Duct Tape, 3D Printing, and Libraries of the Future

A few weeks back I took my sons to the Fayetteville Free Library to learn more about their new Fab Lab and see the 3D MakerBot printer in action. While we were busy printing out a robot and ring on the 3D printer, the librarian (Lauren) mentioned an upcoming open house for the Fab Lab that would include the 3D printer, making jewelry, and making things in Duct Tape…if she could find someone who made things with Duct Tape. Riley, my 11 year old said “I make stuff with Duct Tape,” and before Lauren knew what was happening he was flipping though pictures of his creations on his phone.

“Great” said Lauren without missing a beat “you could teach it.” And he did.


You should have seen him beam when Sue Considine, the amazing director of Fayetteville Free, personally thanked him for helping out.

A week later my youngest son said he had a great idea for this year’s science fair. “I’m going to design the library of the future!” he declared. Within 10 minutes he had sketched it out on paper.


20 minutes after that he and his brother were building the library in Minecraft, a popular game akin to SecondLife, or SimCity. Sure they could build it in Legos (Andrew later did), but Legos don’t have working roller-coasters and you can’t invite your friends from around the world to walk through it (there are as I write this over 23 million registered Minecraft users).


The next Saturday we took the “library” on a disk back to Fayetteville and printed it out.


Now you might think this is the point when I to talk about millennials, or the power of Fab Labs (I don’t buy the millennial argument and I hope you know I LOVE the Maker Space in the library concept). But that’s not what sticks out to me about this story. What sticks out to me is the motivations my sons had, and how that was encouraged by the librarian. Sure the 3D printing was cool, but that’s not what hooked Riley. What hooked him was when Lauren asked him to teach the duct tape class. What got him hooked was when he came into the Fab Lab two weeks later and saw that the librarians had hung his duct tape Fab Lab sign on the door. What got Andrew hooked was sitting in front of the maker bot while it printed during the open house and got to explain how it worked, and what it was printing.


Recently – as our LIS students are hearing about participation, reading the Atlas of New Librarianship, following the Library of the People as part of Occupy Wall Street – they have been stopping by faculty offices and asking why we teach what we do, and forming their own lecture series to fill in the gaps they perceive in their preparations. They have reached out to the Hack Library School blog, and have been doing a pretty good job of usurping the school-wide tech blog. They want to know when we talk about the value and power of librarians regardless of institution, why they are being taught to only work in one type of institution. They want to know why curriculum only gets overhauled every 10 years. They are holding the faculty to account in ways as never before. To paraphrase the famous line – the students are revolting…and I think I like it.

And in the midst of this, the faculty are looking for new models. One that is of frequent conversation is the “flipped classroom.” The one where “students do homework in class and classwork at home.” The one where students do project based work in the class and listen to the lectures online. So in the middle of this discussion – in the middle of 3D printing – in the middle of student run symposia – it hits me. I apologize to all who find this obvious, and I could probably have said these words before, but it really hit home for me:

While we sit here and debate when we deliver our lectures, or how long they are, or in what channels; the real flip is already occurring. The lecture? The long form or short form, oratory? That is not the point of this. They all have a place. No, the real flip is faculty are losing control. The real flip is from us – LIS faculty – thinking we have the content and we are just debating the delivery to the truth that we need to relearn the content continuously right along side our students.

That last bit, the relearning bit, that is crucial. This is not simply ceding control, or turning education into one long do it yourself project. There is value in a good teacher and a good researcher – they will always have a strong ability to guide. No, it is about realizing that truly co-owning a curriculum, or library program, requires constant reinvention if for nothing else than applying it to new contexts. It is why the university model of researcher/teacher has worked so well for so long…it is in the disconnection of these two things that we run into breakdowns.

The same is true of our libraries. The Maker Space concept does not work unless all are involved – librarians, members, experts, children, parents – understand that they are all learning at the same time. If a kid shows up and is trained and treated as a consumer, the Maker Space will fail. No $2,000 MakerBot can match the quality of a store bought lego or toy. No, the trick is to show the child, or parent, or member, that they are part of a learning process and discovering something new – if only it is new to them. They have to be in on the truth that we are all just figuring this out as we go. And if we have it all figured out? Time to try something new.

I know there are long discussions to be had about the role of experts, the value of experience, and pedagogy of well known and new areas. I get that. I know I am oversimplifying here, but that is kind of the point. Those discussion of expertise and pedagogy need to be just that – discussions – conversations. They are messy, and there is a huge amount of ego riding on them. And yet, if we don’t open those conversations up beyond the faculty – beyond the librarians, then we have shut down a most remarkable opportunity for motivation and student/member involvement. And if we shut down conversation we have failed in our mission.

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Atlas Acknowledgements

As I announced, the Atlas of New Librarianship has received the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. While I have been extremely grateful for the notes of congratulations, I cannot take all the credit. While the Atlas has my name on the front cover, it would not have been possible without the contributions and support of a lot of remarkable people. I put this list in the book, but it is always worth repeating (and augmenting a bit):

Atlas Research Team

This is the crew that did the heavy lifting on the Atlas manuscript through editing, reviewing, arguing, and generally getting it done. Todd Marshall, Angela Usha Ramnarine-Rieks, Heather Margaret Highfield, Jessica R. O’Toole, and Xiaoou Cheng. Special thanks to Julie Strong for her help.

Agreement Researchers

One of the advantages of being in an innovative school like Syracuse University’s iSchool is that every so often I get to make classes up. So I did. The students did a fantastic job of slogging through rough drafts of the threads and doing a lot of really amazing work on the agreements and discussion questions.

Jocelyn Clark, Amy Edick, Elizabeth Gall, Nancy Lara-Grimaldi, Michael Luther, Kelly Menzel, Andrea Phelps, Jennifer Recht, Sarah Schmidt, and William Zayac.

Participatory Networks White Paper

The work in this Atlas really began with the formation of participatory librarianship. That happened because Rick Weingarten and Carrie McGuire of the American Library Association’s Office for Information and Technology Policy (OITP) commissioned a white paper on social networking in libraries. Much of the foundational work on these concepts came from long hours of conversation between my co-authors, Joanne Silverstein and Scott Nicholson.

From the white paper on, OITP has been a great support in the work. I thank them and all the folks at ALA’s Washington Office: Emily Sheketoff, Rick Weingarten, Carrie McGuire, and Alan Inouye.

Starter Kit Sites

Most of the examples and experiments throughout the Atlas come from a wide variety of library and information settings. The following folks were gracious enough to open their doors for me and share their insights.

Blane Dessy and the librarians of the Department of Justice Law Libraries.

Linda Johnson and Sandra Horrocks of the Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation, and Elliot Shelkrot, Joe McPeak, Kyle Smith, and all of the great librarians (past and present) of the Free Library.

Jeff Penka, Susan McGlamery, Paula Rumbaugh, and Tam Dalrymple of OCLC’s QuestionPoint service.

Robert Johnston and the librarians of LeMoyne College.

Elizabeth Stephens of the Glendale Library.

Participatory Librarianship Research Group

After the white paper was out, a group of talented faculty and doctoral and master’s students worked with me to further refine the ideas now in this Atlas: Todd Marshall, Angela Usha Ramnarine-Rieks, Joanne Silverstein, Jaime Snyder, Keisuke Inoue, David Pimentel, Gabrielle Gosselin, Agnes Imecs, and Sarah Webb.

Special thanks to Meg Backus for her ideas on innovation.

MIT Press

Marguerite Avery, Senior Acquisitions Editor, for giving the book a chance.


Kathryn Deiss, for insisting that I had to publish with ACRL, and Mary Ellen Davis, who told me I was allowed to piss off anyone I needed to.

The ILEADU Team, the State Library of Illinois, and IMLS

Thanks to Anne Craig, Gwen Harrison, and all the folks involved with the ILEADU Project for giving me a chance to try out some of these ideas.

A special thank you to Mary Chute of IMLS for her reaction and support. Her leadership has pushed the field forward.

The John D. and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation

Thanks to Kathy Im and Elspeth Revere for supporting a study on the future of libraries and the development of the Reference Extract Idea. It is a rare treat to find funders who are great collaborators and ask the best questions. Also thanks to Connie Yowell for support on my credibility work.

Reference Extract is very much a product of brilliant collaborators like Jeff Penka, Mike Eisenberg, Eric Miller, and Uche Ogbuji.

Ideas and Reactions

I do practice what I preach. Most of my learning happens in conversations over lunch, coffee, and in hallways. What I love about the field of librarianship is that you are never at a loss for interesting company. I am going to miss a lot of people in making this list, but I wanted to give a shout out to some of the folks who had patience with me droning on about new librarianship.

Scott Nicholson, Joanne Silverstein, Meg Backus for the brilliant concepts on innovation versus entrepreneurship, Joe Janes, Eli Neiburger, Jill Hurst-Wahl, Mary Ghikas, George Needham, Chuck McClure, Michael Eisenberg, Joe Ryan, Megan Oakleaf, Blythe Bennett (who cemented the name for the Atlas), and Buffy Hamilton.

An apology to those I forgot.

General Acknowledgments

Thanks to my family, who had to see a lot of my back while I was typing in my office. Riley, I marvel every day at the man you are becoming. Andrew, you are the epitome of infectious joy. Anna Maria, my wife and love of my life, you make me a better man and the world a better place.

Thanks to all of the audiences of my presentations. Your questions, comments, and challenges honed these ideas. What’s more, they demonstrated that the best days of librarianship are ahead of us.

Thanks to the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, for the time to write this book.

Thanks to the Free Library of Fayetteville for the place to write. I can’t tell you the number of tough fixes I worked through on the Stickley furniture.

To Ray von Dran, who taught me true mentorship. He gave me my first real job, his trust, and faith. His time on Earth was too short, but his impact was great.

To my dad, who taught me that everything is retail. Whether you’re selling ink or ideas, you still have to sell. I miss him every day.

To my mom, who has every one of my books and may well be the only one to have read them all (including me).

To Michael Eisenberg, my one-time advisor, but always mentor and friend.

To Chuck McClure, who has shown me that staying on the top of your game throughout your career is possible.

To Joan Laskowski, my real boss.

To Lisa Pawlewicz for all her hard work in helping me play with technology.

To Marie Radford, who covered for my Atlas obsession on that other book.

To Liz Liddy who is the queen of encouragement and for her addiction to innovation.

Thanks to the creators of Galcon who gave me the perfect activity to think things through (well technically, take a break from thinking things through). And damn you Plants vs. Zombies for that lost week!

Librarians Who Have and Continue to Inspire Me

Abby Kaswowitz-Schear, Blythe Bennett, Joann Wasik, Pauline Shostack, Holly Sammons, Rivkah Sass, Sari Feldman, Stewart Bodner, Stephen Bell, Stephen Francoeur, Donna Dinberg (who is no doubt whipping Heaven’s reference desk into shape as we speak), Franceen Gaudet, Joe Janes, Nicolette Sosulski (a one-woman reference SWAT team), Jenny Levine, Karen Schneider, Joan Stahl, John Collins, Linda Arret, Nancy Morgan, Melanie Gardner, Joe Thompson, Buff Hirko, Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Nancy Huling, Jane Janis, Joyce Ray, Bob Martin, Tasha Cooper, Mary Chute, Keith Stubbs (although you may not have the degree, you have the brain, heart, and soul of a librarian), Joe Ryan (the first and second), Linda Smith, Pauline Nicholas, Kathleen Kerns, Meg Backus, Mary Fran Floreck, Kate McCaffrey, and Lorri Mon.

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Barbara Stripling for ALA President

I have had the privilege of working with Barbara Stripling on projects likes KidsConnect, as a member of her dissertation committee, and now as a fellow faculty member. In all of those encounters I have been impressed by her thoughtfulness, dedication to the profession, and ability to lead. That is why I want to encourage my readers to vote for her to be the next ALA president.

Barbara sees deeply into issues and is dedicated to brining positive transformation to our profession and the communities we serve. She has shown a near superhuman ability to navigate a politically charged city government in her role as Director of School Library Services in New York City. She has shown an aptitude for scholarly research that is a welcome addition to my university. She has an unwavering passion for children and the role of school libraries in K-12 education.

I can think of no one better suited to head ALA. Please join me in supporting Barbara.

Visit Barbara’s Website: http://www.barbarastripling.org/

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Twitter Digest for 2012-02-22

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Atlas Wins Award 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature

Immediate Release
Mon, 02/27/2012 – 09:48
Contact: Cheryl Malden

CHICAGO – “The Atlas of New Librarianship” by R. David Lankes has been named the winner of the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. The award, which is given annually by the American Library Association, will be presented at the association’s Annual Meeting in Anaheim, Calif., in June.

The book was co-published by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), a division of ALA, and The MIT Press. In his book, Lankes articulates a new purpose for librarianship: “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.” He envisions a profession based not on books and artifacts but on knowledge and learning which are created through conversations. The innovatively structured text, graphics and accompanying website are designed to stimulate further conversation about the field of librarianship.

The Award Committee praised the book for its unique visual map of ideas and their relationships to theory and practice. One committee member declared, “It made me think critically about our profession and our future…. I was taken out of my comfort zone and that was a good thing.” Other members praised the Atlas as “challenging,” “complex,” and “exciting both in its ideas and its design.”

Describing the book as “rich in optimism,” Kathryn Deiss, ACRL content strategist, said that “The Atlas of New Librarianship” creates “a platform for vital conversations about the future of librarianship.” The book’s unusual format presents more than 140 Agreements (statements on aspects of librarianship) and visually represents the threads that connect key ideas.

R. David Lankes, PhD, is a professor at Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies and director of its library science program. He also directs the Information Institute of Syracuse (IIS), a research center and think tank. Lankes was the provocative speaker for the Midwinter Conversations at the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Dallas.

The members of the ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award jury were: Chair, Susan E. Searing, Library & Information Science Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; June L. DeWeese, head of access services, University of Missouri at Columbia; Jasmine Y. Posey, training services librarian, Greenwich (Conn.) Library; John C. Sandstrom, head of acquisitions, New Mexico State University; and William Newbold Schultz, Jr., catalog librarian, Appalachian State University.

About ACRL

ACRL is a division of the American Library Association (ALA), representing more than 12,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. ACRL is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic and research librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments. ACRL is on the Web at http://www.acrl.org/, Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ala.acrl and Twitter at @ala_acrl

About MIT Press

The MIT Press is the only university press in the United States whose list is based in science and technology. This does not mean that science and engineering are all we publish, but it does mean that we are committed to the edges and frontiers of the world–to exploring new fields and new modes of inquiry. We are a major publishing presence in fields as diverse as architecture, social theory, economics, cognitive science, and computational science, and we have a long-term commitment to both design excellence and the efficient and creative use of new technologies. Our goal is to create books and journals that are challenging, creative, attractive, and yet affordable to individual readers.

THE MIT PRESS | 55 Hayward Street | Cambridge, MA 02142

About “The Atlas of New Librarianship”

For more information about “The Atlas of New Librarianship,” visit http://www.newlibrarianship.org.

To purchase “The Atlas of New Librarianship” visit http://mitpress.mit.edu/catalog/item/default.asp?ttype=2&tid=12560

The ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature Award will be presented at the ALA Award Ceremony and Reception, Sunday June 24 at the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

More information about the ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature including how to submit a nomination is available on the ALA website.

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Twitter Digest for 2012-02-15

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Joining the Conversation: School Librarians as Facilitators of Learning

“Joining the Conversation: School Librarians as Facilitators of Learning.” Lankes, R. D. (February, 2012). 39(3). Teacher|Librarian pps. 8-12.


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