New Logo for the Bowden Professor

Logo: The Virginia and Charles Bowden Professor of Librarianship at the University of Texas at Austin with the motto "great libraries build great communities"

For a year I’ve been playing around with a logo for the work of the Bowden Professorship. I know it sounds minor, but for me a logo is a sense of identity. It not only creates a visible mark for sponsored activities, it makes it seem “real” but beyond just me.

The generous gift of Virginia and Charles Bowden supports my work, yes, but also library science students at the Texas iSchool. It supports library experts, speakers, writings, conversations and more as the work progresses.

One note on the logo itself. The motto added “Great Libraries Build Great Communities” is an obvious riff on my quote about bad good and great libraries. I did think to add great librarians build great communities, but wanted to put out a bigger tent to recognize library staff, boards, friends, and the whole ecosystem.

Lankes to join the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science as Director

SLISI am very pleased to announce that I will be joining the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science as director and associate dean in the College of Information and Communications. My appointment will take effect July 1, 2016 subject to the university’s approval process.

I make this move with a great deal of excitement, and a healthy dose of sadness. I have been affiliated with SU for nearly 28 years in one capacity or another but now is the time for me to apply what I have learned in a new environment.

While there will be more details to follow, I did want to say that it has been the greatest honor and privilege to be part of the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. I also want to extend my thanks to the faculty, staff, and students at SLIS and the College of Information and Communications who have been so welcoming and supportive.

Reinventing the Academic Library: Concierge Librarians

[The following program proposal is part of an ongoing series on Reinventing the Academic Library. It is intended as an example of the kinds of things librarians supporting a research-intensive university can do.]


Librarians Provide Personal Service to Improve Freshmen Retention

Upon acceptance each freshmen is assigned their own concierge librarian. Within their first weeks on campus, a student meets with his or her librarian to review how students can use the university’s resources and systems (in and beyond the library) to succeed. They review course syllabi and development approaches to excel.

The librarian walks students through the often arcane mix of bursars and registrars and course management; cutting through the complexity of the university.

Further Talking Points

Librarians and library staff can help retain students, and bridge academic gaps in students moving from high school to college. Where most freshmen retention initiatives are school or departmental based, the library can reach across the entire university. Imagine a class on “Hacking the University.” Students work in small teams or one-on-one with librarians to understand ALL the information systems they are likely to encounter – from bursar to enrollment to dining. Not only can librarians prepare incoming students for the onslaught of web sites they face, but they can provide computing services with direct feedback to improve the student experience.

By building an early relationship with students outside of classes, librarians can become trusted sources of information. Librarians can also work to help diagnose learning issues and coordinate with tutoring services in the learning commons.

Once this relationship has been built, librarians become dependable resources for students in their everyday work. This allows librarians to introduce students to norms and advances in scholarly communications. Rather than a class on peer-review, or how Wikipedia is evil (it’s not), librarians can teach students about reliability and searching strategies (including when Wikipedia makes sense, and when what at first appears to be peer-review isn’t always a gold standard).


Today, barring unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be going home. This doesn’t mean the transplant process is over though. For the next few weeks I’ll be making nearly daily trips back to the hospital for blood tests and, as needed, transfusions. I’ll still be very immune compromised for a few weeks (so mostly housebound). However, I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed, be with my kids, and take real showers.

Over the next 3 months I’ll be getting back my immunity, and ensuring there are no problems with the transplant itself. In 100 days I’ll have a PET scan to see if the cancer is still gone. In a year I’ll get re-vaccinated.

I’m still planning on doing very little traveling for the next year. I’m focusing on teaching and recovery for the next few months.

My doctors and nurses tell me that my passage through this phase was “excellent” and I came through it on the minimal side of agony/side effects. For this (and for them) I am very thankful. In case you are wondering what the visual effects of the transplant process are I’ve attached the result of a daily “face” journal I’ve been keeping (a picture a day) since November 23rd.

Transplant Toll from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

Thanks to everyone for your support, thoughts, prayers, and gifts. I hope to keep thanking you for many many years.

Save Big on Expect More

Looking for that last minute gift for your favorite library board member, provost, or principal? Look no further. Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World is now just $12 from Amazon…over a 30% savings for the season.

What are folks saying about the book? From GoodReads:

“An amazing little book that explicates what libraries should be and what we should all expect from them.”

“The author actually made this an interesting read about the future of libraries and what we should demand for them to be even better.”


“Library boards need to read it. Superintendents, principals, other administrators, teachers, parents, need to read it. Provosts, deans, faculty, and students need to read it. Community members, mayors, city councils, county decision makers need to read it. Library school faculty need to read it.”

4 out of 5 Stars on Amazon

4.5 out of 5 Stars on LibraryThing

Abstract of the Book:

Libraries have existed for millennia, but today many question their necessity. In an ever more digital and connected world, do we still need places of books in our towns, colleges, or schools? If libraries aren’t about books, what are they about? In Expect More, David Lankes, winner of the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature, walks you through what to expect out of your library. Lankes argues that, to thrive, communities need libraries that go beyond bricks and mortar, and beyond books and literature. We need to expect more out of our libraries. They should be places of learning and advocates for our communities in terms of privacy, intellectual property, and economic development. Expect More is a rallying call to communities to raise the bar, and their expectations, for great libraries.

Cancer Update: Stem Cells Are My Friends

8044261.2619859The short version:

In December I will begin a new phase of treatment for my cancer. I will be going through intensive chemotherapy followed by an autologous (self) stem cell transplant. This process will in essence “reboot” my blood system. The process will take approximately 4 months followed by at least a year of rebuilding my immune system. During that time I expect to keep working, though remotely. If you would like to follow the details of my progress I have set up a site on Caring Bridge, a web service dedicated to charting people’s treatments and recovery:

The very short version:

Dude! It’s like friken’ Star Trek where they blast away my cancer and bone marrow and then regrow the marrow using my own stem cells!

The long version:

I talked with my dear friend Sue last weekend who reminded me that for many, blogs such as these are their first brush with intensive cancer treatments. I know I have greatly benefited from reading the journey of others, so I feel I should do the same.

First, some background for those who may be joining the party late. In February of 2013 I was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The normal treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma (also called Hodgkin’s Disease) is a form of chemotherapy called ABVD. This regiment is almost 30 years old and has a great track record of curing the disease. I went through 6 months of ABVD…that’s about 12 infusions. It was not fun. I lost my hair, my taste buds, and a fair bit of my red blood cells (anemia), and white blood cells (neutropenia). This meant I was tired and had to avoid infections.

The good news is that this course of treatment eliminated nearly all of my cancer. The bed news is that in cancer, “nearly” is not nearly good enough. Unlike many chronic cancers where the goal is control or remission, the goal in Hodgkin’s lymphoma is cure. So when a PET Scan and follow-up biopsy found markers of lymphoma, it meant there was a need to a second line of treatment (what oncologists refer to as – and I’m not making this up -“salvage treatment”).

After consulting with my oncologist and specialists at Upstate Medical University and the Dana Farber Institute, we’ve settled on autologous stem cell transplantation. It is a process that uses a “lethal” dose of chemotherapy to kill the remaining cancer. It is lethal in that it not only kills the cancer, but my bone marrow as well. My bone marrow will then be regrown from transplanted bone marrow stem cells.

The treatment begins with three cycles of a chemotherapy regime called ICE (insert Vanilla Ice joke here). Unlike my previous chemo each course requires 4 days in the hospital followed by two or three weeks off. Assuming these treatments shrink the remaining microscopic cancer (their words, not mine) into remission, the transplant center will then harvest my bone marrow stem cells.

This is done in a set up like dialysis where blood comes out through an IV, the stem cells are captured, and the rest of the blood cells go back into me. The stem cells are then frozen.

Note: I am having what is called an autologous stem cell transplant meaning we are transplanting my own cells. No rejection and no donor (but thanks for those who offered me their blood).

Next they check me into the hospital for the transplant itself. This 15-20 day procedure starts with a “lethal dose” of chemo. It is lethal because aside from killing the remaining cancer, it kills my bone marrow. 6-9 days later they transplant my now thawed out stem cells. This consists of simply sending them through an IV like any other blood transfusion. The stem cells find their way back to the center of my bones and start rebooting my blood system (to me this sounds like magic, but I’ve been assured science is still at play).

They do this in the hospital for two main reasons: 1. they have to give me red blood cells and platelets until I can make my own, and 2. I will have virtually no immune system and have to be on isolation. Even once my bone marrow grows back, my immune system will be brand new and have no acquired immunity. So things like chicken pox and polio are a real threat.

This means that even after I come home from the hospital no flowers (or mowing or gardening), no raw foods, and no visitors. While I’ll be able to go out after a few weeks for the next two years I’ll be immune compromised and need to avoid large crowds and sick folks. They even have to revaccinate me to mumps and all the childhood illnesses.

The good news is that I am going into this transplant process with a lot of positives. I am (relatively) young. The first round of chemo only left “microscopic” remnants of cancer (the doctor’s words, not mine). My first rounds of chemo were very effective. However, there is still a chance that the cancer may return. In that case it will be time for plan c, and then I’ll write an overly long post about donor stem cell transplants.

Now for some logistics. I have set up a site on Caring Bridge, a web service dedicated to charting people’s treatments and recovery: While I still plan on putting major updates here, and of course snarky quips on Twitter and Facebook, I won’t muck up those channels with the daily stuff (and whining…I predict a lot of whining).

Many people have graciously offered to help, and wonder how they can chip in. For those in Syracuse we will need meals, particularly when I am in the hospital for chemo and then the transplant. Anna and I are looking for friends to take the boys skiing/snow boarding when the winter hits. Once again, we’ll try and use the caring bridge for other needs.

Lastly, I need your understanding. For the next year I am going to be very much the Professor in the bubble. My time outside the house will be limited, and possibly masked. Both at the hospital and at home no flowers, no balloons, and limited homemade foods (for me, for the family it is fine). However, good books, good DVDs, and SciFi suggestions always welcome. I’ll also be only a Skype session away.

In all seriousness, the next few months are going to be tough. More hair loss, fewer taste buds, pain, and generally feeling like crap. I’ve been there, and I can do it again. Some have said that is brave. It is not. For me it is a simple matter of survival. I have no real choice. However, it is my family who have chosen to not only stand by me, but tell me bad jokes until I smile, held me while I ached, waited patiently for me to catch my breath on the smallest of hills, quickly cleared food when I’m queasy, and never let me lose hope. My wife is brave. My sons are courageous. My parents, brothers and sisters are fonts of boundless optimism and comfort. For those who want to help me, help them.

Resources to Learn More:

Great short video on Hodgkin’s Lymphoma

Great web site on stem cell transplantation

My Caring Bridge site

My new favorite funny cancer site

Beyond the Bullet Points: Power and Empowerment

I have been engaged in a discussion of librarians and power with Steve Matthews over on the BeerBrarian Blog: (great post, but this is happening in the comments).

It would have stayed there, but my latest response is simply too big, and I’d rather be complete than terse. Also, I think these ideas on the role of libraries and librarians is of general importance I wanted to share. So here is the setup that kicked off this response:

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 8.44.46 AM

Now, my response:

Steve I can honestly say your reply left me speechless. It was, for me, a moment of clarity as to why we disagree so fundamentally when reading your blog I see so much similarity. I see now your objection to my views on power, and I also see we are never going to agree upon them. So let this be my final comment.

I agree that as with learning, no one can force someone to accept power, or a service, or make a decision that one party defines as beneficial. In essence just because a librarian seeks to empower an individual or community does not mean that individual has to accept it. This is why education has been turned on its head from teacher-centric to learner-centric. Ultimately taking power, like learning, is a choice.

However, where I fundamentally disagree is that all individuals are given the same choices. That in essence all individuals and communities have the same opportunity to say yes to empowerment and therefore are never presented choices for power at all.

This is obviously a larger issue of social equity or social justice to use a more loaded term. If you live in Detroit today, you do not have access to the choices as someone who lives in Ann Arbor. The police and emergency units will show up in no less than an hour. You will have access to fewer libraries, your urban schools will underperform. Can someone in this setting overcome these obstacles on their own? Some can. The media is replete with stories of those they have, though often integral to these stories are mentors and heroes that made it happen.

I will simply mention other things that for long has robbed people of their choices of empowerment: race, gender, sexual orientation, poverty, and religion among other things. If we as a society subscribe that all people are created equal, and all people deserve an equal chance at success (note not an equal guarantee of it) then we endeavor to establish a level playing field of empowerment – literally social mechanisms of empowerment. This combination of private agencies (foundations), public agencies (like schools and libraries), marketplace agencies (training and internships), and religious agencies (charity and services) seek to establish bases of power (access to opportunities, skill sets, money, a regulatory context) that can be shared with the citizenry – though often in radically different ways and at times for conflicting different reasons. These agencies all are active in their impact and outreach – an outreach that represents a worldview (the role of government, the prioritization of a given group, the best means of empowerment) full of biases and points of view.

So these services and individuals seek to empower in a context of values and means. Often they conflict. And in these conflicts, gaps of opportunity either arise or are created. So that an individual may be deprived of opportunities and choices. Therefore he or she can be left without power not by the choices they make, but by the circumstances he or she finds themselves in.

If we believe, as I do, that librarians and libraries support the importance of things like equal access to knowledge, and prepared access to the democratic process we must first seek the power to do that. In the civic sector that comes in the form of charters and tax dollars. In essence a social compact with a community. We then use this power to offer it back to these communities, adhering to our values as agreed upon in that negotiation with the community (through boards, and budget votes).

Will all members of the community then accept or even agree with the power being offered (literacy, confidential access to the net, proxy battles against censorship, etc)? No, but they offer it so more members of society can choose empowerment.

To say the world works by people choosing either to empower themselves or not as if they all have the same choices to make ignores not only the reality of ongoing discussions on the role of government, but massive changes in societal opportunities brought about through the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, and child labor laws to only mention a few.

Now one may say that these movements didn’t come directly from the work of librarians. I would, again, disagree. Librarians and libraries did play a role, even if indirectly. Greater democratic participation and civic transparency was very much a goal of Carnegie’s library building. The advent of fiction collections and youth services was a proactive change in library service to meet the growing wealth of the middle class and a renewed emphasis on education. Open stacks still stand as a testament to open inquiry against the counter examples in repressive regimes.

In the first Arab Spring during protests in Alexandria all the prisons were opened and rapist and murders and thugs were put on the street to creat looting mobs to intimidate and invalidate the protests. The mobs went from government building to government building burning and vandalizing them.

These mobs then turned to the New Library of Alexandria. A structure built by the corrupt regime and whose board included the wife of the president. Protestors, men woman and children, gathered hand in hand to surround the building to protect it. By the end of the uprising, not one window was broken and not one rock thrown against its walls. The protestors even draped a flag across the stairs of the library, and every morning protester would touch and kiss the flag as they went out to march – in essence retaking the library for the community.

Why protect it? Because of the less than 10 year history of the library, the librarians and the staff did their jobs. The provided opportunity to learn, and engage in dialog with the local and global community. By embracing a belief that their work empowered people to learn, not just a party line, but whatever the learner wanted, they gave voice to those who had none. You could say they were being unbiased, but I would say in the pressure to tow the party line, they showed a strong bias toward open inquiry and serving the needs of the people over the government.

The world we live in is too complex to simply say people chose to be illiterate, or poor, or powerless. Certainly some do. But for those who choose to read they need a teacher willing to share their power of reading. For those who choose to fight to get out of poverty they need those who choose to provide access to online business sites that now require an online application even to be a janitor. And for those guaranteed the right to vote, they need access to documentation and voter registration be they democrat, republican, or independent. Without this empowering assistance they have no real choices. Only the illusion of it. And the illusion of choice and power may make the powerful sleep well at night, but it ultimately allows them to continually deprive power.

And so we come full circle to librarians and libraries. Do librarians seek out power, yes. They do so in order to serve. They do so in order to make powerful the individuals and communities and institutions they serve. But they do so in accordance with a set of professional values. Is the power they acquire neutral? No power is neutral – all power comes from some inequity. You are powerful on the playing field because you are faster or stronger. You are powerful in business because you have bigger profits, or better products. In government because of the size of your constituency. And you are powerful as a librarian because of your skills, and your credibility (that comes from performance and being intellectually honest about biases in an attempt toward unbiased).

This power of the librarian is also a large part of the power of a library. By sharing this power with the community through providing services, individuals and groups gain power. Some will chose not to accept it. But for far too many this will be their only opportunity to make decisions to lead to their own empowerment. Did the individual make the choice? Sure, but the library and librarian made the choice possible. And, they must continuously fight for the resources to do that.

New Librarianship Master Class Now Available

Thank you for registering for the iSchool at Syracuse University’s New Librarianship Master Class open online course! The class will begin on July 8th (noon EDT) and run through August 4th.

Below are the steps you’ll need to complete to access the course. As a reminder, you can review the New Librarianship Master Class FAQ’s here.

  1. Go to Please note that you will not be able to access this course until Monday, July 8th at 12:00pm EDT. If you attempt to enter prior to this date and time, it will indicate page not found.
  2. Choose the course New Librarianship.
  3. Choose the option “Self-Enroll in this course” as seen here:
  4. Next there will be two options. Click on the link that applies to you.
    1. I have a CourseSites Account.
      1. Enter your information and log in to the site. This will bring you directly to the course. Now you are able to begin exploring the site!
    1. I Need a CourseSites Account.
      1. Fill out the information to create an account with CourseSites.
      2. Click Save/Submit.
      3. Click the button to go directly to the course. Now you are able to begin exploring the course!

Participation in the course is free. However, students interested in taking the course for graduate credit ($3,105.60 for the 3 credit course) must complete an additional registration step and should contact Blythe Bennett directly for instructions. Students interested in taking the course for CEU credit ($150 fee for 2.0 CEUs) will have the option to do so in early August upon completion of the course.

Please contact with any questions. We look forward to having you be part of the course!

iSchool at Syracuse University

20 Years Online – Alumni Celebration

Distance Syracuse Alumni,

Remember Boot Camp?

We are proud to announce that 2013 marks 20 years in online and distance education for the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University! To celebrate we would like to welcome back our alumni for celebratory events and free professional development seminars. It is a great way to share memories with fellow students, faculty and staff, while learning about new developments in the information arena.

The festivities will kick off on Friday, July 19th with a Barbecue on the Syracuse University Quad with our new incoming distance students, faculty, staff and all of our families. You can reminisce with your fellow alumni and share stories with the current incoming distance students, as well as catch up with faculty and staff.

On Saturday, we have set up a day of short professional development seminars, and a final program led by our own Dave Lankes, and ALA President Barbara Stripling.

Please RSVP at

Celebration Festivities

Friday, July 19th, 2013 
1:00-4:00 511 Poster Session (Peter Graham room, Bird Library)

Current 511 students present posters. Meet and mingle with our new class of distance Library Science Students while enjoying poster presentations, and refreshments.
5:00-8:00 Barbeque (Tent in front of Hinds Hall)

Introduction: Liz Liddy and Ruth Small

Faculty and past students share their memories with current faculty, staff, alumni and students.

Saturday, July 20

8:00-9:00 Breakfast (Hinds Hall)
8-8:30 Campus and Building Tours available
8:30 Welcome by Liz Liddy
8:35 Welcome and Program information by Ruth Small
9:30-10:30 Marilyn Arnone: (topic TBA) (Hinds Hall)
10:30-10:45 Break Coffee/Tea (Hinds Hall)
10:45-11:45 Jeff Stanton: Data Science (Hinds Hall)
12:00-2:30 Lunch: Dave Lankes and Barbara Stripling (Hinds Hall)
Be sure to also visit our website to learn about all the ways the iSchool will celebrate this 20 year anniversary!
Thank you and we hope to see you in July!
School of Information Studies

Syracuse University

Announcing the New Librarianship Master Class Online

Some of you may remember me mentioning the idea of a New Librarianship MOOC last year. Well, a year’s worth of work later, and it is time for the announcement. Come and join us in July for fun or credit! More info at


About the Class

Libraries have existed for millennia, but today the library field is searching for solid footing in an increasingly fragmented (and increasingly digital) information environment. What is librarianship when it is unmoored from cataloging, books, buildings, and committees?

The vision for a new librarianship must go beyond finding library-related uses for information technology and the Internet; it must provide a durable foundation for the field. New Librarianship recasts librarianship and library practice using the fundamental concept that knowledge is created though conversation. New librarians approach their work as facilitators of conversation; they seek to enrich, capture, store, and disseminate the conversations of their communities.

Join iSchool faculty for this online course that provides a foundation for practicing librarians and library science students in new librarianship. It builds on The Atlas of New Librarianship, the 2012 ABC CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature and seeks to generate discussion about the future direction of the profession.

The class will be taught and moderated by core faculty at the iSchool with international reputations: R. David Lankes, Jill Hurst-Wahl, Megan Oakleaf and Jian Qin.

For Fun or Credit
The Course is offered for free online. However, participation in the course can also lead to Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) for an additional fee, or graduate academic credit with additional work and tuition. More information to follow.

Coming in July
The course will be offered in a guided mode from July 8 to August 4. After that month the class will be opened online, but CEU or academic credit options will no longer be available.

Benefits of Participation
MIT Press will provide participants in the course with a 20% discount on The Atlas of New Librarianship.

To sign up for the course or to receive more information go to