Join the Radical Conversation on Defining a Library

This week the folks behind the upcoming Radical’s Guide to New Librarianship are looking for your help in defining what a library is…from a New Librarianship point of view. As part of the Radical Conversations series, we need your help in understanding what differentiates a library from a community center, classroom, bookstore, or warehouse.

Watch the introduction:

Hear some folks struggle with the topic:

Join the conversation via Twitter using the hashtag #NewLibLibrary or at the conversation’s page:

Also, we’ll be pulling all of these discussions together for an event at ALA MidWinter in Chicago. Let us know if you can make it February 2, 2015.

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One Reply to “Join the Radical Conversation on Defining a Library”

  1. I’ve spent years considering this question and the one about the changing definition of librarianship. I began to think about it while working as a consumer health librarian in Second Life. While I’d entered that community with little understanding of what libraries and library work would be – I thought it would be like an IM chat service, with barbie doll avatars – I began to understand something different. I still am thinking about it.

    In a newsletter written for Texas Woman’s University SLIS, I wrote, “If Healthinfo Island was a construction of pixels and imagination, I considered the idea that libraries in the real world are constructions of our assumptions. Services and collections are assumed to be linked to time and space, embodied by reference desks and shelves, even if now, we find ourselves moving beyond these constraints. […] But maybe librarianship is far more elastic than we had thought? My own mind, trained for 20 years in bricks and mortar thinking, struggled to find answers to a question once far less urgent: what, really, do we do? Separated from the comfort of a reference collection (and even subscription-based bibliographic databases, unless they were open access), my materials were limitless, but had to be evaluated in every facet.

    In some cases, collections were co-created, experimental entities – like the virtual e-cigarette that was a decision tree-type consumer health collection of information about aspects of smoking and smoking cessation, or the multipart game/gallery designed by an OT student as a walk-through about dementia-related issues and information. HealthInfo Island was a facilitated, collaborative space; an educational space, a social space — and the information disseminated in connection with it resided in my mind and 3D connections and knowledge of resources, but also, in the minds and 3D connections of others. People working at the CDC, NLM, AIDsInfo, and much much more were contributors and collaborators. Private individuals helped, working to advance their passionate causes: spousal abuse, mental illness, disability activism…

    This experiment, which lasted more than 2 years, funded by GMR/NNLM for four diffferent health-related grants, is still teaching me about what we can be. I must not forget to mention that another important function of the space is that it enabled discourse across a very wide and diverse (globally and with respect to expertise) population, creating the excited and novel insights and sharings that can only happen (it seems) by chance. They happened daily in that space and time. Was what we were doing enacting a library/community?

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