Expect More at SXSW


The Digital Public Library of America announced the availability of LibraryBoxes throughout the SXSW conference (and Austin). Folks can connect wirelessly to these boxes and download books, videos and other digital files. We’ve included my Expect More book for those attending the conference. Thanks to Rachel Frick and Margy Avery for making this happen. Enjoy.

More can be found on their blog post: DPLA, LIBRARYBOX AND SXSWI (http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/dplaalpha/2013/03/09/dpla-librarybox-and-sxswi/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter)

Posted in Expect More, News, Publications News | 3 Comments

Nerd Absurd

I had a great time talking about the future of libraries and general issues of open access and the importance of librarians with the Nerd Absurd podcasting crew. It is a long conversation, but pretty free wheeling, have a listen:


Posted in New/Participatory Librarianship, News | 4 Comments

Beyond the Bullet Points: Irony and Lymphoma

Today I start chemotherapy. I realize for those who follow this blog that statement might come as a shock, it certainly does me. A few weeks ago I wrote about how I was in good health following seizures and illness in the fall. Perhaps the post was tempting fate.

Last week I was admitted to the hospital with a very low platelet count and in the process of finding out why the doctors discovered enlarged lymph nodes. The biopsy confirmed Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, also known simply as Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the blood. In essence my immune system was attacking my blood.

I would say this isn’t as bad as it sounds, but it actually is precisely as bad as it sounds. I can’t leave the hospital until my platelet count grows, and that will only happen by attacking the cancer, and my immune system at the same time. The good news is that a bone marrow biopsy came back clean. The other good thing is that unlike other cancers you may have heard of, enlarged lymph nodes are where this cancer starts, so it doesn’t indicate spread.

I have few answers for you (and since most readers of this blog are librarians I’m sure you’re all on PubMed now anyway). The good news is that at my age (finally something to make we feel young) there are excellent treatments and projected outcomes.

The big effect of my illness is that with a compromised immune system, and courses of chemo I will once again need to cut out travel. I don’t know how the treatments will affect me, but as always I have webcams and video conferencing to continue to spread the message of how librarians are radical positive change agents, and how communities are our collections.

I will certainly take prayers and good wishes, but this is no time for sympathy. I feel good. I have an amazing family, colleagues, and network of friends. I will beat this.

Posted in Beyond the Bullet Points, Cancer | 86 Comments

Beyond the Bullet Points: Confessions of an Assistant Professor (15 years later)

I am often asked by academic librarians how to partner with tenure track faculty. I always tell them to help them with their tenure cases. Not just teach an untenured professor or his or her GA how to search: help them. Do the searches. Help them brainstorm beyond Google Scholar for citations. Look at holdings in WorldCat for books, find example packages. Many wonder if this isn’t way too much work for the relationship built. I would like them to know where this advice comes from. I apologize for the rather self-reflective nature of this post, but you need to know the honesty with which I give this advice.

I have tenure. I have rank (I’m a “Full” these days), and it seems an unspoken tradition that I can now complain about the state of the field, my colleagues, my students, loss of some focus, and the myriad deviations academia has made since I started out in this profession. Yet I’d like to tell you what I remember most from when I started: I was scared out of my mind. I felt alone even though I had the rare chance of being hired into the same school in which I received my Ph.D. In fact that made it worst. I was now sitting next to Jeff Katzer, Mike Eisenberg, and Chuck McClure! I was nothing.

In the opening week of my first year we had a series of progressive dinners to meet other new faculty members. They were all smarter than me. We were received by the provost at the Chancellor’s resident – the same provost who had welcomed me as a freshman to campus 11 years earlier (I am truly a survivor of academic incest). He knew my name. It didn’t feel like an honor, I felt like a target.

Would I ever publish? Would I ever get a grant now that my advisor was leaving for a new job? When would they realize that I was fake; an unprepared kid who bluffed his way through the final defense, and felt about as scholarly as a rock. In my first year of my new position my father died. I was even more alone. My wife had her job and was of great support, but come on – this was tenure and I was special (don’t worry she has since beaten this out of me).

In my first year evaluation, with nothing to really evaluate, my peers asked what my theoretical framework was. My what?!? I used Complexity Theory in my dissertation, does that count. My insecurity grew as my tenured peers reached out with advice and honest attempts to help. Every word of advice only served to make me feel inadequate. I tried to cover my insecurity with arrogance. “Who needs to publish a peer reviewed article? So old fashioned.” “I may not have a lot of publications, but I bring in a lot of research dollars, they’re all just jealous.”

It was with arrogance that I went into my third year review, where the tenured faculty had to make a determination if I could make tenure at the end of three more years. The first vote was negative…I couldn’t. I was angry. I was indignant. I was an idiot. In conversations with my former advisors, and my previous, and as it turns out, my present dean (then chair of the committee), I broke. I was mad, but I listened. They gave me very good advice. They talked about what it took to get my attention, and how that is not what they want in a colleague, and who would.  The second vote passed, I would get my chance at tenure.

After three more years, with a much better record, with listening, with a lot of work, and working with my fellow faculty, I received tenure. Five years later, promotion to full.

Why this long prolog? If you are an academic librarian, I needed you. All your new faculty need you. They won’t say that and they will certainly not say that to someone else on their faculty. They will be arrogant, they will be dismissive, but it is very likely because they are scared. Be a friend. Be a helper outside of the peers they are most likely either avoiding, or desperately trying to please. Give them an escape. Give them and ear. Give them hope. Once you help one, use it as an endorsement for the next, and then the next new face. Team them up with other folks facing the same challenges. Host writing clubs and tenure clubs. Host briefings of specific journal titles with accept rates, rankings, trends in articles published, and contact information for editors. Hell, if the faculty’s dean is anything like mine, they would help you do it. These new folks feel like they are fighting a war…they probably feel unequipped to do so. Help them with strategy.

The foundation of conversations, or facilitating knowledge is trust. As I said in the Atlas your most valuable tool as a librarian is your credibility. Before any conversation happens, before any partnership is formed, before any relationship can be struck beyond stereotypes and misunderstandings, there must be trust. That scared assistant professor needs to trust you. They need to know that you know they are scared, but trust you won’t give them up. You can be their hope. Their hope that maybe, just maybe, they can catch up by the time it comes to prove themself. Give them cover.

Today I admit to still being scared sometimes, and inadequate. However, I have learned that that fear is my trigger to listen and learn. It is hard. I will still lash out. I apologize.

For those assistant professors reading this and not relating. Congratulations on either being better prepared, or better at denial. But for those who relate. Courage.

Posted in Beyond the Bullet Points, New/Participatory Librarianship | 8 Comments

Another (Better) Note About My Health

Last November I posted a not about my failing health. Since August I was struggling with some unknown ailment that was causing constant fatigue (sleeping 16 and 18 hours a day), shaking, headaches, and a general lack of energy. Things hit a peak in October with multiple emergency room visits when I temporarily lost the ability to coherently speak. It was bad, and I had to cancel speaking engagements, and greatly curtail all of my efforts. Over this period I lost 30 pounds (actually, let’s face it, that I could use). The next few months were better on anti-seizure medication, but as I learned, these drugs can be very debilitating in and of themselves. Imagine slowing your brain down by 10%, constant tremors, and still lots of fatigue.

The good news is after some intensive testing at the Cleveland Clinic, and with the persistent work of my primary care doctor, today I have a clean bill of health and I am just about back to 100%. Now I am playing catch up on projects and deferred responsibilities. I am also starting to slowly take on new speaking engagements and travel obligations.

While this post is to let those who expressed such kind concern know the good news, I would also like to thank the many many people who helped me through this tough time. From Jill who took on a heavy load at work, to Kathryn whose kind words of encouragement let me see light at a the end of a very bleak tunnel. I would like to thank everyone who expressed concern, and certainly the conference organizers who understood and either let me graciously bow out of an obligation, or let me do my work remotely.

Lastly I would like to thank my wife who was an amazing companion throughout everything. When you marry and promise to stay together in sickness and in health you never really think of what a large promise that can be. She simply amazed me with her patient help, her unbelievable advocacy, and her optimism in the face of very dark times.

I am lucky. My condition passed. But I know there are still too many people facing chronic debilitating illnesses. You have my respect and admiration.

Thank you all for your patience. Now, back to changing the world!

Posted in News | 21 Comments

Learning, Information, and Technology Walk Into a Bar…

“Learning, Information, and Technology Walk Into a Bar…” Jefferson Community College Spring Convocation. Watertown, NY.

Abstract: The world of learning, libraries, and technology are merging their ideas of the people who take advantage of their services. This present a great opportunity in community colleges and higher education in general to think about community focused education.

Slides: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/Presentations/2013/JeffersonCC.pdf

Audio: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/pod/2013/JCCFlow.mp3


Learning, Information, and Technology Walk Into a Bar… from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

Posted in 2013, Expect More, Presentation | 2 Comments

Success Through Collaboration

“Success Through Collaboration” HELIN Annual Conference. Smithfield RI. (pre-recorded)

Abstract: If you want a future for libraries, it is within you, the librarians. If you want a healthy community that seeks out knowledge, and seeks informed conversation, then advocate for it beyond your walls. If you want your library to thrive, the community must thrive. To be a librarian is not to be neutral, or passive, or waiting for a question. It is to be a radical positive change agent within your community.

Slides: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/Presentations/2013/HELIN.pdf

Audio: http://quartz.syr.edu/rdlankes/pod/2013/HELIN.mp3


Success Through Collaboration from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

Posted in 2013, New/Participatory Librarianship, Presentation | 2 Comments