Real Time Archives

I hope you have had time to check out librarian.SUPPORT ( and the Real Time sessions. I have some great conversations and learned a lot on everything from scenario planning with Matt Finch, to Emergency planning with Jason Broughton, to universal access with Clayton Copeland, and graphic novels with Karen Gavigan.

Upcoming sessions are with Chad Mairn on how librarians can use extended realities (VR/AR/MR/360/3D), and Brad and Lucy Green on fostering literacy through music.

Check out the list of previous and upcoming talks. Also let me know if this is something to continue past April.

Carol Perryman: Building Community Online

Carol Perryman is Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Studies. She and I share a strong interest in community and librarianship. In reading my post today on community and isolation she had some great thoughts and reactions. I am sharing them here with her permission.

A touch on the shoulder is just one element (though important) of our interactions. We connect in so many other ways. Because of this, consideration of how shifted awareness, focused on additional elements of interactions, can be used to enhance online learning seems important in thinking about improving online learning (or even considering what it might add that isn’t available in person). 

I spent several years working in Second Life as a consumer health librarian, paid by a series of NLM grants, and learned much about trust and our connections. Groups there, such as the global gathering of people diagnosed with AIDS/HIV, established communities using avatars. In talking over years with others I consider ‘instinctive sociologists’ – natural, curious observers of human behavior – we observed that even online, when another person joined our discussion, we adjusted our social distance to accommodate the added person. 

In an asynchronous health support forum focused on smoking cessation, smaller communities within the very large one (over 100,000 members) emerged, and our relationships grew to include far more than smoking cessation. In fact, 20 years after I quit smoking, I am still part of one smaller group that first met in the forum. Children not yet conceived are now adults. Our number includes attorneys, nurses, a magazine editor, an artist/graphic designer, a 7/11 clerk in a small town; we have lost members to cancer. And we have met in person, many of us. 

We understand that it’s difficult to convey feeling in email, but our written words convey signals of affiliation. In the absence of expected signals, people will often ask outright for gender information, for example. We want to belong and to understand where others fit in our worldview. 

In online education, it does seem likely that community-building is more difficult. Our alliances are enforced by circumstance outside ourselves, temporary, and subject to evaluation. All performance is assessed. But this is also true in person. To think that students are not aware of power inequalities (or that similarly, staff and faculty and administrative personnel are not equally so) is wishful thinking.

What are the differences between the communities established in Second Life and an asynchronous health support forum, and online learning?

One is self-agency: In Second Life and QuitNet, people entered the space on a purely voluntary basis. They were free to perform their functions to the chosen extent – interact or not, disclose what they felt comfortable with disclosing. I entered Second Life as a paid consumer health librarian, deliberately exploring how virtual roles and spaces could be sites for library roles. 

Another is trust-building, our understood social contract, and the understanding of our virtual-space selves. When I interacted with people in the health support forum, it was always with an awareness of my role. For example, I considered how I could build trust with a carefully constructed appearance and with transparency: people knew my real name and role. I had a central identified purpose. Interestingly, not everyone had this kind of awareness. In fact, in Second Life, one avatar active in the library community had a habit of coming on to women in a very crude way. He and others somehow drew a line between ‘real world’ selves and represented personas, persuading themselves that trust was somehow different online. 

Purpose is an element: In the smoking cessation community, all entered (I presume) with that central purpose in mind, and personas were built around that core over some length of time, based upon readiness to interact and trust. That length of time, together with self-agency, may be important in understanding differences between in-person and online communities. One semester in terms of trust-building isn’t long. It seems likely that the additional social cues we get from our in-person connections, even just for one semester, support our interactive community-building. Even in person, however, not all community members feel an equal amount of ease, or trust. There are always those who sit in the back of the class.

Speaking more generally, we have been shifting from an entirely in-person world to one in which our lives span time and space (the final frontier!). Remember Max Headroom, the TV showed that tested our awareness of what was real and what was not; our discomfort (the ‘uncanny valley’) with robotic simulations of human life? How about social media trolls, who use their anonymity to harass others and excite controversy? 

I believe we are still traveling along a path of how we trust, as well as how we understand our asynchronous, temporary connections. There’s probably lots more to be said about this, and others have done so far better. 

None of these speculations offer answers to the question of improving online education. However, an awareness of the unique benefits and risks we take on in different settings may offer clues.

Community in a Time of Isolation

Tomorrow our Students return to class. All of our students they will return to class online. For our LIS students this will be normal. Except, it won’t be normal for them. They will be returning to their usual distance courses while sheltered in place, at home with children not attending shuttered schools, or parents closed off in senior communities, or spouses who have to exchange Zoom meetings for conference rooms, or perhaps they are now simply alone in a country whose borders have been closed in a world that counts every ventilator unit like it used to measure Gross Domestic Product.

In our classes we will be teaching these future librarians and information professionals a curriculum of skills. Yet all of these skills are founded on the values of service. And as much as we talk about virtual libraries and online communities our traditions and models and metaphors run deep with a reality of human contact.

I am reminded of talking with Chuck McClure about a study he did on reference transactions. It was the famous 55% study where he and Peter Hernon found about half of reference questions actually received incorrect answers. Yet an overwhelming percentage of people getting these answers were satisfied. When I asked how this could be, he asked “the number one way of increasing satisfaction?” He then reached out his hand, laid it on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and with sincerity asked, “does that help?” Human connection.

In the rise of social media, scholar after scholar, maven after maven, profit after profit have extolled the centrality of community and connection. I’ll be honest, in my 4 years at South Carolina I have struggled with finding ways to foster community in our online program. Traditional ways of bonding don’t work. Bringing in a speaker is difficult when the audience is of 10 bodies and an online audience of 50.

And yet the bond between faculty and student and school and alumni is strong. Why? Because our school library faculty are out in classrooms around the state. My faculty delivers workshops on universal design in a Center down the street. They hop in a bus to go to the neediest schools to read stories with the university mascot. They reach out to refugee populations. They sit with undergraduates in research and teaching and in protest of wrongs (including my wrong decisions). I still have alumni in Maine from a cohort decades ago that have a strong connection to the school because the faculty would make multiple trips a semester up north.

But now these faculty too sit at home with children and elders and spouses or by themselves in unprecedented times when social distancing, while novel, can too easily turn to fear of human physical contact.

I sent out a tweet asking if libraries around the globe are really closing, or are they shutting their physical doors but staying open online (and just to be clear they should close the physical doors out of concern for both staff and community). After all, libraries have been online for over 20 years. Some told of ebooks. Some of increased chats and reference transactions. Many talked about online story times and youth activities. Perhaps the most touching were the too few that were calling “regulars,” just to check in and make sure they were OK.

We talk about libraries and all kinds of information organizations building communities. We talk of social media as connecting and building relationships. But how many of us know our regulars well enough to call them and ask, “how are you,” and then, and I cannot stress this enough, listen to the response?

My inbox is full of statements telling me how much my gym, and my movie theater, and my airline care about me in these trying times. Telling me. None have called me or emailed me to listen.

It’s amazing in a time when Google and Apple know more about me than probably my mother, if they called and asked how I was, it would feel intrusive, even abusive. We have a deal Google, and I. They give me service and I give them data. It’s a transaction. One in which I know they know things I don’t want to talk about or share.

Are we preparing our graduates to create these kinds of communities or true communities founded on relationships and not simply aggregated data that can trigger a dopamine response when needed? Are our undergraduates using their skills in data analysis, design thinking, system design and so on to create engagement that can yield to analytics and be monetized? Or to connect? Are our graduate alumni going into schools, academies, medical centers, corporations, archives, and libraries truly prepared to serve and connect with compassion?

Paul Romer, a Stanford economist, said a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. He was talking about an economic crisis, and the need to rebalance an economy and the social compact between government, citizen, and business. We too must not waste this crisis. Every day of locked down uncertainty is a test of our ideals, traditions, curricula, and service.

How do we not only seek to answer more questions correctly, but reach out a virtual hand, rest it on the collective, sheltered in place, shoulders of our communities, and, with sincerity, ask, “does this help?”

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.

Corona Virus and Library Science Students

The following is an update I sent to our alumni. It is a version I sent off to our LIS students.

Greetings Friends,

As you may know the university has extended Spring Break through next week and is then going online with all of its courses (graduate and undergraduate) for two weeks after that (through April 3). For the latest information on the university’s response please see:

To be clear, this is the authoritative source for information. I haven’t emailed you before because the school has to wait for the university’s lead.

I wanted to reach out to see if you had any questions, and make you aware of a few things:

  • Next week is an extended break for the students, but busy for the staff and faculty. We will not only be adjusting dates and materials for course, but many faculty will have to move in-person classes online, and that will take work.
  • The university guidance also means changes in scheduled events. The Deans and Directors lecture on April 3rd has been indefinitely postponed. This includes the award ceremony and the Beta Phi Mu installation. We are working on a new date for these, or alternatives.
  • Right now hooding and graduation have not been effected, but the situation is “fluid.” As I learn something, you’ll hear it.
  • Offices and administration remain open at the university. Some staff and faculty will be working from home, particularly if they are in a high-risk group such as immune compromised. Also folks traveling may have to self-quarantine.
  • Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. If I don’t have answers, I’ll track some down.

And now a personal note. We got this. We as a school, as faculty, as students, as staff, we have this. We know how to work online sure, but more importantly, we know about using knowledge as an antidote to fear and misinformation. Some of you may find all of this an over-reaction. Some of you may have a heightened sense of anxiety in these uncertain times. I had a bone marrow transplant 18 months ago, so as someone who is immune compromised, I get it.

The answer is not to disconnect from community while we may shelter away physically. Some of our students are already working in libraries, all of them are being prepared to support communities. Right now what they’re feeling (anger, relief, anxiety, confusion) is being felt by the 3rd grader in a school library. It is felt by a spouse browsing the health books. It is felt by students in Thomas Cooper, or the person self-quarantined at home. Soon it will be their role to reach out to all of them. To let them know they are not alone. To provide what information we can, and all the compassion we have. In these times of conflicting stories the role of a librarian and an information scientist is to be trusted and caring.

I will send updates as I have them.


R. David Lankes
Professor and Director

School of Library and Information Science
College of Information and Communications
University of South Carolina

It’s Not You, It’s Me

Welcome to the new look of my site. It is very different than my last configuration. All the content is still there. All the links still work. The main navigation menu under my big mug is exactly the same. It just gets rid of the more static front page.

To be honest it’s not as pretty as my former layout and the home page is not as good in highlight projects and presentations (sell those books!).

So why the change? Well the main issue was a hack that would repeatedly put links to viagra and college essay writing sites into my old theme. I got tired of trying to track down the injected code. Also, the previous site had a management overhead in making highlights and such. Now that I have, you know, a real job time is tight.

When I looked at my traffic it was coming from social media that sent out direct links (to say a presentation or blog post) or it was coming via a search engine to a direct page. So I did some simple user-based design.

If you hate it, let me know. Enough voices that actually care and I will put in the effort to spruce it up again. For now, enjoy the content.

Also, thanks to Jessamyn West I decided to throw up a couple of “hero” pictures that randomly rotate at the top. Yes, some of them are older pics of me, but either they’re fun (keep an eye out for “Freaked Out Dave”), or I just like them.

Finally, I apologize if you landed on this page looking for viagra or good sites to write your college essay.

A European Trip Report

Trip report: Netherlands and Oslo

Greetings all. I think it is useful for folks to share what we learn as we travel. We can identify broader opportunities and learn about a broader landscape than we could on our own. 

The past two weeks I have been in Europe. On the 15th and 16th of January I was part of two meetings. The first was with a group called Public Libraries 2030. It is a not for profit created to promote and support public libraries in Europe. They have built up an impressive roster of elected representatives to the EU Parliament that pledge to support libraries. 

PL2030 also runs a number of funded projects with backers like the EU, Google, and Microsoft. They host an annual gathering for librarians and members of parliament called Generation Code: Born at the Library that is an interactive exhibition showcasing the top innovative digital exhibits from public libraries across the EU. 

Aside from a general update meeting, we were writing up an Erasmus + proposal around building mentorship and projects for new librarians (with an opportunity for our students to participate). 

The second meeting was with the Royal National Library of the Netherlands, the Berlin Public Library, several library organizations in the Netherlands, and Italy. We discussed setting up a system of projects across the EU on common themes that would also train new librarians and library science students principles of community-centered librarianship. 

While I was there I also met with the instructor of a course in Community Librarianship that we at the University of South Carolina have teamed up with on the professional development front.

These projects have special significance for the Netherlands as they no longer have any library science degree programs. Hopefully something like this could serve as a foundation for one. 

Thanks to School of Library and Information Science Fellow Erik Boekesteijn and to Lily Knibbeler Director General of the National Library for hosting us.

I also had the great joy of seeing the first draft of the Dutch version of the New Librarianship Field Guide (already sold out) and some of the students that are using it as a textbook. Special thanks to Gert Staal for his work in translating the book!

This week I have been in Norway. I was invited to speak at the wrap up conferences for two very interesting and important projects.

The first was a project across Scandinavia and Germany to study the effects of “digitization” on the public sphere called ALMPUB. Digitization here is not about scanning documents, but converting analog functions to digital like paying taxes, getting government information, e-commerce and the like. 

Since 2016 the project team has been reviewing policies, conducting surveys and doing anthropological observation of folks in Libraries Archives and Museums. I strongly urge you to read the following report. It shows that as digital requirements have accelerated, so have use of analog public service agencies like libraries, museums, and archives. One hypothesis is increased digital has people seeking out the physical aspects of community.

Audunson, R., Aabø, S., Blomgren, R., Evjen, S., Jochumsen, H., Larsen, H., Rasmussen, C., Vårheim, A., Johnston, J. and Koizumi, M. (2019), “Public libraries as an infrastructure for a sustainable public sphere: A comprehensive review of research”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 75 No. 4, pp. 773-790.

One of the highlights of the trip was to meet, dine, and talk with the great Professor Ragnar Audunson of OSLOMet.

A VERY interesting thing that is happening in Scandinavia; the library legislation that mandates public libraries in Norway and Finland both have convening and facilitating “democratic conversations” as part of the law. Public libraries of all sizes are currently building projects and programs to meet the mandate. It should be very interesting to watch.

While in Oslo I got to tour the newly renovated branch libraries and the new central public library.

The two branches we visited had experienced 200% usage jumps after the renovations. The first was all about light and openness.

The second branch was all about being a living room and club in the middle of a gentrifying neighborhood. Karen Gavigan would have loved it. A large part of the collection (like up to 70%) were graphic novels. They hosted an annual con there as well as two stages set up for live performances and music. The upstairs was dedicated to kids. Thee two libraries demonstrated in the most beautiful way how libraries should reflect their communities.

Then it was off to the new central library being built (I wasn’t allowed to take pictures because this is for the people of Oslo and they are really the first to experience it – love that). It is an amazing structure. However, what I found interesting was that only 50% of the collection from the former central library will be making the move. The rest have been handed to the National Library if they want them. The plan, by the way, is not to make room for newer materials, the plan is for a collection at the halved size going forward.

My last day in Oslo I gave a lecture to the library science program there (also an iSchool). They are talking about the fact that libraries are not required to hire librarians (those with a bachelors or masters) and some libraries are hiring folks from other fields (not familiar at all huh). They were very interested in the new curriculum we developed at SLIS both the process and the outcome, and the idea of a core course around communities.

My last stop in Norway was for a project funded by the National Library of Norway and headed up by the Tønsberg and Notteroy public library (about 1 1/2 hours by train south of Oslo). Libraries across the country surveyed the general population about where they got their information. It then examined the current tools and methods reference libraries use in answering questions. Lastly it engaged a marketing firm to think about a campaign around information consultants/reference librarians. The hope is possibly to build a national reference service.

I cannot express to you just how amazing the Tønsberg public library and those that work there are. It is literally built on the site of a former monastery and viking graveyard. The have kept the foundation stones for the monastery as a feature of the building, and carved replicas of the viking funeral boats into the floor. It is an amazing example of incorporating and honoring their past with their future.

A very special thank you to Britt Sanne and director Tone Eli Moseid (who introduced me to the life of a viking).

So there you are. I really think I am in love with Norway and certainly with the Norwegian library community. Thank you all for your hospitality. Apologies for errors and omissions – just let me know and I’ll fix them.