The End of Big Ideas?

Neal Gabler has a great opinion piece in the New York Times on living in a post-idea world:

Aside from some seemingly obligatory swipes at social media, there is a lot to think about there. Has society become so immersed in information we have lost our desire/ability to think deep thoughts? In an area of abundance, are we so overfed with information we loose our ability to seek more depth? This is not The Shallows argument of us becoming stupid, instead it is a cultural question.

Part of the reason I wrote the Atlas of New Librarianship was because of a perceived lack of big ideas in librarianship. As a profession I worry that we have become so enmeshed in processes and functions, we have begun to loose the centrality of why we do things. Librarianship is at its heart a big idea – that knowledge is the path to improving society, and that the knowledge process needs to be facilitated.

People think the Internet is the enemy of libraries. It is in fact a great boon. Not only can librarians do their jobs better, the abundant information on the web makes people curious – a prime motivator of library use.

No the enemies of libraries is the twin dilemma posed by anti-intellectuals on one hand, and the small thinking hipster on the other. One hates big ideas and the other dismisses them if they cannot be easily monetized. We need information to make good decisions sure, but we need big ideas to know what questions to ask.

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Lankes Appointed as Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship

From Dean Liz Liddy, Syracuse University iSchool:

“I am pleased to announce that in recognition of Dave Lankes’ outstanding contributions to the evolving field of Library Science, I have appointed him to the well-deserved position of Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship. Through his writing and speaking about what it means to be a librarian in this day & age, Dave has increased the scope and potential of the field, and has even further improved our very positive reputation in ways that are difficult to measure. Please join me in congratulating Dave for this well-deserved honor.”

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Lankes to Address the 57th National Conference of the Italian Library Association

R. David Lankes will present “A New Librarianship for a New Age” to the 57th National Conference of the Italian Library Association Congress on November 18th in Rome. The theme of the meeting is “Il futuro in biblioteca, la biblioteca in futuro” (The future in libraries. Libraries in the future”).


Here is the announcement (in Italian obviously)

A partire dalla pagina sono disponibili tutte le informazioni sul 57. congresso nazionale dell’AIB “Il futuro in biblioteca, la biblioteca in futuro”, che si terrà a Roma, Complesso di San Michele a Ripa Grande, il 17 e 18 novembre 2011.
Come tradizione in contemporanea si terrà Bibliocom, rassegna di prodotti e servizi per le biblioteche

Il comitato scientifico ha reso disponibile anche il programma provvisorio che mette insieme interventi sul rapporto tra biblioteche, servizi e nuove tecnologie, anticipando prospettive future, senza dimenticare il ruolo degli altri partner della filiera del libro (editori, librai, lettori).
Tra i relatori annoveriamo i massimi esperti sulle tematiche, sia teorici sia pratici; guest speaker dagli Stati Uniti sarà David Lankes, guru della biblioteconomia del futuro (

Le iscrizioni al congresso si apriranno nel mese di settembre.

Un saluto cordiale,
Giovanna Frigimelica

Segretario generale
Associazione Italiana Biblioteche tel. 06/4463532 fax 06/4441139 cell. 333/7644084 Skype: aib.frigimelica Posta elettronica certificata:

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Remembering Joe Ryan

I learned yesterday that a close friend during my Ph.D. program had passed away. Joe Ryan and I were doctoral students back in the nineties and I owe him so much. He took a kid fresh out of an undergraduate program, and taught me how to survive in a Ph.D. program. He taught me how to write (he published my first vita hit – a book review in Internet Research), how to be edited (“I edit the words, not the person), he even gave me fantastic travel advice (“All you will ever see of the world is the inside of hotel rooms, taxis, and airports if you don’t force yourself to walk around”). He even helped me buy my first suit for a gig in DC. He was always there with advice. He always had something useful to say.
He also did a fair bit of inspiring my passion in libraries as a former librarian himself. He would tell the stories of packing books into the car of his trunk to circulate to the local neighborhoods.

Some of you may remember Joe and his work on Internet policy, the NREN (National Research and Education Network – true story we co-coached a school wide softball team for the School of Information Studies called the NRUNs), and his close work with Chuck McClure on library evaluation and broadband adoption.

After I started my job as a faculty member Joe and I didn’t talk much, and for the past few years not at all. It is unfortunate that only with his death do the “what’s going on with…” and the “I should call…” lines take on real urgency in the form of regret. I will miss Joe, and now I will always miss the opportunity to re-engage with him. I owe Joe a lot, and his passing is a very sad day.

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“School Libraries: What Next?” Ebook Project

This looks like a great project. In light of full disclosure I have been asked to right the forward.

We are delighted to accept submissions for a collection of crowd sourced short essays on the future of school libraries from multiple perspectives, to be published in e-book format to coincide with Treasure Mountain and AASL in October 2011. We believe this e-book is a way for librarians to take the lead as content creators and publishers with custom, community-significant content for patrons. We imagine e-readers as publishing platforms for us, not competition.

Whether you’re an ardent supporter or see the proverbial handwriting on the wall, what do you see as the next 10 or 20 years of school libraries? This book will also tackle an “elephant in the room” question: with the nation’s education systems in an economic depression and many school librarians being pink-slipped, what is the future of school libraries? How might they be reinvented to remain deeply significant – for student learning? Should they? What past practices will we need to jettison? What stalwart beliefs must we hold tightly?

We’re posing a set of essential questions that will encourage you — and us! — to think deeply about the future of school libraries in the areas of:

  • Gaming
  • 21st-Century Learners
  • Who and When Do We Teach?
  • Reading
  • Emerging and Multiple Literacies
  • Networks and Organizations
  • The Physical Library
  • The Virtual Library
  • Collaboration
  • Collection Development
  • Librarian Coursework and Professional Development

You can learn more about our project, the topics we are exploring, and how to submit by visiting the links on the Submissions page. The Submission Guidelines document will let you know more about the length, style, and topics.

Thank you for your interest in our experiment – we hope you will join us! Please visit the project page by clicking here.


Kristin Fontichiaro

Buffy Hamilton

Posted in Links, Publications News | 1 Comment

Reinventing Librarianship

“Reinventing Librarianship” Keynote ALA 2011 Virtual Conference.

The session was recorded by ALA and should be available soon (I will update this post).

Excerpts: “This then is your collection and what a truly awesome collection it is: more massive and sprawling than anything in ancient Alexandria. It is composed of seniors have seen their expected lifespan nearly double from 40 to 70 over the past century. Imagine that vast sea of experience and unbridled talent and seeking impact and legacy.

Our collection is in children; realizing that our concept of a childhood was only truly born with the labor laws of the 1800′s and the rise of a middle class that did not depend upon the income of youth.

We see the power in the woman of our community collection. From the right to vote to the majority of college degrees including doctorates in under 100 years.

Our collection is in minorities too long ignored and now actively enriching and expanding a culture of opportunity. Minorities that will soon actually make up the majority of US citizens.

This is your collection this is your business.

And what’s more, this collection doesn’t come with a 28 circulation limit. It isn’t beholden to outdated concepts of intellectual property. And, on the bright side, no one will ever question if this collection is becoming obsolete.”

“At the center of all of this richness and amazing diversity of community lies the facilitating role of librarians. Doing as they have done throughout history: helping communities and members make better decisions, to learn and grow their knowledge. For at the root is learning.”

“The time for introspection is done. The time for trivia is done. The time for looking for the future of libraries in catalogs, and strategic plans is done. The need of our communities is too great, and our promise for improvement too large. Our families worry about jobs and the ability to fight their way into a shrinking middle class. Our education system is broken – students unable to learn, or drowning under crushing debt. Our system of government increasingly polarized, our appetites for energy unsustainable, and the very memory of our society eroding behind walls of commerce and false scarcity. These then are our grand challenges, and just as the physicians before us, if we rise to meet them, we too shall be rewarded.

And I know what you are thinking. I know that tomorrow you’ll be dealing with broken printers, and shelving backlogs, and the rising costs of subscriptions. But you must look up. You must never make what you do replace why you do it. And if you can’t link broken printers and shelving to the grand challenges of our society, then you ought to ask why you are doing them. We must stop reacting to the world around us and start inspiring it!

Now these are just words. If all I do is preach them and return to the ivory tower I have committed the sins of hypocrisy and vanity. But you if you cry hallelujah and wait to seize the opportunity than you have committed an equally great sin. The sin of omission. If you stay silent, or wait for change, or take the easy path or see yourself as less than capable- less than worthy? Then you leave our precious communities to lesser goals and flawed stewards.

We must not let this happen.”



Posted in 2011, New/Participatory Librarianship, Presentation | 2 Comments

The Future of Librarianship

“The Future of Librarianship” Delaware Library Town Hall, Dover, DE.

Abstract: Take away the librarians, the staff, but leave the books, the computers, and the architecture and for a week you will have a fine sculpture of a library that every day will become more and more a snapshot of the past. But throw out the books and buildings and leave a dedicated corps of library professionals…invite the public in and they will construct the future.

Now more than ever, the future of Delaware, the future of any state is not in riches we pull from the ground or the glass we send streaming into the sky, but in the decisions and talent of the citizens. They are not passive consumers of libraries, or content, or an audience to democracy, but the very reason we are all here. They deserve a new librarianship, a new library that enables radical positive change. That is focused on knowledge and learning, that is focused on a conversation that is Delaware.



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