation. Faculty also seek and receive internal university funding in the areas of data mining and were very active in studying the impacts of natural disaster following the Columbia flooding. Faculty attend prestigious conferences in information science, computer science, health sciences, instructional technology, and entrepreneurship in addition to librarianship. The proposed name, School of Information Science, reflects these broader efforts.

  • To solve internal and external confusion identified in the College of Information and Communications strategic planning process, particularly as it relates to the university library

Over the past 4 years, it has become increasingly clear that while library science students are able to seek out the required graduate program to become librarians regardless of the name of the school (through listings of programs certified by the American Library Association, U.S. News and World Report program rankings, alumni and so forth), undergraduate students do not engage in such a targeted search. Instead, students exploring our bachelor’s in information science become confused, believing the undergraduate program only prepares librarians. It does not. There are no accredited library programs at the undergraduate level and there is no requirement for an information science undergraduate degree to get into our master’s program.

Likewise, faculty and administrators within the university have mistakenly assumed we are part of the Thomas Cooper Library. In addition to numerous anecdotes, it is most clearly seen in EAB, the academic analytics system the university uses. LIBR course prefixes are included in data on the school even though LIBR is the prefix for courses offered by the university library, not SLIS.

As much as we have worked to communicate the scope of the information science program to advisors at the university level, in other colleges, and at the honors college, high turn-over of advisors means that undergraduates are regularly told to take our major if they want to become librarians. People simply can’t get past the word library in our current name to see the full scope of what we offer.

  • To reflect trends in peer library and information science programs at other universities

This problem with naming is not unique to the University of South Carolina. The past decade has seen the rise of the iSchool movement[1]. iSchools are information science academic units (colleges and schools). Most have library science programs, but some do not. The iSchool Consortium is a group of schools from universities working primarily to clearly articulate what schools of information science offer. The iSchool Consortium, of which we are a member, works on international marketing programs, and seek to create greater awareness of information programs within the universities that offer them.

This movement is most evident when looking at the U.S. News and World Report rankings of library and information science programs. Of the 64 accredited programs listed by ALA, only 12 have the word library in their name. Of the top 10 ranked programs there is only one, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill which identifies itself as the “iSchool at Carolina” on its website. Changing our name to the School of Information Science brings us in line with our colleagues.

Process of Informed Decision

To be clear, the School did not come to the requested name change lightly, or quickly. The request comes after an extensive investigation and consultation over the past two and a half years. Strategic identity issues with the current name that were first identified within the school (primarily in our efforts to grow the size of our undergraduate programs) have been a recurrent theme in other ways of soliciting feedback from our community.

Four primary methods were used to gather feedback and reactions for a name change:

  1. College strategic planning process: The College of Information and Communications has been engaged in an extensive strategic planning process over the past 2 years. In the course of interviewing faculty, staff, students, and alumni confusion caused by having “library” in the name was a recurrent theme.
  2. Consultation with the library community: The library science graduate program is the core of our school. It is our largest enrollment, represents the topical focus of the majority of our faculty, and its graduates make up the bulk of our alumni. The library community is also represent the largest employing sector of our graduates. Needless to say, we do not want to alienate this community. Therefore, over the past two years, but particularly over the past 7 months, the school director has talked one-on-one with library directors of public and academic libraries throughout the South Carolina and throughout the United States. Formal presentations of the name change proposal were made at the South Carolina Association of Public Library Administrators, The South Carolina Library Association, and the South Carolina School Library Supervisors Group. Two online town hall meetings were held for all comers. The overall feedback received at these events was several strong voices for the name change, several strongly against, but a majority that were generally supportive. The one issue identified with uniformity was that the name of the Master’s of Library and Information Science degree name should not change. There are no plans to change the name of the degree.
  3. Canvassing alumni: To ensure the widest reach for input, a letter (see appendix) authored by current SLIS director David Lankes, previous dean of the College of Library and Information Science Fred Roper, and co-chair of the SLIS 50th Anniversary Committee and longtime supporter of SLIS Jack Bryan was sent to all alumni. Over 5,400 letters were sent out with a postage paid postcard for feedback included. At the point of the faculty vote, 91 responses were received. 30 of the responses were against the name change, 52 were in favor, and 9 comments did not address the issue of the name. It should be noted that those seeking to keep “library” in the name were passionate about that desire.
  4. Internal discussions with current students: As part of this process the undergraduate representative in Student Government conducted an online survey of undergraduate students. 23 of 33 either agreed or strongly agreed that the name of the school should be changed, with only 3 either disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

A Continued Dedication to Librarianship

In the process of soliciting input two overarching concerns were raised with changing the school name: loss of professional identity, and fears of the school losing its focus on librarianship. That is, worries that removing library from the school name would make librarians less visible in higher education, or that the school would redirect focus and resources away from the preparation of librarians. Among the faculty there was expressed a need to put on the record the schools focus and commitment to libraries and librarianship.

Libraries of all types are having a resurgence in the country and globally. Articles in major publication outlets such as the New York Times[2], The Guardian[3], CNN[4], and Forbes[5]make it clear that libraries are not only surviving in today’s connected and data driven society, they are thriving. Libraries are seen as vital social infrastructure. School libraries, for example, have a well-documented positive effect on preK-12 student performance. School librarians are in fact a documented critical area of need for South Carolina’s schools[6].

Public libraries while continuing to provide communities access to information (books, the internet, databases), serve as engines of economic development (supporting entrepreneurship, raising the quality of life), and they act as a safety net for often marginalized communities. Public libraries act as “universities of the people” and more recently focused on developing community narratives and identity.

In higher education, academic libraries support cutting edge scholarship and help undergraduates transition to college life. University librarians maintain historical collections that preserve our cultural heritage. Librarians in hospitals, law firms, and government agencies are at the forefront of data analytics, policy development, and support explorations into artificial intelligence and the ethical use of big data. There is virtually no sector of the economy and society that libraries and the librarians that run them do not effect.

Library usage in the US and around the world is increasing[7]. Put simply the need for librarians and library science education is more important today than ever before. The field of librarianship represents an annual investment of nearly $26 billion in North America and well over $40 billion worldwide.[8] In an age when traditional institutions are declining, library usage has grown steadily over the past twenty years. “One out of every six people in the world is a registered library user” and “five times more people visit U.S. public libraries each year than attend U.S. professional and college football, basketball, baseball and hockey games combined[9].” Here are a few more facts[10][11]:

  • Americans go to school, public, and academic libraries more than three times more often than they go to the movies. Almost 100 million more people visit their libraries (1.3 billion) each year than see a movie at the theater (1.2 billion)
  • More than 172 million Americans have library cards? That means that more than half of the American public has a library card right now.
  • Libraries are visited over 1.3 billion times a year which is 10 times more than MLB (68 million), NFL (17 million), NBA (22 million), Hockey (21 million), and Nascar (4 million) combined
  • Reference librarians in the nation’s public and academic libraries answer nearly 6.6 million questions weekly. Standing single file, the line of questioners would span from Ocean City, MD to Juneau, AK. Overall librarians answer around 250 million questions from the public each year.
  • Millennials use libraries more than any other generation.
  • Academic libraries held approximately 158.7 million e-books and public libraries held more than 18.5 million in 2010.
  • Americans check out more than eight books a year, on average. They spend $35.81 a year for the public library—about the average cost of one hardcover book.

Librarianship is also part of conversations at the University of South Carolina. Take, for example, the new centers of excellence. The university’s work on artificial intelligence builds on library science core research in the areas of ontologies and taxonomies. Concepts of information retrieval, long a staple of LIS research, underlie the development of search engines and social media alike. In addition to core scholarly topics of data and information organization library science provides a strong ethical foundation to the work on machine learning and deep learning.

In the area of Big Data and health the school’s scholars are driving understanding and development in the areas of social media, consumer health, and links to community-based outreach across the country.

Librarianship is also central to the university’s outreach to K-12 education in the state. Roughly half of the students in the school are preparing to be school librarians – certified teachers that partner with other teaching staff at schools to advance literacy and teach the core curriculum in information literacy – a vital skill in the world of fake news and a reliance on algorithms to select the information people receive. For over 10 years, the school has run Cocky’s Reading Express. We take Cocky to the most under-resourced schools in the state to not only promote reading, but to make it clear that the path to college is in literacy.

The change of name will not change the importance of librarianship. Instead it will allow us to expand the impact of librarianship. The name School of Information Science will remove barriers of nostalgia and outright incorrect stereotypes of libraries and librarians when seeking new students and new collaborations with peers. The success of libraries is dependent on having the support of bankers, lawyers, governors, principals, provosts, and the general public. Right now, too many of these vital conversations are being missed.

Our faculty and staff use the term library with pride. We take pride in building it as a strong brand that is overcoming the stereotypes. However, the brand that we have been a part of building, is, and should be, strongly associated with functioning institutions that provide access to materials and community support – not the academics that prepare people to work in and beyond libraries.

It is true that we are seeking a name change to engage in degree programs beyond the Master’s in Library and Information Science. It is true that we see room for substantial growth in our undergraduate program and a new Master’s in Data, Media and Society with our sister school within the College of Information and Communications. But it is the will of the faculty and staff of the school to always preserve the MLIS as our core program and the success and expansion of librarianship as a core goal.

It is true that some other library science programs that have transformed into so-called “iSchools” have done so to move away from or at least minimize library connections. That is NOT our intention. We continue to hire library science faculty on the tenure track. We continue to promote faculty who study libraries and teach library science courses to the rank of professor and associate professor. We continue to invest in academic and teaching support for our LIS program. We continue to seek out and support leadership posts in library associations globally. We partner with our own Thomas Cooper Library and libraries around the state to not only place our student but drive our curriculum.

If you look at new programs developed by the school over the past few years, it is clear that we have maintained our focus on librarianship as we have developed our undergraduate program and new partnerships. Here are just some of the highlights of our school’s support of the library community and mission in the last 4 years:

  • We have partnered with K-12 school districts on a cohort program to prepare classroom teachers to move to school libraries to meet critical state demands. This was with the Charleston, Florence 1, and Darlington School districts.
  • We hired Nicole Cooke, a globally recognized scholar in diversity in librarianship as well as fake news as our Augusta Baker chair
  • We promoted Karen Gavigan, an internationally recognized scholar in school librarianship, to the rank of professor.
  • We sought and received externally sponsored research funding in the area of librarianship including:
    • Hearst Foundation funding with the College of Education for the development of community literacy.
    • Library of Congress Funding to prepare K-12 teachers and librarians to use primary source materials in the teaching of civil rights in the classroom
    • Institute of Museum and Library Service funding in the exploration of school libraries and their role in guided inquiry and examination of library service to marginalized communities.
  • We hired Kim Thompson as a tenured associate professor who researches information poverty and holds a strong pedigree in library policy. She was recently installed as Associate Dean for the College.
  • We hired Ehsan Mohammadi with a background in scholarly communications and Vanesa Kitzie who researches library service to marginalized populations.
  • We hired Lucy Green, Valerie Byrd Fort, and Jenna Spiering for our school media program
  • We have expanded our South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy into the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy which still operates a working physical library that contains a unique collection of children’s books
  • We hired Jeff Penka who is a former administrator at OCLC, a global library cooperative company, and Zepheira (who developed BibFrame with the Library of Congress)
  • We put in place a Fellows program with notable library experts to help advise the school with our inaugural class consisting of Sari Feldman (former PLA and ALA president); Jason Broughton the State Librarian of Vermont; Lee Rainie director of internet and technology for Pew Research Center that regularly reports on the state of librarians and libraries; and Erik Boekesteijn is a senior advisor at National Library of the Netherlands.
  • We revised our LIS core curriculum after two years of exhaustive feedback from alumni and the library community
  • We have partnered with the university library at the University of South Carolina to revise and extend our courses in preservation and special collections
  • We have hosted conferences and gatherings for the Institution for Museum and Library Services (a discussion on the Laura Bush 21st Century Library program) and the American Library Association’s Library Research Roundtable
  • We have partnered with the Charleston County Public Library to develop professional development programs for library paraprofessionals
  • We sought and were re-accredited through the American Library Association
  • We have supported faculty travel to library association conferences
  • The school has established a “sister school” relationship with NCCU, a top library science program in Taiwan

That is a record we the faculty and staff are proud of and we believe compares VERY favorably to any library and information program regardless of their name.

Summing Up

We seek to change the name of the School of Library and Information Science to the School of Information Science. We do this to stay in line with our peer programs and reduce confusion related to the school’s mission within the university and beyond. This change in name does not change our mission. It allows us to expand that mission. The school still greatly values and supports the larger library community and will continue to do so.

Appendix: Letter Soliciting Feedback from Alumni

October 15, 2019

Dear Alumni,

We are planning the 50th anniversary celebration and exploring evolving needs for our curriculum, degrees, and program name. In doing this, we continue the path first developed in Davis College by founding dean, Wayne Yenawine. His Statement of Plans for the Graduate Library School included, “Our curriculum may not resemble the conventional Master’s program and may be strikingly different.” It was.

Through the first 5 decades of the program we have been known as the Graduate Library School, the College of Librarianship, and the School of Library and Information Science. Our flagship degree has been named both the Master of Librarianship and the Master of Library and Information Science, but now we also offer Bachelor and Doctorate degrees. So, much has changed, but much stays the same. As the Dean noted in his 1971 Statement of Plans, “Ours will be a multi-purpose library school, limited for the present to the Master’s program. Hopefully, the curriculum will be a vital, relevant one and that our graduates will be prepared to use information and modern technology to fulfill our community’s needs.” That is still our guiding focus as this evolution again occurs.

There is a lot of good news to report on from the halls of Davis College. We wanted to bring you up to date with your alma mater and ask for your help and participation as we prepare to celebrate 50 years of library science education at the University of South Carolina in 2020.

Enrollments at the graduate and undergraduate program are up. In 2017 we were re-accredited by the American Library Association for 7 years and we have just completed a two-year process to craft a new core curriculum for the Master of Library and Information Science degree that merges the best scholarship with the direct experience of front-line librarians. We have also begun programs with several K-12 school districts to address the critical shortage of school librarians in South Carolina.

Over the past 4 years we have hired amazing new faculty and increased the funding of our research. This year we welcome our new Augusta Baker Chair, Nicole Cooke. We have also launched a Fellows program connecting the school to outstanding internationally known librarians and information professionals.

Plans are also underway for a new master’s degree in Data and Strategic Communications with our sister School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Next fall we will begin offering specialist certifications for every library student that require no additional courses or tuition to help them stand out in the job market. We are also working with the Charleston County Public Library to develop a professional development program geared to library workers without the master’s degree.

This letter could go on for pages with details on these and other advances in the school. And please reach out to the school if you would like to know more. However, the primary purpose of this letter is to get your input.

As part of a college-wide strategic planning process several identity issues have been identified for the school. Namely, folks outside of the school do not understand all the areas we work in nor all the degrees we offer. Too many faculty in other departments at the university confuse us with the university library. Too many undergraduate students think that our information science degree is preparation solely for library positions. We also are looking to come in line with peer programs at other universities as we head into new U.S. News and World Report rankings for LIS programs – the majority now identified as “I” schools (for information).

We are proposing to change the name of the School of Library and Information Science and we are looking for your input and your suggestions. We are looking for a name that captures all of our degrees and impacts upon South Carolina, the country, and the world. Should we be the School of Information? Information Science? Information and Civic Discourse? What speaks to you? What continues the vision Dean Yenawine set out?

To be clear this in no way minimizes our dedication to libraries or librarianship. The degree name, Master of Library and Information Science, will remain the same providing vital continuity from our past innovation to our future impact. We continue to hire tenure-track faculty in librarianship. We continue to work across the state and across the globe on improving communities through librarianship.

Please know that your alma mater is strong and continues to make a positive difference. We remain dedicated to the advancement of librarians and the broader information domain. This is your school and the successes in Davis is directly tied to your good work.


R. David Lankes, Director

Fred Roper, Dean Emeritus and Co-Chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee

Jack Bryan, Class of 1974 and Co-Chair of the 50th Anniversary Committee






[6] Lance, Keith Curry, Bill Schwarz, and Marcia J. Rodney. (2014). How Libraries Transform Schools by Contributing to Student Success: Evidence Linking South Carolina School Libraries and PASS & HSAP Results. South Carolina Association of School Librarians

[7] and

[8] (accessed November 28, 2015)

[9] (Accessed November 28, 2015)


[11] Data on public library usage comes from the Annual Institute of Museum and Library Services report. This report includes data on the over 18,000 public libraries in the United States and the latest data is from 2017. You can find the data on professional sports attendance here and on movie theater attendance here. The data on millennial library use comes from the PEW report on libraries available here.

Real Time Sessions Added to librarian.SUPPORT

Thanks to the great library community’s generosity we’ve added some great new sessions to the http://librarian.SUPPORT site:

March 24: Matt Finch

March 26: Jason Broughton

March 31: Erik Boekesteijn

April 2: Clayton Copeland

April 7: Karen Gavigan

April 9: Valerie Byrd Fort

Please check out for more information and new sessions.

We’ll be meeting every Tuesday and Thursday through the end of April (at least). If there is no guest speaker it will just be me and you having a conversation and answering questions.

All sessions will be at

Librarian.Support Real Time with Matt Finch

Join David Lankes as he talks with Matt Finch Tuesday March 24th 9-10 Eastern Time.

Matt is regularly invited to keynote at conferences and events. He is currently a facilitator on the Scenario Planning course at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. Join us to talk about Planning for uncertainty; scenario and foresight work for libraries; how to do the anticipatory groundwork for the post-pandemic ‘New Normal’ which awaits librarians, information professionals, and the institutions they serve

We’ll be using Blackboard Collaborate – a web based conference solution. We should have room for about 100 folks to join the “studio audience” and ask questions.

We’ll be hosting these sessions every Tuesday and Thursday morning through the end of April as part of the Librarian.Support effort. You can see the system requirements for Collaborate here:

SLIS Pandemic Resources

We have been fortunate that as our university moves online, we were already there. We are, however, working hard to ensure that our students can access our courses online with a particular eye to emergent digital divide issues.

I spend a fair amount of time talking about how the School of Library and Information Science seeks to have an impact in the community. We don’t just want to teach change agents, we want to be change agents – faculty, students, staff, alumni.

To that end I am happy to announce some of our efforts to support our communities.

First up the South Carolina Center for Community Literacy has pulled together resources for parents with kids at home and teachers:

We also know that a lot of libraries around the world have closed their physical spaces and a lot of library staff are working from home. To support librarians using this time to work on skills and engage in professional development I am proud to announce SLIS has teamed up with Public Libraries 2030 to put together Librarian.Support, a site (and to be clear one we are building as we go) to highlight some professional development resources from SLIS. Our focus is on preparing folks for better libraries after the virus.

We are adding resources as we go including archives of webinars, lessons from our online courses, guides to good learning resources, and we want to add more. Once agin this is a fluid effort, so all are welcome to contribute and please be patient.

Starting this Tuesday, March 24th I will be doing open support sessions every Tuesday and Thursday at least through April. I’ll be inviting faculty, staff, and great librarians from the field to join me in a call-in-style class/show. I’ve already had folks like Erik Boekesteijn for the Royal Libraries of the Netherlands, Karen Gavigan SLIS Professor and genius in everything graphic novels, Marie Østergaard director of one of if not thee most innovative public library in the world Aarhus Public Libraries in Denmark, and Kim Silk Strategic Planning & Engagement Librarian at Hamilton Public Library agree to join me for shows. The idea is a real-time conversation that you can join to ask questions and join the conversation.

I’ll do a separate post this afternoon with details, but for now know the link will be

9-10 Eastern Standard Time and archives of the conversations will be posted on the Librarian.SUPPORT site. It should be great to get a global view on librarianship. We can have up to 150 folks join the live sessions.

If you have a topic you or your library would be interested in, or want to be a guest, please email me at

Folks, this is an extraordinary time. Borders are closed, National Guards activated, quarantines enforced. Everyone has every right to be anxious. I have found that in times of anxiety it is best to do something – anything. Let’s use this time, if we have the resources, to first take care of ourselves, and then teach each other.