A rose by any other name…

I have included a discussion about what we call the folks who use libraries (members) in several presentations and it’s all over my book. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what we call ourselves. Over the past month across two continents and four different venues this question has come up.

Before I get too far down this road, I realize that I am treading a well-worn path with plenty of wreckage along the way. I am not playing coy here for a push for a new name. I am honestly struggling with this personally, and I’m looking for help.

So here is where it all started. I was talking with our board of advisors for the iSchool and reviewing the LIS program. We have a great board made up of business folks, technologists, librarians, and educators. I was making the case that librarianship was a skill set that extended well beyond libraries and asked how the school could open up opportunities in the business sector.

The answer? Don’t call them librarians. They bought that librarians would be great in institutions facing big data problems, helping out analysts and research scientists in communicating and conversations, the whole bit. The problem was that when you threw in the name “librarians” all they could think about was the building, and really the public library they visited as a kid (to be fair this was not a universal comment, as I said there were plenty of librarians in the room).

We even started talking about the possibility of the profession splitting into folks who work in the building called a library and folks with the skills that worked outside of it. I want to reiterate that this was a very positive conversation, and not riddled with the stereotypes, except to say many thought the name itself got in the way because of the widely held stereotypes.

I threw out that it was time to retake the name and associate it with the real progressive work librarians were doing today. Then one member of the board asked “so which is more important, the name ‘librarian’ or what librarians could accomplish in these other settings.” That got me thinking.

I went directly from this meeting to a summit in Salzburg. There I met amazing librarians and museum professionals from 24 different countries. We were talking about libraries and museums in the era of participatory culture. I was part of the discussion around the skills needed for librarians and museum folks (more on that later). After my presentation, during a panel discussion, someone asked, you guessed it, should we still call these folks librarians?

What started to develop at this meeting was a line of reasoning that goes like this: If as librarians we need to shape ourselves around our communities, and if part of what we need to shape is the language and terms we use, then shouldn’t we be flexible about the titles we use? If the community wants to call us librarians, then fine. If they want to call us “awesome epic cool people” then so be it. AASL wrestled with this in going back to the title school librarian from school media specialist. At the time I thought (and tweeted) “how boring.” A school librarian pointed out that the name just caused confusion, and a name doesn’t gain respect or attention, performance does. In essence call me what you want, it is my action that will show me as a librarian.

Fast forward to this past week when I presented at the New York Library Association. After I did my thing about what our mission was, up it popped again – does it make sense to call ourselves librarians. Here I talked a little about my developing “let the community decide” logic. But I added “no matter what the community calls us, we are still librarians.” In essence, I was thinking the term librarian may be more important in identifying ourselves to ourselves than to the community. So, I was thinking, let the world call us what they want, but know still you are a librarian with a common mission, values, and skills. This has worked with folks like accountants, that used to be people who worked in counting houses. Now they have the title of office manager, CFO, and so on, but they are still accountants with a common preparation and professional culture.

So here I am…librarian or not? Do I work to rename our degree to make librarians more marketable outside of libraries (keeping ALA accreditation)? Do I still push to retake the term librarian? Does it even matter? Help!

ILEAD U Closing

Here is a video of my closing comments at the ILEADU session in Springfield Illinois (just under 14 minutes). To my international friends, if I messed up details, just let me know so I can post it here.

The Atlas of New Librarianship to be Published by MIT Press and ACRL

I’ve made a few allusions to my next book in my presentations, and even posted a picture of the draft here. Now that it is official I’d like to be a bit more specific.

The Atlas of New Librarianship will be published in Spring 2011 by MIT Press and is co-published by ACRL. The Atlas is a thorough discussion of librarianship developed around the concept of “participatory librarianship.” The central concepts of participatory librarianship have not changed – that conversation and knowledge are core to all that librarians do. However, while you will read a great deal about participation, you will not see many specific references to “participatory librarianship.” This is intentional.

While modifiers and titles are useful in gaining attention, the ultimate success of any idea is the loss of a modifier. “Virtual reference” becomes simply “reference” when the ideas put forth are widely incorporated throughout practice. “Digital libraries” are quickly becoming simply “libraries” as they become integrated into the larger organizations and collections of a library. So too must participatory librarianship, if it is to be successful, become part of the overall concept of librarianship.

The library field is searching for solid footing in an increasingly fragmented information environment. As technology changes, budgets shrink, and use demographics fluctuate what can help guide librarians to continued relevancy and success? The answer must go beyond Web 2.0, or technological landmarks and provide a fundamental and durable foundation for the field. What is the role of a librarian in a space with no collections – or walls? How do we prepare the next generation of librarians? The Atlas seeks to answer these questions.

The Atlas represents a new understanding of librarianship based on work with organizations such as the American Library Association, OCLC, The U.S. Department of Justice Law Libraries, the Free Library of Philadelphia, and the State Library of Illinois. It is founded on the basic concept that knowledge is created through conversation; libraries being in the knowledge business are therefore in the conversation business. This concept, grounded in theory, leads to a new mission for librarians:

The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.

This implications, foundations, and application of this mission is discussed and detailed in the Atlas.

Perhaps the easiest way to explain the Atlas is by showing how it can be applied, as I have done in some recent presentations:

Excerpt from Charleston Conference 2009:

Excerpt from Pennsylvania District Library Keynote:

In addition to a full-color 10″x10″ print version of the book, we are creating an online companion site to foster ongoing conversations around the foundations of librarianship. More details on that to come.

A special thanks to all of those instrumental in writing this including Buffy Hamilton, Megan Oakleaf, Scott Nicholson, Jill Hurst-Wahl, Michael Luther, Todd Marshall, Angela Usha Ramnarine-Rieks, Heather Margaret Highfield, Jessica R. O’Toole, and Xiaoou Cheng and so many many more. Also thanks to all my early reviewers who gave me great feedback.

UIS staff and faculty help to coordinate state-wide ILEAD U initiative

I don’t think I ever put up information on a new IMLS initiative I’m working on with the State Library of Illinois. The following is a nice press release on the project from another project partner, UIS:

Staff and faculty members from the University of Illinois Springfield’s Brookens Library and the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service (COLRS) are teaming up with staff members from the Illinois State Library and other libraries throughout the state for a prestigious new institute that will be one of the most significant Illinois library initiatives of 2010. The institute, called ILEAD (Illinois Libraries Explore, Apply and Discover) U: the 21st Century Technology Tools Institute for Illinois Library Staff, will be comprised of three in-person sessions from February 23 to 25, June 15 to 17 and October 26 to 28 on the UIS campus. The sessions will be supplemented by online instruction between meeting dates.

ILEAD U, funded by a Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant awarded to the Illinois State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, will encourage both the experimentation with and building of participatory Web services and programs. Library educator R. David Lankes of Syracuse University will lead the instructors for the project.

As part of the institute, the UIS participants and their colleagues from other Illinois libraries will implement web technologies that foster community participation and develop leadership, innovation and positive change.

The institute is the brainchild of Anne Craig, director of the Illinois State Library, who has “exceptional vision in seeing a need and conceiving of such an innovative way to meet it,” according to Dean Jane Treadwell, University Librarian at UIS. Treadwell is chairing the steering committee which selected the instructors, mentors and teams of participants and will guide the work of the project.

Other UIS participants include Natalie Tagge, visiting Instructional Services Librarian at Brookens Library, who will serve as a mentor in ILEAD U, and two other Brookens librarians, Pamela M. Salela and Amanda Binder, who will participate in cross-institutional teams that will learn to use participatory technology tools to understand and respond to patron needs.

“We hope to foster a philosophy that technology becomes powerful in libraries when people engage with it critically and thoughtfully,” said Tagge.

Additionally, Ray Schroeder and Shari Smith of the Center for Online Learning, Research and Service are acting as consultants to the instructors for the project, and David Racine of the Institute for Legal, Legislative and Policy Studies will direct the evaluation of the ILEAD U grant.

“We in the Brookens Library and COLRS are very excited to collaborate with the Illinois State Library on this project that has the potential to transform the way that libraries interact with their patrons,” noted Treadwell.

Smith, associate director of COLRS, added, “The ILEAD U grant is an excellent example of why libraries and librarians are uniquely qualified to lead their communities forward to a new knowledge society. The grant has been carefully crafted to include cutting-edge technology, careful assessment and evaluation, location-specific consideration and stakeholders from around the state.”

Participatory technology tools will include:
Blogging tools
Digital audio/podcasting, photography and video
RSS feeds
Social networking and photo-sharing sites
Videoconferencing and web conferencing
Virtual reference and virtual worlds (ie. Second Life)
Instant messaging
And more

“The Illinois State Library is proud of its strong commitment to continuing education and providing librarians with the tools and resources necessary to address the ever-changing needs of their patrons,” said Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White. “Nowhere is the need for continuing education more important than in the area of technology. Librarians need to constantly enhance their skills to keep up to date with the latest technology, and ILEAD U represents an exciting, innovative new program to build technology and leadership skills among Illinois librarians.”

Prof. R. David Lankes receives the 2009 Emerald Outstanding Paper Award

Emerald Group Publishing of the United Kingdom has selected Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Associate Professor R. David Lankes’ paper, “Credibility on the Internet: Shifting from Authority to Reliability,” as a 2009 Outstanding Paper Award Winner.

Emerald is the world’s leading scholarly publisher in business and management, publishing more than 190 journals as well as serials and books, and had more than 20 million articles downloaded in 2008 alone. Emerald invites each of its journal’s editorial teams to nominate what they believe to be the most outstanding paper and three highly commended papers each year.

The editorial team of the Journal of Documentation, which published Lankes’ paper, selected his article for the award, dubbing it “one of the most impressive pieces of work the team has seen throughout 2008,” according to the announcement.

Emerald bases its decision on a list of criteria, including the contribution of new knowledge, structure and quality of the writing, rigor of analysis or argument, relevance, and timeliness or connected to the latest developments in the field.

His paper addresses how Internet users determine the credibility of information on web sites from a conceptual level and how that affects new online tools and services. He describes how and why people are dependent on the Internet for information, and also describes the progression of users shifting from analyzing the credibility of an online source to determining the reliability of sources.

Lankes will be recognized at the 2009 Literati Network Awards for Excellence ceremony.

Lankes is director of the Information Institute of Syracuse and a fellow of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy. Lankes’ research focuses on education information and digital reference services. He has authored, co-authored or edited eight books, and written numerous book chapters and journal articles on the Internet and digital reference. He holds a bachelor of fine arts in multimedia design, a M.S. in telecommunications and network management, and a Ph.D. in information transfer from Syracuse University.

Reference Extract in under 4 minutes

If the long explanation of Reference Extract is, well, too long, here is some help. The first is a 3 minute video on the basic concept of the project:

Reference Extract: Concept from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

The second is a fast overview of the project’s proposed architecture:

Reference Extract in 4 Minutes from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

Please remember, we still need your letters of support.

And you wondered why it had been so long since I posted…just wait until next week.

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Reference Extract Seeking Support

As we proceed to seek funding for the building of Reference Extract, we are seeking your support. Below is a video overview of Reference Extract (available in high definition too) and the concept of a credibility engine. Below that is a generic template for a letter of support.

Reference Extract: Call for Support from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

[February 22, 2009]

R. David Lankes
Information Institute of Syracuse
Syracuse University
213 Hinds Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244

Dear David:

[Organization or Individual] is pleased to support your proposal for Reference Extract that will enable the library community to build a credibility engine and enhance how people search for information on the web. Finding credible information on the Internet is essential in this digital age, and project like Reference Extract demonstrate the considerable positive effect libraries and librarians can make.

[Information on you or your organization and efforts in credibility and/or librarianship]

[We/I] support the effort and look forward to helping to shape the project. Some ways my organization might support the project include [sharing reference archives, serving on a board of advisors for the project, providing an environment to test Reference Extract,].


[your name]
[your title]

Dave Screencast How To

Here is a screencast on how I do “talking head” screencasts on my Mac. I am just amazed how increasingly easy it is for a person and a computer to make pretty polished productions these days.

by the way,someone asked me if I came up with the term (hence my comment in the opening of the presentation), and the answer is definitely no. See Wikipedia.

OCLC, Syracuse University and University of Washington to help develop a new Web search experience based on expertise from librarians

DUBLIN, Ohio, USA, 7 November 2008—Researchers and developers from OCLC, the world’s largest library cooperative, and the information schools of Syracuse University and the University of Washington today announced their participation in a new international effort to explore the creation of a more credible Web search experience based on input from librarians around the globe. Called the “Reference Extract,” the planning phase of this project is funded through a $100,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the most powerful,” said Dr. Mike Eisenberg, Dean Emeritus and Professor at the Information School of the University of Washington and a lead on the project. “The best search engines are great for basic search, but sometimes the Web site results lack credibility in terms of trust, accuracy and reliability. So, who can help? Librarians. If a librarian recommends a Web site, you can be pretty sure that it’s credible. RefEx will take hundreds of thousands of librarian recommendations and use them in a full-scale search engine.”

Reference Extract is envisioned as a Web search experience similar to those provided by the world’s most popular search engines. However, unlike other search engines, Reference Extract will be built for maximum credibility of search results by relying on the expertise of librarians. Users will enter a search term and receive results weighted toward sites most often used by librarians at institutions such as the Library of Congress, the University of Washington, the State Library of Maryland, and over 2,000 other libraries worldwide.

As part of the planning process, participants are reaching out to partners in libraries, technology organizations and research institutions. “The only way this will work is by making a project of an entire community,” said Dr. R. David Lankes, Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse and Associate Professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. “Web searchers get to tap into the incredible skill and knowledge of the library community, while librarians will be able to serve users on a whole new scale. This work follows on previous credibility work supported by the MacArthur Foundation, most notably the Credibility Commons (http://credibilitycommons.org/).”

“We look forward to working with Syracuse University and the University of Washington in developing this credibility focused search capability, which holds the promise of providing powerful new access to information based on professionally delivered library reference services,” said Jay Jordan, OCLC President and CEO. “We are grateful for support from the MacArthur Foundation in this planning phase, and we are hopeful that this effort will lay the necessary groundwork for implementing a large-scale, general user service.”

The Reference Extract project will hold a series of meetings and consultations over the coming months. The team is eager to build a business plan and technology architecture to benefit users and the library community alike. Those interested in providing input on the project and learning more can visit the project Web site at http://digref.org.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is available at www.macfound.org.

The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University
The School of Information Studies is The Original Information School in the nation. It is a leading center for innovative programs in information policy, information behavior, information management, information systems, information technology and information services. The nationally ranked school (U.S. News and World Report) has professional degree programs at the undergraduate and master’s levels and a research degree at the doctoral level. The school offers its master’s programs in campus and distance learning formats. For more information, visit www.ischool.syr.edu/about/.

The University of Washington Information School
Each year, the world creates more than 161 exabytes of new information—enough to fill 2 billion 80GB iPods. So much information can be overwhelming. Rigorous study of the users and uses of information conducted at the UW Information School helps answer important questions. By tackling key social and technical problems in the information field, the UW iSchool has become an important link between users of information and designers of information systems, connecting society with the information it needs. For more information, visit www.ischool.washington.edu/.

About OCLC
Founded in 1967 and headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, OCLC is a nonprofit library service and research organization that has provided computer-based cataloging, reference, resource sharing, eContent, preservation, library management and Web services to 60,000 libraries in 112 countries and territories. OCLC and its member libraries worldwide have created and maintain WorldCat, the world’s richest online resource for finding library materials. For more information, visit www.oclc.org

NSF Awards Syracuse Team Grant on CI Facilitators

Jeffrey M Stanton, Elizabeth D Liddy, Derrick Cogburn, Megan Oakleaf, and R. David Lankes are co-PI’s on a new NSF grants entitled: CI-Facilitators: Information Architects across the STEM Disciplines. Paul Gandel, SU’s CIO also deserves a large portion of the credit for the grant.

What does this have to do with participatory librarianship? Well, read the description:

Cyber-Infrastructure – broadly defined to include the web, wireless grids, parallel processors, lap-tops, cell phones, mainframes, telecommunication networks, etc – has become the informational substrate of most dynamic enterprises. Databases, statistical datasets, data ware-houses, sample libraries, and image collections are just a few of the myriad examples of massive scale information collections that e-researchers dependent on information must create, maintain, and share In addition, some of the most innovative information use is now in the form of collaboration technology that facilitates the development of geographically distributed sites and networked communities within and across traditional divides.

Yet in e-research scholars have three serious problems facing them. First, researchers spend their careers mastering the skills, knowledge, and tools that comprise the core of their respective disciplines. Few among them have the capacity to simultaneously become experts in information management, networking, virtual or distributed collaboration, search and retrieval, archiving, user interface development, and all of the other skills of the information professions. Second, advances and convergences in Cyber-Infrastructure that have occurred over recent decades have themselves fueled a vast proliferation of information – more findings, more datasets, more papers, more conferences, more journals, more books and so on. Even the brightest and most motivated struggle to keep up with the rapid pace of knowledge creation in their field. Finally, information infrastructure itself is in the process of an accelerating evolution. Gains in computing power, storage, transmission bandwidth and other fundamental building blocks of Cyber-Infrastructure create frequent discontinuities in the economics of information technologies, while open source software tools sprawl daily into innovative new application territories. The rapid pace of development of information infrastructure implies that only individuals who dedicate their professional lives to it can truly keep up.

One solution to these issues is the preparation of “cyber-infrastructure facilitators.” These are information professionals able to partner with e-research teams to identify extant data and tools, as well as build new tools in the pursuit of research topics.

Sounds like a good participatory librarian working in the digital world to me.