Monthly Archives: September 2011

Amazon’s New Kindle Bringing Fire to the Tablet Market

Toughted by Amazon as delivering;

Movies, apps, games, music, reading and more, plus Amazon’s revolutionary, cloud-accelerated web browser

• 18 million movies, TV shows, songs, magazines, and books
• Amazon Appstore – thousands of popular apps and games
• Ultra-fast web browsing – Amazon Silk
• Free cloud storage for all your Amazon content
• Vibrant color touchscreen with extra-wide viewing angle
• Fast, powerful dual-core processor
• Amazon Prime members enjoy unlimited, instant streaming of over 10,000 popular movies and TV shows

Silk browser software resides both on Kindle Fire and on the massive server fleet that comprises the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). With each page request, Silk dynamically determines a division of labor between the mobile hardware and Amazon EC2 (i.e. which browser sub-components run where) that takes into consideration factors like network conditions, page complexity and the location of any cached content.

Consumers and tech reviewers will have LOTS to say about the latest entry into the tablet marketplace, so here’s a start. Amazon Kindle Fire tablet unveiled: Android-based, 7-inch display, $199 price tag includes the writer’s assessment, as well as readers’ comments. [NOTE: While iPad boasts a 10″ tablet, in actuality the display area is 7¾” x 5¾” so it’s not “all that”.] And, of course, the NY Times weighed in on the big announcement with Amazon’s Tablet Leads to Its Store.

“So what?” you ask. How about even faster and deeper eroding of a market for print books (pBooks), and the faster advance toward ONLY digital publishing. Last February I wrote 10 Reasons to Believe Discontinuous Change;

10 Reasons to Believe Discontinuous Change

1.) At a time when libraries are still debating the use or efficacy of eBook readers –

• January 28th, MSNBC reports Kindle books now outsell paperbacks Jeff Bezos stated: “Kindle books have now overtaken paperback books as the most popular format on” This comes six months after Amazon announced Kindle book sales had overtaken hardcover sales and had predicted Kindle books reaching this milestone in the second quarter of this year, so it’s ahead of schedule.”

If you seriously think this is just a passing fad – THINK AGAIN! Look at the sales figures and marketing trends and strategies in 2011 and for the future. EVERYTHING is shifting toward the Internet, being digital and online.

Back in May 2011, this headline went unnoticed by librarians; Amazon eBook Sales Soar to $5 Billion Dollars in 2011, but $5 Billion Dollars is no passing fad.

This headline published in June: $50 Kindle eReader by Christmas? Free by Next Summer? pretty well sums up the future.

And, this marketing data should be even more convincing.
[Earned media is “favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising”.]
HubSpot Internet Marketing

Even IKEA is investing in a future without printed books by redesigning a “deeper version of its ubiquitous “BILLY” bookcase” to accommodate more than books. Great digital expectations in the Economist on September 10, stated; “The firm reckons customers will increasingly use them for ornaments, tchotchkes and the odd coffee-table tome—anything, that is, except books that are actually read.”

So, here we are looking toward another holiday shopping season where Kindles and eBook readers will be EVEN MORE popular AND affordable. Is that “So what?” enough for you? Remember me writing that technology is advancing exponentially? Even more eReaders on the market WITHIN ONE YEAR, and the race for eReader and eBook market share continues faster than anyone imagined! I have also written that this youngest generation will ONLY read digitally – meaning librarians have maybe 5 years to figure out what they do.

P.S. Here’s more on The Future Of Books: A Dystopian Timeline that claims in “2013 – EBook sales surpass all other book sales, even used books.”, and in “2025 – The transition is complete even in most of the developing world. The book is, at best, an artifact and at worst a nuisance.”

P.S.S. According to Book eReader in How to Check Out a Public Library eBook and Read it on the iPad “Over 11,000 public libraries are now lending out ebooks through their websites via the Kindle app on the iPad and iPhone.”

P.S.S.S. Books are even being relegated to sculpture at the Kansas City (MO) Public Library. Thanks to School Library Beyond Survival Blog.

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You Thought Gaming Had No Place in Your Library? – Think Again!

This recent news was an eye opener for me, and IMHO heralds the new age of technology and youth. How online gamers helped UW researchers solve AIDS mystery is the headline for an article that explains how gamers solved in 10 days a bioscience problem that medical researchers have worked on for over 10 years. That should blow your mind! It did mine!

The game at the center of the breakthrough is Foldit, an online game that lets players collaborate and compete in predicting the structure of protein molecules. Playing Foldit, gamers helped researchers solve a problem that has stumped them for more than a decade: How to configurate the structure of a retrovirus enzyme related to AIDS. …. Researchers say figuring out the virus enzyme structure “indicates the power of online computer games to channel human intuition and three-dimensional pattern matching skills to solve challenging scientific problems.” And researchers have gamers — who are listed as co-authors of the paper — to thank for their breakthrough. “We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the University of Washington Department of Biochemistry said in a statement.

Still not convinced that gaming is important? Consider this.

Many if not most young people are gamers. Many if not most are learning information literacy, either in school or on their own (Connected Learning, Children, and Digital Media). Many if not most are smarter on average than youth their age were just 25 years ago. Why, because they are being challenged to think by games, technology, social networking, information overload, 21st Century Skills, etc. Still doubtful? Look at this 7th graders’ field trip. Maybe you should rethink the value of gaming in your library. Maybe you should go even further and rethink the new generation of library customers. P.S. Here’s another resource about gaming; Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rule-Breakers, and Changemakers by Sunni Brown. Also, see 2011 TED Talk Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite!

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Disintermediation Trend is Eliminating Librarians

As I was curating my 21st Century Libraries Scoop.It site (Isn’t it wondrous how new language creeps into one’s vocabulary.), I came across an intriguing blog post gathered by the search engine over night; “Disintermediation and the (Embedded) Librarian from The Embedded Librarian. Inevitably, it started me thinking about his premise.

Last night’s “Nightly Business Report” on Public Broadcasting included a commentary on disintermediation, or cutting out the middleman. (You can read a transcript at The commentator’s point was that thanks to disintermediation in media industries (think YouTube and Amazon self-publishing), we are less and less dependent on intermediaries like TV network executives and book publishers to determine what we watch and what we read.

I must admit that this was my first exposure to the term “disintermediation”. So, I searched it using my highly dependable, trusty and unbiased Metacrawler meta search engine (deliberately avoiding Wikipedia to demonstrate my unbiasedness.).

dis•in•ter•me•di•a•tion noun
1: the diversion of savings from accounts with low fixed interest rates to direct investment in high-yielding instruments
2: the elimination of an intermediary in a transaction between two parties
Investopedia explains Disintermediation
Disintermediation is usually done in order to invest in instruments yielding a higher return.
Removing the middleman. The term is a popular buzzword used to describe many Internet-based businesses that use the World Wide Web to sell products directly to customers rather than going through traditional retail channels. By eliminating the middlemen, companies can sell their products cheaper and faster. Many people believe that the Internet will revolutionize the way products are bought and sold, and disintermediation is the driving force behind this revolution. [Emphasis added.]
The elimination of the distributor and/or retailer (the middleman) when making a purchase. The term is used to refer to purchasing directly from a manufacturer’s Web site, the benefits of which are convenience, fast turnaround time and sometimes lower prices. Obviously, retail stores [and librarians] are very much against disintermediation. [Emphasis added.]

Common definitions have a definitely financial connotation of disintermediation, but our Embedded Librarian was able to easily apply the concept to librarians, who are also undeniably intermediaries.

… we librarians are another group of intermediaries whose prospects have been affected by new technologies. Everybody has heard about how Google is going to put us all out of business.

That’s overstating it of course. Rumors of our professional death have been exaggerated – but there’s no denying the general trend of disintermediation.
The question is: in an era of disintermediation, what do you do if you are the middleman? You can stand around and wait to get cut, or you can move. Where can you move to?

Aside from taking exception to his dismissing the disintermediation trend putting us all out of business as “overstating” and “exaggerated” – since I’ve been proclaiming that is exactly what may happen if librarians don’t figure out the alternative – I think Embedded may have hit on an essential perspective to developing that new alternative. He suggests that moving toward “Either end of the transaction you formerly mediated.” may be THE appropriate alternative. Embedded goes on to elaborate on this.

For librarians, in one direction lies the creation and operation of tools for content producers, or becoming a content producer yourself. In the other direction lies becoming so close to a group of information consumers that you become one of them — perhaps the arch-consumer for the group.

When it gets framed in those terms, moving toward one end or the other of the “information access” distribution channel doesn’t seem quite so attractive. What librarian wants to be a creator of information that would by necessity be excessively narrowing to their tastes for accessing ALL information? And what librarian would want to become a consumer of information, which again by necessity would lead to consuming some but not ALL information?

I really like the potential of the concept that Embedded has hit upon as an alternative for the future of librarians – move out of the intermediary position toward a new role. I hope there is more discussion to explore this concept more fully.
Thanks Embedded.

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21st Century Librarianship vs. The 1876 Special Report

As I was browsing through some library literature, I found myself confronted with The 1876 Special Report of Public Libraries in the United States of America, published by Department of The Interior, Bureau of Education, U.S. Government. If you’ve been through a MLIS program you’ve no doubt heard of it, but I’m curious if anyone has ever read it. It’s quite interesting, and I think its contents should put our librarianship profession in a very self-aware perspective, which I’ll explain later.

In Chapter IX – Professorships of Books and Reading, the section on Reading As Now Managed, Part I authored by F.B. Perkins, reported that;

So far as ordinary readers are concerned, the printed records of past and present human knowledge and mental activity are thus a trackless, if not a howling wilderness, in which a guide, philosopher, and friend will find ample occasion for his services. The matter of reading is at present in a wholly unorganized, unscientific, empirical condition, like navigation before the use of the compass and the application of scientific astronomy, or like mining before the introduction of scientific geological and mineralogical investigations and of scientific engineering. Every one digs wherever he fancies; he may possibly find a deposit of gold, but he may find only mere barren rock or slag or dirt. Perhaps it may be still more aptly compared with the physician’s profession, in which famous and successful practitioners begin their lectures by saying, “Medicine, gentlemen, is something that physicians know nothing about,” and in which an advertising quack, whatever his effect on the graveyard, will sell a great many more doses to fools, and make a great deal more money out of them, than a conscientious and scientific gentlemen in treating people of good sense.

So that in fact it is only just now that we are coming to the social state where we are ready to produce a trained literary class. Thus far we have not done it, whatever may have been the case with a few individuals, and we have had no business to do it. Ax, plow, steam engine, not pen and palette, have been thus far our proper implements; and we have done a noble “spot of work” with them. Exactly now, at the end of our first national century, it is good to sum and value just this total of attainments. And exactly such a scientific instruction in books and reading as is here discussed is one of the influences which will do most to correct our views, to raise our ambition, to bring us up to the present limits of attainment in knowledge and in thought, and to prepare us for extending those limits. [page 235] [Emphasis added.]

America’s society in general and librarianship specifically, has progressed on this premise for over 100 years. It was the right emphasis at the right time in history and social development of a new nation. It was also the root from which library schools, and eventually a librarian “profession” sprang. It was quite adequate until the 21st Century. That was when the efforts of an army of catalogers and electronic data experts made complete and total organization of that “howling wilderness”; at least as far as concerns organizing that “wholly unorganized, unscientific, empirical condition, like navigation before the use of the compass and the application of scientific astronomy….” world of information. As a result, this role of the librarian as the “guide, philosopher, and friend” is obsolete, or will be in the very near future.

One can justifiably ask – Is the librarian obsolete? At a minimum, librarians must find a new mission – a new purpose for being.

In my Blog Post of June 3, 2010 “Are We in a 21st Century Library Paradigm Shift?, I wrote; “Today there are different factors influencing the library profession that make a paradigm shift inevitable and essential, based on my assessment of the literature. The most profound factor is the change evolving among youth toward information literacy that will challenge librarians’ “information specialists” role. Within the next 10 years librarians will not be the ONLY “information specialists” who are able to retrieve and assess information.” (See also 21st Century Library Issues – Revisited.)

George M. Needham, VP Member Services of OCLC, is quoted as saying; “The librarian as information priest is as dead as Elvis.” The whole “gestalt” [the essence of an entity’s complete form taken in its totality] of the academic library has been set up like a church, Needham said, with various parts of a reading room acting like “the stations of the cross,” all leading up to the “altar of the reference desk,” where “you make supplication and if you are found worthy, you will be helped.” (When ‘Digital Natives’ Go to the Library, Inside Higher Ed., June 25, 2007.)

I think everyone agrees that this sacrosanct role of academic reference librarian has gone with the last century, just as other traditional librarian roles are going away, and for essentially the same reasons. Librarians for too long have taken the “gate keeper” / “guide, philosopher, and friend” role too literally. And, although there seems to be no source for the attribution to Melvil Dewey that; “The librarian must be the librarian militant before he can be the librarian triumphant.”, my personal opinion is that, if Dewey said that, he was operating from the same premise expressed in the 1876 Report, and that “library militant” referred to dictating what people should read, along with an abundant amount of SHUSHing! Neither of which are compatible with 21st Century librarianship.

We have professorships of agriculture, of physical culture, of political economy, of aesthetics, of mechanics, and so on, every one of them useful and desirable. And in like manner it is in accordance with the spirit of the educational movement of to-day, that we should have professorships of books and reading; for the knowledge of what to read and how to read it is the indispensable completion and finish to any one of the previous or other courses of study in any university or high grade institution of learning. No other department, in fact, could be contrived, so adapted to be the last symmetrizing and polishing process to a complete education. [page 237]

As mentioned above, the librarian – the “professor… of books and reading” – (even though they took ages to emerge despite their necessity 100 years ago), is now essentially obsolete, in the sense that The Special Report proposed. Isn’t that appropriate? Doesn’t everything have its season? Isn’t the era when people needed someone with “the knowledge of what to read and how to read it” over? Once youth are taught this information literacy skill in school, during which time adults out of school can also be taught information literacy, then the time for that role of “gate keeper” / “guide, philosopher, and friend” librarian will also end, whether it was ever appropriate or not.

Books not only enrich and enlarge the mind, [page 240] but they stimulate, inflame, and concentrate its activity; and, though without this reception of foreign influence [“classic literature” of the time] a man may be odd, he cannot be original. The greatest genius is he who consumes the most knowledge and converts it into mind. What, indeed, is college education but the reading of certain books which the common sense of all scholars agrees will represent the science already accumulated? [page 241]

This philosophy to be sure is out dated. Not until the adoption of the common school system of public education did every man, and woman eventually, have the opportunity to learn from those more educated than they. But the model was still “the reading of certain books which the common sense of all scholars agrees will represent the science already accumulated”. Even though the author’s observation that “The greatest genius is he who consumes the most knowledge and converts it into mind.” may be a universal truth, the mode of achieving that has drastically changed in over 100 years, and the definition of knowledge has expanded to include discovery in all its many forms. We recognize now that the engaged student learns better than the previously lectured to student.

While the school librarian, or teacher-librarian, still has a vital role in developing information literacy in youth, where does this leave the public librarian? In my estimation, teaching literacy has not been a role of the public librarian for decades, if not longer, and certainly not literacy in the sense that they provided patrons with “the knowledge of what to read and how to read it”. While public librarians may often be asked to recommend a “good book”, that is not what “what to read and how to read it” meant in 1876. It literally meant that the average citizen was not smart enough to know what they should read to gain the right kind of knowledge, nor were they smart enough to know how to read it to gain that knowledge – therefore the librarian had the calling to educate those poor illiterate people. Hopefully no librarian today would adopt that self-important, ego inflated opinion of their purpose.

This ancient opinion is provided further evidence of its inappropriateness in light of The 1876 Special Report, Chapter XVIII, Public Libraries and the Young, that begins with;

What shall the public library do for the young, and how? is a question of acknowledged importance. The remarkable development of “juvenile literature” testifies to the growing importance of this portion of the community in the eyes of book producers, while the character of much of this literature, which is now almost thrust into the hands of youth, is such as to excite grave doubts as to its being of any service, intellectual or moral. In this state of things the public library is looked to by some with hope, and by others with fear, according as its management is apparently such as to draw young readers away from merely frivolous reading, or to make such reading more accessible and encourage them in the use of it; hence the importance of a judicious administration of the library in this regard.

Which, brings me back to the self-aware perspective of our profession today. Public librarianship is about helping people fulfill their information needs, not in deciding what should be read, or how. Today’s overriding concept of librarianship is customer needs driven – the total opposite of the 1876 perspective. The concepts of the 21st Century librarian below are so foreign to the thinking 100 years ago as to be perceived as total lunacy then.

“1) The 21st Century librarian is both a user and producer of technology to better understand and achieve improved library services.

2) The 21st Century librarian is a master of information literacy who relies on that skill to enhance advanced reference services.

3) The 21st Century librarian understands ALL types of information resources and relies on that knowledge to select the BEST resource for the customer’s information needs.

4) The 21st Century librarian relies on technology to enhance advanced thinking, rather than relying on just what is contained in a collection.”

[Librarianship Is The Foundation Jan. 24, 2011 Post]


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A Library SME in Community

SME means “subject matter expert”, and SME in ‘Community’ means someone on the library staff who is a subject matter expert about your community. Borrowing primarily from the field of training, SMEs are those individuals who have expert working knowledge in a particular topic.

From our vast resources at Wikipedia;

In general, the term is used when developing materials (a book, an examination, a manual, etc.) about a topic, and expertise on the topic is needed by the personnel developing the material. For example, tests are often created by a team of psychometricians and a team of subject matter experts. The psychometricians understand how to engineer a test while the subject matter experts understand the actual content of the exam. Books, manuals, and technical documentation are developed by Technical writers and instructional designers in conjunctions with SMEs. Technical communicators interview SMEs to extract information and convert it into a form suitable for the audience. SMEs are often required to sign off on the documents or training developed, checking it for accuracy. SMEs are also necessary for the development of training materials.

OK. So what does this have to do with librarianship?
• What is more important to the survival of the 21st Century Library than an intimate knowledge of your community? NOTHING!
• What is more critical to developing a relevant 21st Century Library than a working knowledge of your community? NOTHING!
• What is more useful to developing a relevant 21st Century mission and services than understanding your community’s needs? NOTHING!

Ergo – NOTHING is more important than having a SME in Community on your library staff. It does not have to be the Director, because if you follow the model outlined in the Wikipedia explanation – there is one librarianship SME and other SMEs in other areas – like Community – who could be a marketing or PR person, depending on the size of your staff and library system.

If you think you can accomplish a traditional ‘community needs assessment’ adequately every few years when it’s time for a new Strategic Plan – you could not be more wrong. Developing the required depth of knowledge about your community is almost a full time job. It takes many hours and constant interaction with community organizations and leaders to keep track of all this information, and it has to be constantly evaluated using critical analysis, not just casual observation. Documentation regarding trends, changes, events, activities, new developments, emerging leaders and factions, and virtually everything community related must be collected and kept to substantiate whatever conclusions the SME in Community develops.

This is not your SLIS professor’s ‘Community Needs Assessment 101’ – that will not work in this 21st Century environment.

If you’re wondering how to do all that, and what the SME in Community needs to know about the Community, read on.

You’ll recall that one of the new 21st Century Librarianship skills is Customer Targeting.

For decades ‘community needs assessment’ has been a pillar of librarianship, and more recently such undertakings have led to marketing efforts for library services to help improve circulation – the last great 20th Century library metrics.

At MyStrategicPlan, “a nationwide leader in on-demand strategic planning services”, there is a comprehensive Post on “customer targeting”, in which they present the idea that…there are six customer “types” and where they fit into the customer hierarchy.

However, a broader application of understanding your customers is in understanding your community. What are the demographics of your community? Not just population and data, but really meaningful information such as; ethnicity beyond simple statistics, economics beyond household income, employment beyond just major employers and the employee pool, education beyond just the percent of high school graduates, culture beyond just local ethnic events or holidays, transportation beyond just what is available, and life styles beyond simple economic indicators. There is much more to understanding the community than data! Even surveys, which are all biased toward those willing to take the time to respond, will not provide the type of in-depth information the library needs to provide relevant services. It requires someone from the library to be out in the community – participating!

Traditional community needs assessment endeavors to periodically collect community data using survey and demographic analysis methodology. That approach is nowhere good enough for today – let alone tomorrow. The analysis must be much more comprehensive and current. It must be information collected from within the community in a context of the community. It must be meaningful to the library’s SME in Community, so that it can be translated into library services – and marketing.

Below are some suggested areas of information to analyze.

• Legal service area
• Where patrons live (Are they spread out over great distances? Describe how people and communities are distributed within the library’s jurisdiction. Where do they congregate?)
• Age brackets of patrons (Whatever brackets seem appropriate for library needs)

• Average household income (Median household income also)
• Unemployment rate
• Percentage of families below the poverty line
• Economic resources the library can draw on

• Percentage of population over 18 with 12 years of school completed, 16 years, more
• List the schools in your community (elementary, middle, high, post-secondary, public and private)
• Describe the library/media facilities in the listed schools (do they define or serve any specific library services niche)
• Higher education institutions library services (do they define or serve any specific library services niche)

• Describe the cultural and recreational activities that are popular in the community served
• List the cultural and recreational facilities available in the library’s service area.
• List the cultural and recreational organizations that are active.
• List civic groups active in the area (their goals and interests and services)
• Community public communications (newspaper, radio, newsletter, message boards, etc.)

The most comprehensive outline for community needs assessment that I have found is from the Community Analysis Research Institute (CARI) Model© which establishes four units of analysis for communities: Individuals, Groups, Agencies, and Life Styles. It requires more depth for 21st Century application, but it provides an essential starting point and organization.

One of the major failings in virtually all community needs assessment approaches is the lack of connection between what the analysis reveals, and what that means to the library in terms of application of the information toward creating, abandoning or revising services and programs. What does it mean that xx% of the community has an average household income of $xx,xxx? What does it mean that the community has no cultural center? What does it mean that the community celebrates Ground Hog Day with a parade? What does it mean that the community starts public school the first of August each year? What does it mean that the community is a “university town”? Maybe there has been a logical reason for that.

This is where ideas and approaches like the “deeply local” approach of Kathryn Greenhill’s Getting deeply local at our libraries can benefit libraries in the 21st Century. I have emphasized that the 21st Century Library Model is customized and specific to each community. There is no universal one-model-fits-all, so each library must interpret their community for themselves. In my Post The Revolutionary Library of April, 2011 I wrote the following.

Even though there will continue to be a generally agreed upon body of knowledge for the profession that is taught by SLIS, and debated by gatherings of librarians, as well as some long-held tenets professed by associations of librarians – the ways in which we think about and perceive libraries in the 21st Century MUST fit the rapid and continually changing environment and circumstances of the future.

21st Century Library Paradigm:
The 21st Century Library will be defined by those librarians running the library to meet the needs of its local community, more than by the profession, or schools of library and information science, or by any association of librarians’ principles.


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Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship

Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship

Continuing on with more review of Lankes, R. (2011). The atlas of new librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. I was still reading out of curiosity as to how Lankes believes his theories contribute to a practical progression of the profession, but what I found was something I never expected, can not recommend, and, in fact, explicitly oppose. I now regret stating it was a good textbook, but I still suggest that all serious professional librarians should read Lankes’ book and make up their own mind if his worldview of a new librarianship is the profession they want.

When Lankes gets into “Scapes” (pg. 53) he is theorizing quite well. He builds a “conceptual digital reference software system that embodies concepts of Conversation Theory” that is both impressive and futuristic. But, I couldn’t decide whether he was describing how he thought a software system could facilitate real conversation and then store it (oops, is that a bad word – one of those tools we focus on too much – since Lankes finessed away from using it by writing that the community’s conversation “would still be available three years hence” pg. 60), or whether he was describing how he envisioned the ideal human interaction and collaboration in some future existence – theoretically.

I have a hard time believing that Lankes seriously believes that “It is time for librarians to be there at every step of the knowledge-creation process. Just as with the community example, they need to be there helping the community formulate their agreements, helping them discuss it, helping them document it, and then helping them implement it.” (pg.60) Does he seriously believe that librarians should be all that – when he admits that our social compact is virtually non-existent?

One “Thread” of Lankes is “Facilitating”. (pg. 65) (“Threads are a construct – a way of explaining the arrangement and logic that sit around the agreements.” pg. 13) He outlines how your interpretation of the term ‘facilitate’ defines who you are as a librarian, which harkens disturbingly to images of the emperor’s new clothes.

If you are for the people, you are a tool and separate [from the community]. To facilitate is to act on a population. You have users and customers, not members. If, in contrast, you feel as I do that the library is of the people, then to facilitate is to engage and help the community because you are helping yourself. You have members. If you see yourself as a tool for the people, you have a job. If you see yourself as a member of the community, you have a vocation – a calling – a mission. (pg. 66)

I must admit that I like Lankes’ notion of “members” as opposed to either patrons or customers. I agree it does seem much more participatory and partner-like – sorta like SAM’s Club and COSTCO. But, by common connotation ‘membership’ implies exclusivity. I can’t help but wonder how long it will take for the term ‘member’ to mean something other than “one of the individuals composing a group” in common usage, the way language is constantly changing along with everything else.

And, unfortunately, some of that exclusivity creeps into Lankes’ description of his “new librarianship” mission. Still in the Facilitating thread, Lankes describes how libraries of the people provide Access, become “publisher” of communities, share shelf space, and provide meeting space – of monumental importance.

Bringing people together for conversations, particularly the right people, is how things get done…. … [Independence Hall in Philadelphia] was a Spartan room with simple tables. No more than 50 or so people could cram themselves into the space, …. Yet in this small space something remarkable happened. A few of the right people came together and changed the world. Librarians must use this power of convening to improve their communities. They must provide access to the right members.” (pg. 69-70)

I’m compelled to point out that this was not the best example for the importance of meeting spaces, because this analogy seriously breaks down his previous assertions. I can’t help but wonder whether there were any librarians among the delegates who drafted, discussed and adopted the Declaration of Independence, and whether they truly “need[ed a librarian] to be there helping the community formulate their agreements, helping them discuss it, helping them document it, and then helping them implement it.” (pg. 60) Seems like they did OK without one.

And his contradictions continue with his conclusion of the Access Thread. Using a basketball court analogy, he explains the value of the court to the game, but then states;

By knowing how to structure the court, you have no idea how the game will end up or even how it will be played (strategy). What’s more, you don’t even need the court to play the game. On asphalt parking lots and driveways around the United States, kids play just fine. Around the world, they play with literal baskets on hard-packed earth.

Build meeting spaces. Build physical ones with comfy couches and huge displays. Build virtual meeting spaces and host blogs. But remember that by doing so you have simply painted the lines on the court. For your members to play, they need coaches, referees, and even an audience. They also need to know the rules of the game, ….

So, kids can play basketball just fine without a court, but your library members can’t accomplish anything worthwhile unless you provide coaches, referees plus an audience – and rules. Does anyone else find this confusing and contradictory?

I was still hoping for something practical and useful in “The Atlas” when I came to the Knowledge section in the Facilitating Thread (which includes access, knowledge, environment, and motivation) where Lankes begins to develop the foundation for an argument in favor of all kinds of literacy. However, for librarians “To be ‘literate in’ means to be able to use something to gain power.” (pg. 75) Excuse me? Did I read that correctly? Unfortunately, YES! Lankes then continued on down a path I could not have imagined, and hopefully, neither could the vast majority of professional librarians. Please excuse the lengthy quote, but it is well worth the read, and essential not to break context.

Librarians can impart all the instruction they want on how to search and evaluate sources, but if we don’t also facilitate the knowledge of transforming all of that new knowledge into an effective conversation …, we have created a closed loop with limited benefit to the community in general. So information literacy must include the idea of conversation literacy. Indeed, concepts of new librarianship call for a host of expansions in all sorts of literacy.

… Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, a handbook written by a far left radical during the unrest of the 1960s … is a fascinating read.

What I want to point out, however, is Alinsky’s take on the word “power.”

    There are a number of fundamental reasons for rejecting such substitutions [for the use of the word power]. First, by using combinations of words such as “harnessing the energy” instead of the single word “power,” we begin to dilute the meaning; and as we use purifying synonyms, we dissolve the bitterness, the anguish, the hate and love, the agony and the triumph attached to these words, leaving an aseptic imitation of life.

Power is not bad or evil. Alinsky would say the evil is when you don’t have power. Without power you don’t make decisions, things are decided for you. Librarians need to be powerful. They need to be able to shape agendas, lead the community, and empower members to do the same. We seek out power not as an end but as a means to make the world a better place. To serve, to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.

Why this trip through radicalism and political protest? Because it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship. If we see the role of librarians as supplementing other educational processes (teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents), then literacy is a somewhat limited concept. …

However, if we look at literacy as empowerment, literally to gain power, then we have a different take on literacy altogether. Librarians, I would agree, need to view literacy as a means of acquiring power – more often than not, power for the powerless. (pg. 74) [Emphasis added.]

WOW! I did not see that coming. Is Lankes advocating a radical librarian workforce whose main goal is to achieve power through literacy? To be used “more often than not, [as] power for the powerless”? Sure makes me wonder about those other occasions Lankes alludes to when librarians will use that power for other than the powerless.

As was asked in a previous post comment by a reader – Who imbued librarians with the wisdom to use this power appropriately and effectively? “We seek out power … to make the world a better place. … to truly serve, you need to be powerful so you can steward the community.” is arguably the most arrogant attitude any profession could conceive. Then couple that power with Lankes’ idea that librarians should be present for ALL knowledge creation within the community and you have what sounds like some kind of socialism or communism – certainly not librarianship!

If the librarian’s power will NOT be used for “teaching reading in schools or literacy organizations, or supporting parents” because that limits the whole concept of literacy, what should we stand up and tell our community we are acquiring power to accomplish? How are we going to convince community leaders to give us that power? Are we simply supposed to take it – regardless of who agrees or disagrees? How do we convince those community tax payers that we are acquiring power for their own good?

Authors should write what they mean, and mean what they write. Readers can not be responsible to apply any assumed motivation to what has been written. I can’t help but think that Lankes didn’t think this whole ‘power through literacy’ concept through to some logical conclusion, or reasonable implementation.

It is unfortunate that anything useful Lankes proposes – which I was still searching for – is now tainted by his “far left radical” “worldview of new librarianship”. I have no intention of being part of a profession that radically advocates for power to improve society in whatever image it creates.


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