What We Do and Why We Do It …But Mostly Why We Do It

“What We Do and Why We Do It …But Mostly Why We Do It” New Zealand Atlas Reading Group. Web.

Abstract: You may never be a part of marching in the streets. I hope you never have to face a mob of looters, but you will be part of a revolution. Librarians are radical positive change agents in their community. In the academy, in schools, in the public, government, and business, librarians are storming the barricades of ignorance and fighting for knowledge and community improvement.

You cannot fight this fight from the safety of the stacks, nor behind the security of the reference desk. Librarianship has helped shape and guide the world for millennia, and now it is your turn to take up that charge.

Slides: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/Presentations/2012/NZ.pdf

Audio: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/pod/2012/NZScreen.mp3



Screencast:

What We Do and Why We Do It …But Mostly Why We Do It from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

Posted in 2012, New/Participatory Librarianship, Presentation | 4 Comments

3rd Printing of the Atlas in 18 Months

In case you are having some trouble getting a hold of the Atlas, more are on the way. MIT Press has just done a rush print order. Seeing as I know my mom only bought the first printing, I owe you all a debt of gratitude.

Posted in New/Participatory Librarianship, Publications News | Comments Off

EveryLibrary.org Libraries Get Their Own PAC

Nope, that’s not PAC as in “Publicly Accessible Catalog.” That’s PAC as in “Political Action Committee,” and it is about time.

I was very excited to hear about EveryLibrary. A PAC that it is dedicated to:

…support these [local library funding] campaigns through non-partisan, pro-library voter education and get out the vote work. “We want to work with the local committee to enhance their efforts,” says Chrastka. “We will work best when we work with you. This new national library PAC will make a real difference in your tax or bond campaign.”

I love it! Non-partisan, pro-library, and local. More than making folks feel good about libraries, or love reading, here is an organization meant to directly support libraries at the local level with funding. Workbooks and lectures are good, but now here is some serious rubber meets the road support. This will never support the grassroots support we need from our communities, but it certainly will help foster that support. Instead of seeing ourselves as victims or pawns to politicians (“quick get a picture by the books”), we now can build an alley in the fray.

Here is the full press release:

For Immediate Release
September 5, 2012

Contact: John Chrastka,
john.chrastka@everylibrary.org
312-574-0316

EveryLibrary – a National PAC for Libraries

EveryLibrary is launching today as the first and only national political action committee (PAC) for libraries. Focused exclusively on local library ballot initiatives and measures, EveryLibrary is dedicated to helping libraries win at election time. The organization, found online at www.everylibrary.org, will fundraise nationally to support local library ballot committees and PACs, and provide them with technical support and consultancy on how to run – and win – at the ballot box.

“EveryLibrary is built on the idea that any library ballot initiative anywhere matters to every library everywhere,” says John Chrastka, executive director of EveryLibrary. “EveryLibrary will allow us to raise funds and support specific ballot measures that keep libraries open and thriving. Elections are the “last mile” of library advocacy and this new PAC is an amazing opportunity for our community to talk directly to voters.”

During each election cycle, library districts and other jurisdictions put hundreds of millions of dollars in bonds, milliages, levys, and other taxing authority on local ballots. EveryLibrary will be organized as a 501c4 social welfare organization to support these campaigns through non-partisan, pro-library voter education and get out the vote work. “We want to work with the local committee to enhance their efforts,” says Chrastka. “We will work best when we work with you. This new national library PAC will make a real difference in your tax or bond campaign.”

EveryLibrary is conducting a $50,000 fundraising round from September 5 to November 7, 2012 to underwrite the fees associated with its legal filings and to create campaign toolkits, voter education materials, and messaging targeted to 2013 election initiatives. Visit http://rally.org/everylibrary to learn more and to donate today. Individuals, corporations, unions, and certain foundations are eligible to donate. EveryLibrary will use donations to support local committees and PACs while providing technical assistance to campaigns.

More information about EveryLibrary can be found online at www.everylibrary.org and via social media at www.facebook.com/everylibrary or @EveryLibrary on Twitter. Donations made via http://rally.org/everylibrary are secure but not tax deductible for income purposes.

Posted in Links | 3 Comments

Beyond the Bullet Points: IFLA Code of Ethics

IFLA just released “IFLA Code of Ethics for Librarians and other Information Workers” (you can read it here http://www.ifla.org/files/faife/publications/IFLA%20Code%20of%20Ethics%20-%20Long_0.pdf) and to call is disappointing is putting it mildly. There are few documents that so clearly represent a collection centric worldview. That is, libraries are collections, and librarians jobs are about maintaining (and circulating) that collection.

To be sure there is some good stuff here (I’m all for ethics). Yet every time it gets a good head of steam, it veers back into the old school presumed safety of objectivity, and stacks. It also assumes throughout that all the professional ethics are practiced in a library. It seems that librarians and information professionals don’t need to care about ethics unless they work in a library.

I’ve devoted the better part of a decade to countering this collection-centric worldview so I won’t rehash that decode in this post. You want to see my take on ethics, you can here. Instead let me point out some particularly problematic parts of this code:

From the preamble -

This code is offered in the belief that:
Librarianship is, in its very essence, an ethical activity embodying a value-rich approach to professional work with information.
The need to share ideas and information has grown more important with the increasing complexity of society in recent centuries and this provides a rationale for libraries and the practice of librarianship.

So far so good.

The role of information institutions and professionals, including libraries and librarians, in modern society is to support the optimisation of the recording and representation of information and to provide access to it.

That’s right, your job a a librarian is optimization. Not to improve society, not to make a difference. Your job is to make the printer to work faster and get those suckers to the shelves (or CD’s, or online searchable databases). How about that for inspiring passion.

Information service in the interest of social, cultural and economic well-being is at the heart of librarianship and therefore librarians have social responsibility.

Remember this line for later when we get to neutrality. For now, can someone explain to me how optimization of recording representation of information (at least we can agree it is not information itself) is a social good?

OK, that’s just the preamble. Off to the actual ethics. First up, Access to Information”

The core mission of librarians and other information workers is to ensure access to information for all for personal development, education, cultural enrichment, leisure, economic activity and informed participation in and enhancement of democracy.

Now I actually really love the second part of this statement. The problem is it is not the ethical responsibility to actually further communities education or participation in democracy…nope, we ensure access [to a collection] that will do that for us. Read: librarians are passive and our effect is from our collections.

Librarians and other information workers reject the denial and restriction of access to information and ideas most particularly through censorship whether by states, governments, or religious or civil society institutions.

Surely, I can’t have any problems with resisting censorship you say. And you would be right. Of course, resisting is an active verb that would imply we do more than reject it (rejecting a denial at that), but actually fight against it and arm our communities to do so as well. Of course the idea of doing anything with our communities would imply that we are more than just collections, and that doesn’t fit in this document.

Librarians and other information workers offering services to the public should make every endeavour to offer access to their collections and services free of cost to the user. If membership fees and administrative charges are inevitable, they should be kept as low as possible, and practical solutions found so that socially disadvantaged people are not excluded.

Read…you are a collection and an institution. Apparently if you are an embedded librarian or work in places other than a library no ethics for you.

Librarians and other information workers promote and publicise their collection and services so that users and prospective users are aware of their existence and availability.

Do we promote our skills? Do we promote our communities? Nope, our collections and services (presumably in relation to the collection).

I actually like section 2. RESPONSIBILITIES TOWARDS INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIETY. There is still an emphasis on collections, but at least it acknowledges that we live in a community and that community has a culture we must respect.

Section 3 is pretty good with the exception of…

The relationship between the library and the user is one of confidentiality and librarians and other information workers will take appropriate measures to ensure that user data is not shared beyond the original transaction.

This is so un-nuanced I cannot stand it. It just begs for an additional clause on the end about “without the knowing approval of the user.” Don’t even get me started on the term user. It is well intentioned here, I just hate the term.

Section 4 is fine, until you realize it is all about other people’s intellectual property rights. Underlying the entire section is an assumption that libraries are places of consumption that build collections through acquisition, as opposed to community creation.

But then we come to section 5. NEUTRALITY, PERSONAL INTEGRITY AND PROFESSIONAL SKLLS and I run to my keyboard.

Librarians and other information workers are strictly committed to neutrality and an unbiased stance regarding collection, access and service. Neutrality results in the most balanced collection and the most balanced access to information achievable.

Neutral has the same root as neuter. Now I won’t go through a lengthy conversation about how we as human beings cannot be neutral, nor ever leave the biases built into us as individuals and as a society. I’ve done it other places. Instead let me ask how in the world can neutral people provide “information service in the interest of social, cultural and economic well-being is at the heart of librarianship and therefore librarians have social responsibility” as stated above. If we see libraries as important in the social scheme that is not neutral. If we talk about social responsibility, we are biased towards the norms of that society. If libraries are going to do anything other than collect and wait, HOW CAN WE BE NEUTRAL? This very document screams bias. It shows a clear bias towards open access…hardly universal. It shows a clear bias towards transparency, and equitable access. THESE ARE ALL BIASES. Just because we agree with them doesn’t make them neutral. Librarians are heavily biased towards access and equity.

I would so have loved IFLA to take on the much richer, and much more messy discussion of ethics in the real world. Ethics in the world of majority and minority world views. Ethics that acknowledge individual biases, and ways of overcoming, or at least representing them. As it is this line reads like a piece of throwaway fluff that totally avoids the hard questions of context, and social definitions of right and wrong.

Librarians and other information workers define and publish their policies for selection, organisation, preservation, provision, and dissemination of information.

…because that is all librarians do after all is build collections.

Librarians and other information workers distinguish between their personal convictions and professional duties. They do not advance private interests or personal beliefs at the expense of neutrality.

Wait…what? Oh, I see. We are all biased individuals, we as librarians just have a special super power to turn off those biases and forget we are human beings. This line at least gets closer to reality. We should talk about intellectual honesty, about representing both majority and minority viewpoints in a transaction (really a relationship) with members.

Librarians and other information workers have the right to free speech in the workplace provided it does not infringe the principle of neutrality towards users.

Sigh…does anyone else see the inherent problem with the concept that neutrality is a choice? Either you can be neutral or not.

Librarians and other information workers counter corruption directly affecting librarianship, as in the sourcing and supply of library materials, appointments to library posts and administration of library contracts and finances.

AAAARRRRGGGGG!!!!! So let me get this straight…librarians only care about corruption that directly affects librarians? The rest of the community has to fend for itself. Take a bribe and screw the poor is OK, as long as it doesn’t effect our materials budget?! Oh, and we’re back to the library as a collection, because the only way that corruption can effect libraries is through our materials (because we’re only a collection), hiring in a library, and library money.

OK, there is my rant for the day. To be honest there is some really good stuff in here about librarians needing to be open, collegial and constantly learning. However, the underlying worldview is that librarians work in libraries, and that libraries are collections. The focus is on libraries buying stuff, and lending it out to users. This not only ignores the reality of being human and how people learn, it creates internal contradictions that ultimately turn this potentially important document into jingoistic truisms.

Be ethical, not just when you’re in a library, but all the time. Fight corruption, and discrimination, and censorship all the time, and actively. See your community as more than users that must be coddled and protected. Librarians are ethical, and noble and have a rightful claim to the moral high ground. We take that right not from being passive and neutral, but by being ADVOCATES for the well-being of our communities. Our ethics define us as librarians, so we should take better care to ground those ethics in a worldview that reflects a focus on community and learning, not collections and institutions. We can do better, and our communities should expect more of us.

Posted in Beyond the Bullet Points, Links | 8 Comments

Master Class on New Librarianship Amsterdam

Here is the short version of this post: I did a masterclass at the Amsterdam Public Library for de Library School. You can see watch the screencast or listen to an MP3 at the end of this post. It is long (2 hours and 33 minutes).

Now the long version. I had the BEST time yesterday in Amsterdam. I was invited to do a Master Class on New Librarianship for de Library School that operates out of the Public Library of Amsterdam. It is a very neat project where they are working over three years to define what a library school should teach and do, and to do that, they are trying to define what a librarian and library are.

I have never done a master class before, and had no idea what to expect. Good news, they had never hosted one, and had no expectations. So I decided to give a brief introduction about what New Librarianship is, and then offer up a menu of ideas (in Atlas talk, agreements) that we could go through in what ever order the class wanted.

One of the common misperception about new or participatory librarianship is that it a simple idea that boils down to listen to your community. Putting this together and working with the class, it is clear that it is a very deep way of looking at librarians, libraries, and communities that all of us working and talking in the area have come up with. We were there for about 3 hours, and we could have kept going for about 10 more. THose who have read the Atlas will not be surprised.

I talked a little more than I would have liked to, but ewe had great conversations in the breaks and afterwards. As an aside I am so impressed with the Amsterdam Public Library. Besides an impressive facility, they have two cafes and a radio station. I had a chance to talk to the director, Hans van Velzen, and was blown away. What he has accomplished there is simply outstanding.

Oh man, I hope I get the chance to do another kinds of classes. I enjoy keynoting, but the time and interaction to dig deep is simply exhilarating. In fact it was in preparation for this session that I floated the idea of a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in New Librarianship. I can see it working, but need to figure out a way to capture the conversation and dynamic.

In any case…let me know if you want to put on a master class, and enjoy the class if you would like.

“New Librarianship Master Class” Master Class, de Library School, Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Audio: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/pod/2012/MC-NewDub.mp3

Screencast:

Posted in 2012, Expect More, New/Participatory Librarianship, Presentation | 8 Comments

Beyond the Bullet Points: Bullet Points

I was recently asked for tips on giving good presentations. I’ve been asked this on several occasions, so I thought I’d share. Please be aware most of this was composed on a train from Amsterdam to Tilburg, so I don’t claim it has been thoroughly thought through.

There are a ton of sites on making good slides, and rules for good presentations. However, I have found that every rule needs to be broken from time to time. So if I have advice on developing speaker skills it would be these:

  1. Always present something that you care about. If the topic doesn’t excite you, it won’t excite the audience. Speakers are too often hesitant to let themselves get out of control, or show their deep feelings on a topic – don’t be. The audience roots for passionate people and will respond to real emotion.
  2. Own what you are talking about. You need to find an angle on the topic you are presenting that you feel you own – that is, that you can offer a fresh perspective. Anyone can talk about eBooks, but what do you add to that conversation (even if it is just a little bit). Your understanding of a topic matters. Don’t just do a sort of book report or reference “read back” on a topic. The deadliest presentations are the ones where a person gets up and presents “everything you want to know about ebooks.” I can do a Google search, I don’t need a search result, I need your unique perspective. Synthesize and help me make sense of it.
  3. Related to the owning: have your presentation go somewhere. Take the audience from the light and airy to the profound and inspiring. More jokes at the front, more volume at the end. Just like a good song you want people to feel like they have reached a destination, not simply stopped.
  4. Don’t put in too much. Less is more. Pick 3 topics you want the audience to remember, not 12. Please don’t present a 30 item conceptual chart detailing the migration of catalogs to discovery systems….save that for the book.
  5. Point to a better day. No matter the scale of the topic, there is always some way or approach that will make a positive change. Find it, and give it to folks at the end – or better still, give it to them at the beginning and then remind them at the end.
  6. Never ever talk down to the audience. Never ask rhetorical questions with a leading tone…in fact never ask a question unless you know the answer.
  7. Personal anecdotes and stories/examples make any presentation better.
  8. Be an expert on your topic. Now this could be read as presenting on only things you have a great deal of expertise in, it is not. When you are presenting on new or emerging topics, you know your own reactions and experiences. You are expert in you. Think about the topic, read widely. Until you can get past the “I read this and so and so said this” to “I think that” don’t present. Loud voices and lofty words are fine, but pale in comparison to true insight. The best presentation I ever saw was given by a doctoral student as he sat quietly at a table, and softly read a paper he wrote. He violated all the rules (speak loudly, move around, never read) and it was wonderful – because he was brilliant. Content always trumps style.
  9. You never ever lose by going to the high ground. Fit what you are talking about in a larger, and nobelnoble context.
  10. Rehearse in your head, but never too much. “Practice practice practice” leads to a robotic delivery. Instead, imagine yourself in front of the audience, and what you will say based on a prepared outline (for me the outline is my slides). While a good presentation is a performance, it is more like stand up comedy than Shakespeare. Know your bits and have your stories, but don’t script the whole thing.
  11. The bigger the crowd, the easier it is to present. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but it works. Why? In a small group of 10-20 you can see each face. You often know folks in the crowd. As social creatures we naturally pull back on passion and excitement to put the group at ease. As those numbers go up, the crowd becomes more and more anonymous. Rather than a series of faces, the audience becomes like one entity allowing you to judge impact and mood without having to attend to every person. For me, the more people I know in the crowd, the worse I do. I get too much into my head wondering what they’ll be saying tomorrow.
  12. Slides are important, but for pictures, not text.
  13. Mix up the rhythm. Start slowly and casually and build to the crescendo (see 3), but within the presentation vary too. No one can be yelled at, no matter how passionately, for an hour. Speaking quietly will make people pay just as much attention as yelling.
Posted in Beyond the Bullet Points | 8 Comments

New Librarianship and the Library as Platform

“New Librarianship and the Library as Platform” Ticer 15th International Summer School on Digital Libraries 2012, Tillburg, Netherlands.

Abstract: Change in academic libraries is nothing new. From digitization of materials, to the move of scholarly communications from journals to online venues, librarians are becoming accustomed to constant reinvention. Now, however, libraries must become platforms for innovation throughout the entire academy. Librarians should be active in online education, new models of student learning, and helping the faculty adjust to disruptive change. Rather than being the heart of the university centered on a collection, libraries must become hubs that spread new practice throughout the organization.

Slides: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/Presentations/2012/Ticer-PDF.pdf

Posted in 2012, New/Participatory Librarianship, Presentation | 5 Comments