No Signs of Cancer

This morning, after 6 months of chemotherapy I had a PET Scan. The scan showed no signs of cancer. I am now switching from active treatment to monitoring for a reoccurrence.

I’d love to say definitely that I have beat cancer, but that is more a determination after 5 years of monitoring. So for now, I will say I am a cancer survivor. Chemo has taken its toll though and it will take a few months to get back up to speed and strength.

Thanks to all who followed my progress and for all the thoughts, prayers, and support you gave me. It has yet to really sink in, but it is a good feeling none the less.

Posted in Biography, Cancer | 17 Comments

MOOC: A Personal Thank You

On the left me in the Spring of 2012, on the right, me today at the end of chemo.

On the left me in the Spring of 2012, on the right, me today at the end of chemo.

As we enter the official last week of the New Librarianship Master Class/MOOC I wanted to extend a personal thank you to the library community. Some may know this has been a very difficult year for me in terms of my health. A set of unexplained seizures in the Fall of 2012, followed by a lymphoma diagnosis in February of this year have been major challenges. Travel has become nearly non-existent, and my speaking engagements have been limited to Skype.

While my wife and family have been the force that have kept me going you, librarians, have been the force that have kept my mind engaged, and a part of the dialog on the future of our profession. The discourse in the MOOC, email, Twitter, and the blogosphere have been invaluable during my treatments.

I cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed the MOOC conversations and how much I have learned. I have a lot to think about including: the political dimensions of new librarianship, the importance of multiple narratives, and the role of fiction. Like you, I too was overwhelmed with the sheer volume of comments in the first week, but digging through it I have been heartened by the healthy and deep conversation about libraries and librarians.

I have been thrilled to see the course has inspired blog posts, Twitter debates, and Facebook groups. I know a lot of you weren’t prepared for the theoretical and philosophical dimensions of the discussion, but I admire that we all dove in with respect and civility, if not agreement. We are indeed a noble profession, and one well equipped to forge a bright future.

I would also like to extend my thanks to my fellow instructors Jian Qin, Megan Oakleaf and Jill Hurst-Wahl. I would also like to thank Dean Liz Liddy and Associate Dean Jeff Stanton whose support made this course possible. Peggy Brown and Sarah Helson are the amazing instructional design team that not only provided tech support to the course, but were instrumental in bringing some pedagogical coherence to the MOOC.

The course would also not be possible without the administrative support of Blythe Bennett and Sarah Hagelin of the iSchool and Karen De Jarnette of University College’s TED Center. Thanks to MIT Press for supporting the course with the Atlas discount.

Lastly, a special thanks to IMLS and ILEAD USA. Both supported the development of the Atlas and New Librarianship in general. The ILEAD USA librarians not only provided exemplars for the course, but inspiration for me in their passion and dedication to service.

I don’t know yet the end of my personal health journey, but no matter the outcome, I do know you have made the journey not only more bearable, but inspirational.

Thank you.

Posted in New/Participatory Librarianship, Teaching | 9 Comments

After the MOOC

The New Librarianship Master Class/MOOC is its third week, and the question can be asked…whats next? What happens after the August 4th end date for the course? The short answer is, the conversation can continue. What follows is some specific answers, and some longer term plans.

On August 5th, the tests and assessments in the course will disappear. This will allow us to grade the work, and certify folks seeking Continuing Education Units and graduate credit. See the FAQ for more details on receiving credits.

However, the rest of the course will remain open, as will enrollment for anyone wanting to join the course after the 4th. The hope is that two things will happen:

  1. The course will remain available to those who want to learn about new librarianship, and
  2. The conversation about librarianship will continue.

The videos, slides, readings, and structure will remain available. As a reminder, all of these are also available via Creative Commons License, so please use these materials in any way you would like. I need to be clear, that after August 4th, I personally will do my best to monitor the course, but Syracuse University can’t make a formal commitment to support instructors. Jill Hurst-Wahl, Megan Oakleaf, and Jian Qin have done a tremendous job in engaging in conversation, but alas, they have lives outside of new librarianship (unlike me). So it will become more self-service.

What I am really hoping is that after the crush of completing the course, and folks have time to catch up on the discussion boards, the conversation can continue as well. I have been very impressed by the sharing and thoughts on the future of the field. I know there are a lot of forums that the profession uses to talk, and if the MOOC can continue to be one, I am happy.

We’ll also be sharing what we’ve learned. I’m working on a behind the scenes screencast that highlights the technologies used in the course. I’ll share data as it becomes available.

As for future offerings? We’ll see. One idea that has been floated is building out week 3 of the MOOC for an offering aimed at “overseers” of libraries such as board members, principals, faculty, provosts and so on. If you have ideas on that, please share. We’re also working on creating a resource list of readings, videos, and resources brought up in the MOOC dialogs.

UPDATE July 29th: CEU Option Extended:

by popular request, we are extending the CEU deadline. Starting August 5th we’ll be identifying folks who have successfully completed the quizzes & evaluations and sending out Certificates of Completion, and a link to get formal CEUs if you so choose. However, the courses and quizzes will remain open until September 4th for those needing more time to complete the course for CEUs. So on September 5th we’ll once again identify those who have completed the MOOC and send a certificate of completion and link to get the CEUs if you choose. After that, the course will still be available, but not for credit. PLEASE NOTE, that after August 4th, there will be no regular monitoring by the Syracuse instructors.

Posted in New/Participatory Librarianship, Teaching | 1 Comment

Beyond the Bullet Points: Power and Empowerment

I have been engaged in a discussion of librarians and power with Steve Matthews over on the BeerBrarian Blog: (great post, but this is happening in the comments).

It would have stayed there, but my latest response is simply too big, and I’d rather be complete than terse. Also, I think these ideas on the role of libraries and librarians is of general importance I wanted to share. So here is the setup that kicked off this response:

Screen Shot 2013-07-20 at 8.44.46 AM

Now, my response:

Steve I can honestly say your reply left me speechless. It was, for me, a moment of clarity as to why we disagree so fundamentally when reading your blog I see so much similarity. I see now your objection to my views on power, and I also see we are never going to agree upon them. So let this be my final comment.

I agree that as with learning, no one can force someone to accept power, or a service, or make a decision that one party defines as beneficial. In essence just because a librarian seeks to empower an individual or community does not mean that individual has to accept it. This is why education has been turned on its head from teacher-centric to learner-centric. Ultimately taking power, like learning, is a choice.

However, where I fundamentally disagree is that all individuals are given the same choices. That in essence all individuals and communities have the same opportunity to say yes to empowerment and therefore are never presented choices for power at all.

This is obviously a larger issue of social equity or social justice to use a more loaded term. If you live in Detroit today, you do not have access to the choices as someone who lives in Ann Arbor. The police and emergency units will show up in no less than an hour. You will have access to fewer libraries, your urban schools will underperform. Can someone in this setting overcome these obstacles on their own? Some can. The media is replete with stories of those they have, though often integral to these stories are mentors and heroes that made it happen.

I will simply mention other things that for long has robbed people of their choices of empowerment: race, gender, sexual orientation, poverty, and religion among other things. If we as a society subscribe that all people are created equal, and all people deserve an equal chance at success (note not an equal guarantee of it) then we endeavor to establish a level playing field of empowerment – literally social mechanisms of empowerment. This combination of private agencies (foundations), public agencies (like schools and libraries), marketplace agencies (training and internships), and religious agencies (charity and services) seek to establish bases of power (access to opportunities, skill sets, money, a regulatory context) that can be shared with the citizenry – though often in radically different ways and at times for conflicting different reasons. These agencies all are active in their impact and outreach – an outreach that represents a worldview (the role of government, the prioritization of a given group, the best means of empowerment) full of biases and points of view.

So these services and individuals seek to empower in a context of values and means. Often they conflict. And in these conflicts, gaps of opportunity either arise or are created. So that an individual may be deprived of opportunities and choices. Therefore he or she can be left without power not by the choices they make, but by the circumstances he or she finds themselves in.

If we believe, as I do, that librarians and libraries support the importance of things like equal access to knowledge, and prepared access to the democratic process we must first seek the power to do that. In the civic sector that comes in the form of charters and tax dollars. In essence a social compact with a community. We then use this power to offer it back to these communities, adhering to our values as agreed upon in that negotiation with the community (through boards, and budget votes).

Will all members of the community then accept or even agree with the power being offered (literacy, confidential access to the net, proxy battles against censorship, etc)? No, but they offer it so more members of society can choose empowerment.

To say the world works by people choosing either to empower themselves or not as if they all have the same choices to make ignores not only the reality of ongoing discussions on the role of government, but massive changes in societal opportunities brought about through the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, and child labor laws to only mention a few.

Now one may say that these movements didn’t come directly from the work of librarians. I would, again, disagree. Librarians and libraries did play a role, even if indirectly. Greater democratic participation and civic transparency was very much a goal of Carnegie’s library building. The advent of fiction collections and youth services was a proactive change in library service to meet the growing wealth of the middle class and a renewed emphasis on education. Open stacks still stand as a testament to open inquiry against the counter examples in repressive regimes.

In the first Arab Spring during protests in Alexandria all the prisons were opened and rapist and murders and thugs were put on the street to creat looting mobs to intimidate and invalidate the protests. The mobs went from government building to government building burning and vandalizing them.

These mobs then turned to the New Library of Alexandria. A structure built by the corrupt regime and whose board included the wife of the president. Protestors, men woman and children, gathered hand in hand to surround the building to protect it. By the end of the uprising, not one window was broken and not one rock thrown against its walls. The protestors even draped a flag across the stairs of the library, and every morning protester would touch and kiss the flag as they went out to march – in essence retaking the library for the community.

Why protect it? Because of the less than 10 year history of the library, the librarians and the staff did their jobs. The provided opportunity to learn, and engage in dialog with the local and global community. By embracing a belief that their work empowered people to learn, not just a party line, but whatever the learner wanted, they gave voice to those who had none. You could say they were being unbiased, but I would say in the pressure to tow the party line, they showed a strong bias toward open inquiry and serving the needs of the people over the government.

The world we live in is too complex to simply say people chose to be illiterate, or poor, or powerless. Certainly some do. But for those who choose to read they need a teacher willing to share their power of reading. For those who choose to fight to get out of poverty they need those who choose to provide access to online business sites that now require an online application even to be a janitor. And for those guaranteed the right to vote, they need access to documentation and voter registration be they democrat, republican, or independent. Without this empowering assistance they have no real choices. Only the illusion of it. And the illusion of choice and power may make the powerful sleep well at night, but it ultimately allows them to continually deprive power.

And so we come full circle to librarians and libraries. Do librarians seek out power, yes. They do so in order to serve. They do so in order to make powerful the individuals and communities and institutions they serve. But they do so in accordance with a set of professional values. Is the power they acquire neutral? No power is neutral – all power comes from some inequity. You are powerful on the playing field because you are faster or stronger. You are powerful in business because you have bigger profits, or better products. In government because of the size of your constituency. And you are powerful as a librarian because of your skills, and your credibility (that comes from performance and being intellectually honest about biases in an attempt toward unbiased).

This power of the librarian is also a large part of the power of a library. By sharing this power with the community through providing services, individuals and groups gain power. Some will chose not to accept it. But for far too many this will be their only opportunity to make decisions to lead to their own empowerment. Did the individual make the choice? Sure, but the library and librarian made the choice possible. And, they must continuously fight for the resources to do that.

Posted in New/Participatory Librarianship, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Personal: Victory through Surrender

This post is not about libraries, librarianship, or information science. If you are here for that, please skip it.

fightToday is my last day of chemotherapy. Hopefully it is my last days fighting cancer, but I won’t know that until a PET Scan in 3 weeks (and really for five years or so). I feel compelled to share my experience, or at least what I learned from the process before it is colored by an outcome. I feel compelled to do so, because so many others have shared their experiences online and I have greatly benefitted from them.

Here is the hardest lesson I learned in chemotherapy. I am not battling cancer. The chemo is battling cancer. Battling is the wrong metaphor. I don’t feel like I am on the front lines. No, I’m the home front. Once the battle is endorsed, I am the one at home sacrificing to support the war effort. Taking the rations and reductions as part of my duty in the fight.

The key, I’m coming to see, in beating cancer through chemo is not fighting, but acceptance. You must accept the drugs, and you must accept that the drugs are going to progressively take from you as much, or so it seems, as the cancer. You must accept that your legs will ache and weaken; that your breathing will constrict; that your bowels will constipate; that you will lose energy. You must accept that for the drugs to do their work – the true battle – you must accept a lack of control.

At the beginning it felt like a fight. I felt like I was waging the war with cancer, and screamed, “this line and no further.” But the answer does not come from cancer, it comes from the poisons that kill cancer cells, and hair cells, and stomach cells, and white blood cells, and the components of your every body part. It comes as an unrelenting slow darkness that crosses your lines, and keeps coming, and will keep coming so long as you accept the toxins.

One day you realize – after your good weeks, become good days, become good hours – this is the price you must pay to live. It is not a moment of fight, it is a moment of acquiescence. You must give yourself over to the drugs, and your loved ones, and God. And it is hard. It is, in fact, the hardest thing you have ever done. Your whole life you have succeeded through action, through your wits, and your muscle, and your determination, and your own capabilities. But not now. Now you must depend on Bleomycin that eats away your lungs, and Vinblastine that robs you of your taste buds and hair. You must rely on your wife to drive the kids. To win, you must surrender.

Surrender to the process, to the treatment, to the care. NEVER to the cancer. NEVER to the thoughts of death. NEVER to anything other than life and the future.

Then there is a final thought, a crucial insight that must accompany the surrender. If you accept the treatment, and the limitations, and the proxy battle, you can then focus on the other things in your life. You can focus on your son’s graduation. You can focus on your wife’s affection, and the love of friends. You can focus on your work, and your mission, and all the things that will be waiting for you after the poisons and the drugs, and the pain, and the limitations.

So my battle against cancer via chemo is now done. The next steps? Radiation if they still find cancer in one or two lymph nodes. Bone marrow transplantation if the lymphoma is still broadly distributed. But, hopefully, monitoring for recurrence and recovery- thats plan A.

I’m sorry, but there is no rousing end. There is no soaring metaphor for you to take into work, just a set of humble and heartfelt thank yous. Thank you to my wife and family – patient advocates, caring shoulders, microbiology consulting, entertainment, and a foundation for my life. To my friends and colleagues: from cooking to teaching to visiting, you made my life easier. A big thank you to my students for your patience with classes via Skype, and your constant ability to both question and innovate. You gave me energy. And to all of you readers and librarians. Your thoughts, prayers, fighting pictures, and pointers made sure that while my body waned, my mind thrived.

Now we wait…

Posted in Biography, Cancer | 8 Comments

New Librarianship Master Class Now Available

Thank you for registering for the iSchool at Syracuse University’s New Librarianship Master Class open online course! The class will begin on July 8th (noon EDT) and run through August 4th.

Below are the steps you’ll need to complete to access the course. As a reminder, you can review the New Librarianship Master Class FAQ’s here.

  1. Go to Please note that you will not be able to access this course until Monday, July 8th at 12:00pm EDT. If you attempt to enter prior to this date and time, it will indicate page not found.
  2. Choose the course New Librarianship.
  3. Choose the option “Self-Enroll in this course” as seen here:
  4. Next there will be two options. Click on the link that applies to you.
    1. I have a CourseSites Account.
      1. Enter your information and log in to the site. This will bring you directly to the course. Now you are able to begin exploring the site!
    1. I Need a CourseSites Account.
      1. Fill out the information to create an account with CourseSites.
      2. Click Save/Submit.
      3. Click the button to go directly to the course. Now you are able to begin exploring the course!

Participation in the course is free. However, students interested in taking the course for graduate credit ($3,105.60 for the 3 credit course) must complete an additional registration step and should contact Blythe Bennett directly for instructions. Students interested in taking the course for CEU credit ($150 fee for 2.0 CEUs) will have the option to do so in early August upon completion of the course.

Please contact with any questions. We look forward to having you be part of the course!

iSchool at Syracuse University

Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

20 Years Online – Alumni Celebration

Distance Syracuse Alumni,

Remember Boot Camp?

We are proud to announce that 2013 marks 20 years in online and distance education for the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University! To celebrate we would like to welcome back our alumni for celebratory events and free professional development seminars. It is a great way to share memories with fellow students, faculty and staff, while learning about new developments in the information arena.

The festivities will kick off on Friday, July 19th with a Barbecue on the Syracuse University Quad with our new incoming distance students, faculty, staff and all of our families. You can reminisce with your fellow alumni and share stories with the current incoming distance students, as well as catch up with faculty and staff.

On Saturday, we have set up a day of short professional development seminars, and a final program led by our own Dave Lankes, and ALA President Barbara Stripling.

Please RSVP at

Celebration Festivities

Friday, July 19th, 2013 
1:00-4:00 511 Poster Session (Peter Graham room, Bird Library)

Current 511 students present posters. Meet and mingle with our new class of distance Library Science Students while enjoying poster presentations, and refreshments.
5:00-8:00 Barbeque (Tent in front of Hinds Hall)

Introduction: Liz Liddy and Ruth Small

Faculty and past students share their memories with current faculty, staff, alumni and students.

Saturday, July 20

8:00-9:00 Breakfast (Hinds Hall)
8-8:30 Campus and Building Tours available
8:30 Welcome by Liz Liddy
8:35 Welcome and Program information by Ruth Small
9:30-10:30 Marilyn Arnone: (topic TBA) (Hinds Hall)
10:30-10:45 Break Coffee/Tea (Hinds Hall)
10:45-11:45 Jeff Stanton: Data Science (Hinds Hall)
12:00-2:30 Lunch: Dave Lankes and Barbara Stripling (Hinds Hall)
Be sure to also visit our website to learn about all the ways the iSchool will celebrate this 20 year anniversary!
Thank you and we hope to see you in July!
School of Information Studies

Syracuse University

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment