Author Archives: Dr. Steve Matthews

About Dr. Steve Matthews

Dr. Steve Matthews' Ph.D. is in Adult and Continuing Education, with experience in training, training development, distance education, and education technology. After his 25 year Army officer career he worked for NASA, Kansas Wesleyan University, Koch Crime Institute, and began Matthews Education Consulting with his wife in 2002. Steve's first MS is in Systems Management from USC. He began this second career by earning an MLS from Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas in 1996. His main focus in librarianship includes library education and, obviously - the 21st Century Library. DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this Blog are those of the author's alone, who takes total responsibility for the contents and everything published herein.

ALA Denigrates Iconic American Children’s Author


Hopefully, most of you have heard by now that the Board of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), voted to change the name of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. WHY? If you’re like me you’re asking yourself “Why would ALA denigrate and affectively denounce Laura Ingalls Wilder after over 60 years of hailing her as an icon of American children’s literature?” Aren’t they now saying that their predecessors were wrong to ever have named an award in her honor?

Well, as usual, they are claiming that is not what they are doing, but rather; “ALSC works within the context of our society as a whole, where the conversations taking place inform our work and help us articulate our core values and support of diverse populations.” which, in our opinion, equates to blatant internal politics that smack of political correctness. Core values are just that CORE! They don’t change with the tide of public opinion.

How does this kind of drastic change happen? In our decades of experience with organizations, boards, and people in general, it starts by some malcontent activist who thinks they have a right and obligation to right wrongs – as THEY perceive them – regardless of good judgement or common sense. Then they use shame and guilt on their colleagues to advance their argument until they get their agenda past the majority. Did anyone hear about Native American, or people of color groups of protesters picketing ALA conference, or publishing protests about how they were being maligned by Laura Ingalls Wilder? NO!

ALSC/ALA decided on their own opinion that “Her works reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color that contradict modern acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities.” Using that rationale, why not destroy the Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. because Jefferson was a slave owner, and even had extra-marital affairs with his female slaves and produced children from those sexual affairs. Does his personal behavior fit with today’s “…acceptance, celebration, and understanding of diverse communities”? I hope not, but maybe we’re wrong. Since so many of the founding fathers owned slaves, maybe we should tear up the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, even though they contain principles and ideals that built a new democracy that has lasted 242 years, and provided freedom to over 300M people from many “diverse communities”. It sounds like if ALSC/ALA had its way a lot of American institutions and history would be voted out by one of their committees.

While Laura Ingalls Wilder’s views may be inconsistent with the current culture, SHE is not. Isn’t it HER as an author and a person of fortitude that caused ALA to name this award after her? How did that change? It cannot! Speaking of her as a person, ESPECIALLY in the current era of female empowerment, she was a young girl who grew up in a family unit that struggled and repeatedly moved to carve out a living and a life. In 1870 they were forced to abandon a home and life they were building in Kansas because their home was on Osage Tribe reservation land and they would be evicted if they did not leave. Certainly this experience shaped her perspective of Native Americans, but it was HER life and HER reality nearly 150 years ago. We are not mindless to the concept that attitudes shift and change, BUT attitudes about who she WAS should not! She was a young girl who began teaching before she was 16 to help support her family. She never graduated from high school. She married and lost a baby before it was 1 year old, working alongside her husband to survive and ultimately thrive. Without any formal education or training, she became a contributor and editor for the Missouri Ruralist. She raised a successful daughter who was also an author and who encouraged Laura to write her novels. Laura Ingalls Wilder is the definition of a strong female who, through sheer determination of will, improved her life and made immense contributions to the literary world and the lives of countless children. How could any organization that professes to support, encourage and promote children’s literature justify a decision that she is now unfit for recognition because she accurately portrayed her experience and the cultural norms of her time? That is the very definition of censorship and female denigration.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association website has a very respectful response to ALSC/ALA’s decision, which despite ALSC’s response to the contrary, it seems impossible that they could have considered seriously and still made the decision to remove Wilder’s name from the award. “We stand by our board’s consensus position that the legacy of Laura Ingalls Wilder, though encumbered with the perspectives of racism that were representative of her time and place, also includes overwhelmingly positive contributions to children’s literature that have touched generations past and will reach into the future. We believe it is not beneficial to the body of literature to sweep away her name as though the perspectives in her books never existed. Those perspectives are teaching moments to show generations to come how the past was and how we, as a society, must move forward with a more inclusive and diverse perspective.”

History is history and CANNOT BE RE-WRITTEN, no matter how badly certain elements of society today want to change or deny things happened. Certain elements of American society today would love nothing more than to overthrow everything and become Socialist, or Communist, or Anarchist. Is that where ALSC and ALA are headed? Is that where the librarian profession is headed?

ALSC/ALA loves to bemoan the terrible tragedy of banned books, but effectively what they have done through their action is to include Laura Ingalls Wilder’s works to that list. Their attempt to deny that they are denigrating her works is simply hypocritical, and embarrassing. Anyone in this profession would respect them more if they had just come out and said; “We think it’s time to update all of our awards criteria, policies, practices, and names.” and changed them all. Why are Randolph Caldecott, Coretta Scott King, John Newbery and Michael Printz any more representative of ALSC/ALA values than Wilder? Aren’t Newbery’s perspectives on orphaned children grossly out dated by today’s standards? What distinguished Michael Printz, a high school librarian in the 1970s and 80s, apart from any other person, to have a teen literature award named in his honor? NO not just awards – MEDALS!

It is all politics plain and simple, and now politics has turned against Laura Ingalls Wilder. The only excuse they could find was her perspective on her life on the American plains in the 1800s.

The message ALSC/ALA is sending to every author is “Don’t make the mistake of writing about your personal perspective of society in your times. We only want literature that is politically correct according to our definition, or you’ll never be awarded any of our MEDALS.” SAD! Really sad! ALSC and ALA have just cheapened all of their awards, and recognition of any recipient in the future will be suspect for ever more.

HOW CAN ALA BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY EVER AGAIN AS THE VOICE AGAINST CENSORSHIP?

Stephen A. Matthews
Kimberly D. Matthews

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What Future Will Watson and DPLA Make for Libraries?


It was January of 2014 since I last wrote a post about IBM’s “Watson” cognitive computer. That’s actually longer than I expected before hearing news about this revolutionary computer. In that post I wrote:

Just as historic as Bell creating communication over wire, Marconi making it wireless, and Perotto creating the desktop computer, IBM has broken through technology to the holy grail of computing by inventing Watson – the cognitive computer.

Would you rather “Ask a Librarian” with human limitations and biases with limited resources at your local library, or speak to a computer with almost infinite knowledge who will recommend resources and even tell you how confident it is that it will satisfy your question? Would you rather go to the Only Vanilla Ice Cream Store, or to Baskin & Robbins 31 Kinds?

Combine the threat to libraries from “e-book and digital media retailers” that Brantley addressed with the threat from Watson toward the reference role of libraries and it is obvious that libraries MUST reinvent themselves NOW! As I wrote last February; “This is by no means the first or even a new call to action, but … time is running out for libraries to find their place in the community they serve. I for one seriously wonder what it will take for library leaders to recognize the future challenges and adopt a vision to overcome them and save the library. Traditional librarianship is a relic of the past century. Creative and innovative thinking with visionary leadership and bold action is the only approach that will save libraries” in the 21st Century.

The “What Is Watson” website:
IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data

How Watson answers questions
First Watson learns a new subject
• All related materials are loaded into Watson, such as Word documents, PDFs and web pages
• Questions and answers pairs are added to train Watson on the subject
• Watson is automatically updated as new information is published

How Watson learns
Then Watson answers a question
• Watson searches millions of documents to find thousands of possible answers
• Collects evidence and uses a scoring algorithm to rate the quality of this evidence
• Ranks all possible answers based on the score of its supporting evidence

I recently reviewed the DPLA (Digital Public Library of America) to see how that is progressing, since there is an obvious match-up between the two – super smart computer that needs an extensive database to learn! They have hundreds more contributors than last time I checked, and are now at about 2.5 Million volumes, so obviously they are growing exponentially. DPLA is still frequently in the news.

So, what does a merging of Watson and DPLA mean for librarians? Twenty years ago librarians thought that the proliferation of the Internet would put an end to their usefulness. Well, it did and it didn’t. In the beginning of this new century libraries experienced a decline in users, those people who actually came into the library to check out books. However, as the first decade passed, users became new types of customers. They could get digital and audio materials from their local library, and libraries started to adjust to offering more customer-centered services and became less library-centric. Libraries began reaching out to users, rather than being the stoic institution that users had to come to for unique services. Libraries’ services, at least in terms of collections, were no longer unique.

I still agree with the saying that “Closing libraries in an economic crisis is like closing hospitals in an epidemic.” And, of course, “Now that we have Google, why do we need libraries?” is answered by asking “Now that we have WedMD, why do we need doctors?” Having said that, let’s consider how a marriage between Watson and DPLA affects librarians.

As the volume of published materials also increases exponentially, it becomes like the air – IT’S EVERYWHERE – and thanks to DPLA and Watson it’s as easily accessible as air. Way back in September of 2010 I wrote about the new high school curriculum standards that 12th grade students are expected to meet before graduation – 21st Century Skills in Action in School Libraries

7e. Benchmarks to Achieve by Grade 12

Standard 1: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

Strand 1.1: Skills

Indicator 1.1.1:  Follow an inquiry-based process in seeking knowledge in curricular subjects, and make the real-world connection for using this process in own life.

·Independently and systematically use an inquiry-based process to deepen content knowledge, connect academic learning with the real world, pursue personal interests, and investigate opportunities for personal growth.

Indicator 1.1.2:  Use prior and background knowledge as context for new learning.

·Explore general information sources to increase familiarity with the topic or question.

·Review the initial information need to develop, clarify, revise, or refine the question.

·Compare new background information with prior knowledge to determine direction and focus of new learning.

Indicator 1.1.3:  Develop and refine a range of questions to frame the search for new understanding.

·Recognize that the purpose of the inquiry determines the type of questions and the type of thinking required (e.g., an historical purpose may require one to take a position and defend it).

·Explore problems or questions for which there are multiple answers or no “best” answer.

·Review the initial information need to clarify, revise, or refine the questions.

Indicator 1.1.4:  Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to answer questions.

·Identify the value of and differences among potential resources in a variety of formats.

·Use various search systems to retrieve information in a variety of formats.

·Seek and use a variety of specialized resources available from libraries, the Internet, and the community.

·Describe criteria used to make resource decisions and choices.

Indicator 1.1.5:  Evaluate information found in selected sources on the basis of accuracy, validity, appropriateness for needs, importance, and social and cultural context.

·Evaluate historical information for validity of interpretation, and scientific information for accuracy and reliability of data.

·Recognize the social, cultural, or other context within which the information was created and explain the impact of context on interpreting the information.

·Use consciously selected criteria to determine whether the information contradicts or verifies information from other sources.

Indicator 1.1.6: Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.

·Restate concepts in own words and select appropriate data accurately.

·Integrate new information presented in various formats with previous information or knowledge.

·Analyze initial synthesis of findings and construct new hypotheses or generalizations if warranted.

·Challenge ideas represented and make notes of questions to pursue in additional sources.

Indicator 1.1.7:  Make sense of information gathered from diverse sources by identifying misconceptions, main and supporting ideas, conflicting information, and point of view or bias.

·Create a system to organize the information.

·Analyze the structure and logic of supporting arguments or methods.

·Analyze information for prejudice, deception, or manipulation.

·Investigate different viewpoints encountered and determine whether and how to incorporate or reject these viewpoints.

·Compensate for the effect of point of view and bias by seeking alternative perspectives.

Indicator 1.1.8:  Demonstrate mastery of technology tools for accessing information and pursuing inquiry.

·Select the most appropriate technologies to access and retrieve the needed information.

·Use various technologies to organize and manage the information selected.

·Create own electronic learning spaces by collecting and organizing links to information resources, working collaboratively, and sharing new ideas and understandings with others.

Indicator 1.1.9:  Collaborate with others to broaden and deepen understanding.

·Model social skills and character traits that advance a team’s ability to identify issues and problems and work together on solutions and products.

·Design and implement projects that include participation from diverse groups.

Seriously, can any public librarian read this list of expectations of what the high school graduate will soon know about information literacy and NOT question their own role in the library profession? School librarians have always supported the curriculum, faculty and students, but the public librarian role is NOT so clear cut.

Presuming that a high school graduate has actually become competent in all the Standards described above, how many librarians (MLS or not) can say they are MORE proficient than that? Maybe these standards should be the new standards for librarians. Public librarians have the opportunity and the challenge to become more than they ever thought they could be, or …………….. The alternative is not enticing!

That was five years ago. How much progress do you imagine schools have made in the graduating classes in the past five years? Add this level of information literacy to the explosion of availability that Watson and DPLA can create and anyone in this profession MUST question what the future holds for librarians – especially reference librarians in the public library.

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Trump Style Librarianship


This is not a post about politics! This is a post about librarianship!

Having said that, I want to make an analogy to librarianship by using Donald Trump’s bid for presidential candidate in 2016. Many commentators have criticized him as being a “joke” as a candidate, and point out what they view as many other unflattering characteristics. One said his best day would be the day he announced, but then retracted that assessment when Trump later placed second in a recent poll of registered voters.

Trump has clearly and repeatedly stated that he is not a “politician” and he knows how to “return America to greatness.” He cites his business success and experience working with politicians as evidence he is a viable candidate, but he is not a politician. He believes that is a good thing, and electing someone who is not a politician would be good for America, since politicians are the ones who have created the situation America is in today.

The comments of one commentator are the reason I decided to write this post, because I believe the mindset it demonstrates is the same mindset that exists among those who influence librarianship in this 21st Century environment. The commentator said, in essence, Trump can’t win because he’s not being “political.” I interpreted this as an assertion that only a “politician” can be elected President since politicians are, above all else, political, and that voters will only elect someone who is political.

So how does this analogy apply to librarianship? There are many in the profession and among library boards and government jurisdictions who don’t recognize that libraries can operate in nontraditional ways. The concept that libraries are the same now as they have always been is a mindset that prevents change and adaptation that provides 21st Century information and library services in this 21st Century environment.

Inability to put away the old stereotype librarianship, to think outside the box and develop new approaches to delivering library services will surely doom libraries to a status that libraries do not deserve. Libraries will suffer from lack of funding if librarians cannot develop that entrepreneurial spirit that enables libraries to deliver quality library services. Without quality library services communities are hard pressed to support their local libraries, with funding or attendance. Whether Donald Trump becomes President is irrelevant, but taking a few pages from his playbook about how to tackle the 21st Century environment and thrive is the most relevant thing librarians can do now and in the future.

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21st Century Strategic Management – Revisited


In the fall of 2010, in a series of posts about Strategic Planning, I stated that the Strategic Plan was essential to the survival of a 21st Century Library. In my original 21st Century Strategic Management posts I noted that while leaders provide the vision and inspiration, managers provide the means and capability.

All organizations consist of leadership and management positions. Leaders are always directly responsible for the success or failure of the organization, but generally managers are not, even though their role is critical to the implementation of the vision and strategy of the organization. Implementation is essential, because as Morris Chang stated:

Leadership and management are the two sides of the same coin in terms of accomplishing the 21st Century Library’s Goals and Objectives. Libraries are organized with leaders, managers and staff positions. And while every library is different in terms of the number of staff and types of positions in its organization, every library is the same in terms of those who establish the mission, goals and objectives, and those who support them by providing the means and capability to accomplish the mission.

What is leadership?
A definition of leader that I have used for many years is; A person, who by force of example, talents, and/or qualities of character plays a directing role, wields commanding influence or has followers in any sphere of activity or thought.

In contrast, a definition of a manager is; A person who conducts, directs or supervises activities, especially the executive functions of planning, organizing, coordinating, directing, controlling and supervising of any business type project or activity with responsibility for results.

“Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right things.”
Warren Bennis & Burt Nanus, Leaders

——

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”
Peter Drucker

Leadership and management are not mutually exclusive. A person can be both, and managers, like directors, should use leadership to accomplish their managerial mission. Effective managers are ones who do not make the work environment “difficult for people to work.” Highly effective managers are ones who understand the principles of management and strive to develop work teams, as opposed to work groups, in order to accomplish the organization’s mission.

WorkGrpvsWorkTeam

This is where “strategic management” comes in.

Strategic management is a field that deals with the major intended and emergent initiatives taken by general managers [library managers] on behalf of owners [directors, boards and jurisdictions], involving utilization of resources, to enhance the performance of firms [libraries] in their external environments. It entails specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.

Strategic management is a level of managerial activity under setting goals and over Tactics. … In the field of business administration it is useful to talk about “strategic alignment” between the organization and its environment or “strategic consistency.” According to Arieu (2007), “there is strategic consistency when the actions of an organization are consistent with the expectations of management, and these in turn are with the market and the context.” [Wikipedia]

Where many libraries are lagging behind other types of organizations that are thriving is in understanding the “strategic alignment” between the organization and this 21st Century environment, therefore they have no “strategic consistency.” Many library jurisdictions, boards, directors, and staff are still in the “library on as usual” mindset, even though they may have established a 21st Century mission and vision. They have missed the fact that both the external and internal environment have changed – dramatically! Their missions, goals and objectives may have changed on paper, but their practices and performance are NOT consistent “with the market and the context.”

There are few things more difficult to accomplish than communicating the vision of the library to every employee, and having them change their practices to align with the vision.  If they understand and embrace the vision, they may not know how to translate that into practice, until they receive guidance from managers who understand “strategic management” and implement it by “developing policies and plans…, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.”

The renown management theorist Peter Drucker stated; “There is nothing more wasteful than becoming highly efficient at doing the wrong thing.” This concept is fundamental to the principals that drive a strategic plan, a strategic vision, and strategic management of a 21st Century Library. While libraries are extremely skilled at being “libraries”, they have yet to understand that what they “do” is what they are. So, unless they more effectively provide information to a 21st Century citizenry through their daily practices, they are failing to align their practices with their vision.

A 21st Century Library is successful at doing the right thing – providing the information needs of its 21st Century users. It accomplishes this through strategic management of its goals and objectives and practices that provide the means and capability to succeed.

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The 21st Century Library Paradigm Shift?


Someone recently viewed an old post of mine (Dr. Steve) from June, 2010, Are We in a 21st Century Library Paradigm Shift?, and that made me realize that I should revise my assertions about a paradigm shift in librarianship, based on my current understanding of the state of American libraries and ‘paradigm shift.’

I wrote;

In my opinion we are. However, it is different from the paradigm shift we all discussed 15 years ago [beginning in the mid-1990s] that was a result of the introduction of the Internet and WWW into the average American office, university, school and home. That shift was essentially about delivery of library services. There wasn’t much change in philosophy of library science, but it changed delivery of library information from on-site to online. The concern that the WWW would replace librarians was exaggerated and didn’t materialize, because we retained our “information specialists” role who knew the How and What of information retrieval and evaluation. Everything evolves, from card catalogs to OPAC, but it was about delivery.

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 librarian’s “information specialists” role. Within the next 10 years librarians will not be THE only “information specialists” who are able to retrieve and assess information.

I went on to write other posts about the nature of paradigm shifts, its manifestation in the librarian profession, and how the profession needed to recognize and embrace that shift. If you’re interested in those discussions, just type paradigm shift in the Search window.

In those earlier posts I described the shift as;

Evidence has convinced me that the 21st Century Library Paradigm is that libraries will be defined by those librarians running them and their local community more than by the profession, or SLIS, or any librarian associations’ standards.

My current thinking is that we are in a shift, but the nature of that shift is now clearly (to me) from a librarian-centric philosophy to a user-centric philosophy, NOT simply that local librarians will define the local library. Since library users are local, obviously the user-centric philosophy will be implemented locally.

When Kimberly posted Public Libraries Must Agree Upon a Mission If We Are to Survive last month, our subsequent conversations made me realize that a true “paradigm shift” should accompany a significant shift in mission. That was not the case in my assessment of future librarianship. The fundamental mission of libraries is … to provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government., and I believe that will never change – significantly.

I also realized that I was one of those who got caught up in the hype of changing the image and re-inventing ourselves, when all we were experiencing in the profession was clearly a lack of confidence in our mission, our reason for being, which lead to a scramble for a new mission – a new reason for being librarians. All we really needed was a new vision for achieving our fundamental mission in an evolving environment that demanded a shift from a librarian-centric to a user-centric philosophy. Even though we may no longer be the only “information specialists”, that doesn’t mean the core mission and values of the library have actually shifted to something else.

All that has shifted, and should shift, is the focus of librarianship, thus libraries, from the long held librarian-centric philosophy to a 21st Century user-centric philosophy. That in itself is significant.

[For those of you interested, read my post 21st Century Librarianship vs. The 1876 Special Report that reviews the state of librarianship in early America, and the roots of that old librarian-centric philosophy.]

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Passing the Torch


I have been blogging about 21st Century Library since January 2010. Some say that’s a long time for a blog. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 4&1/2 years, but I do feel as though I have run my course and written virtually everything that I have to write about the “21st Century Library” and 21st Century Librarians.

It is a topic that will never be fully explored, reviewed or discussed, because as much as we engage in the topic it will evolve, even while we converse, into whatever we envision it to be, which creates a new conversation about the new role of librarianship.

One of my earlier positions on change within the librarianship profession I wrote in February 2011 in Discontinuous Thinking;

Charles Handy based the title of his book THE Age OF UNREASON on George Bernard Shaw’s observation that “all progress depends on the unreasonable man. His argument was that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable [person] persists in trying to adapt the world to himself; therefore for any change of consequence we must look to the unreasonable man, or, I must add, to the unreasonable woman.” [Emphasis added.]

While in Shaw’s day, perhaps, most men were reasonable, we are now entering an Age of Unreason, when the future, in so many areas, is there to be shaped, by us and for us – a time when the only prediction that will hold true is that no predictions will hold true; a time, therefore, for bold imaginings in private life as well as public, for thinking the unlikely and doing the unreasonable.

My point being that librarians need to adapt the library to serve the new environment that society has created for its consumption of information. We need to better understand the real business that libraries are in, and librarians must discard the old stereotype of the library and librarianship and replace it with whatever works in the community that their library serves.

This should not be interpreted to mean that I endorse librarians shaping their community for the better, because our role is to serve. Simply serve the information needs of our community. Librarians do not establish what those needs are, they figure out what those needs are and satisfy them. The vacuum created by the uncertainty, evolution, or revolution, of the role of librarians within the community allows many misdirections in seeking that role, but the guiding principle is always service! If the new role does not fit the concept of service, then it isn’t the correct role.

Having stated all this, I will be stepping aside as the blogger of 21st Century Library Blog to allow a better mind than mine to direct the conversation about that new role of librarianship. Many times I have referred to my “good friend urban library director” in posts because I found many ideas and words of wisdom in her writing. She has agreed to take up the challenge of contributing to this conversation, partly because she has lots of ideas and things to write, and partly because she is my daughter, who was a librarian before I was.

Director Kimberly Matthews, Trenton (NJ) Free Public Library, has agreed to step in as the new blogger for 21st Century Library Blog. I have every confidence that you readers will find her writing more thought provoking, engaging with a very “practice” orientation, and even amusing.

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to present this forum and hopefully contribute to this worthwhile conversation. Thank you all for your support.

“21st Century Librarians Create 21st Century Libraries”

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ALA’s Vision for the Library’s Future is Not Even Its Own


The Libraries Transforming Communities vision is not even a vision that ALA created. It appears to be a vision adopted from one of The Harwood Institute’s programs with whom ALA is partnering to transform America’s libraries. What were they thinking? Obviously grasping at straws, but buying magic beans? SERIOUSLY?

ALA’s State of America’s Libraries Report 2014 includes a disturbing revelation that has actually been brewing for a couple of years, and is well along the way to indoctrinating new librarians. The Executive Summary espouses a vision of the library’s future, if you follow all the links to the source.

The ALA has made transformation a top priority. As libraries continue to transform in 2014, they deepen engagement with their communities in many ways, addressing current social, economic, and environmental issues, often through partnerships with governments and other organizations. Moving forward from being providers of books and information, public libraries now respond to a wide range of ongoing and emerging needs.

That “transformation” link goes to another article about ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC), “groundbreaking libraries-as-change-agents initiative.” Read that again. Libraries-as-change-agents!

Through LTC, ALA will help the public library profession become more focused on and skilled at convening aspirational community conversations and more innovative in transforming internal practice to support fulfillment of community aspirations, and ALA will mirror that change internally, in its own processes. This work will help librarians become more reflective of and connected to their communities. It will help libraries to build stronger relationships with local civic agencies, non-profits, funders and corporations. It will yield greater community investment in civility, collaboration, education, health, and well-being.

ALA is working with the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation to develop and provide training opportunities and learning resources to support community engagement and innovation. The Harwood Institute has a vision of “turning outward” that emphasizes shifting the institutional and professional orientation of libraries and librarians from internal to external.

Libraries Transforming Communities is made possible through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [BTW: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped make EDGE Benchmarks possible.]

Professor R. David Lankes and Barbara Stripling presented a webinar on March 8, 2012 “designed to stimulate conversation about harnessing the evolving role of libraries and strengthening the librarian’s voice to help shape community perception.” Barbara Stripling was Co-Chair of ALA (now Ex-) President Molly Raphael’s Empowering Voices, Transforming Communities task force, and is now ALA President for 2013-2014.

When Professor Lankes published “The Atlas of New Librarianship” in 2011 it was the greatest thing since sliced bread in library circles. Unfortunately, librarians were not reading it closely and really understanding what Lankes advocated. My critique was not so accepting of his advocacy of radical social activism. (Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship and Final Review: The Atlas of New Librarianship) To repeat my original critique; 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. When I read it, I was shocked and appalled at the ideas he was advocating for librarians.

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. The lengthy quote that follows is essential not to break context and to fully understand the role he advocates for librarians. The role that ALA has adopted and is now advocating through The Harwood Institute.

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.]

Lankes admits that he is trying to shape ALA’s vision of the librarians role as social activist. His mission statement for New Librarianship reads; “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society….” He actually justifies his “trip through radicalism and political protest” because “it lies at the heart of how we are to interpret the role of literacy in librarianship.” SERIOUSLY? Since when does radicalism or political protest have any place in librarianship? And, he also advocates that librarians “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 something that is certainly not librarianship!

Now, what exactly is ALA’s Libraries Transforming Communities initiative that they are partnering with The Harwood Institute to sell to librarians? Harwood’s “Turning Outward” states;

Turning Outward makes the community and the people the reference point for getting things done.

Turning Outward impacts:

1) Engagement – Shifting who you see and include in your work and how you engage with them to create change.

2) Partners – Helping you gain clarity about the partners you need to move forward – and those that are holding you back.

3) Priorities – By understanding what space you occupy within the community, you no longer struggle to be all things to all people. Instead, you focus on what you can and should impact.

4) Strategies — How you develop and implement strategies that reflect the context of your community and people’s shared aspirations – and not to get so entangled in programs and activities.

5) Communications – Reframing how you talk about your work and impact, so that it is relevant to people and their concerns – and how you can contribute to a more productive community narrative.

6) Organizational Culture – By Turning Outward you can align and drive internal efforts around shared aspirations and shared language, which makes it easier to work across departments and get things done.
[Emphasis added.]

Sprinkled throughout their six-point approach to transforming librarianship are innuendos that are contradictory to everything that libraries stand for. Changing who we include in our work so that we can change society? Aren’t libraries supposed to be all-inclusive? And change society into what? Into some librarians idea of what their community should be? Only partner with organizations that can help the library and avoid any that might “hold you back”? And, who might those organizations be that would hold back the library from serving ALL the citizens within their community? We should no longer struggle to be all things to all people? SERIOUSLY? So libraries should only serve some select tax payers, and ignore the interests of ALL its taxpayers? And, by all means let’s STOP getting entangled in programs and activities!

What in the name of S.R. Ranganathan has gotten into ALA? Since when has librarianship been about radical activism, or totally focused on “changing society”? Since when has librarianship been about gaining power in the community and deciding what improvement society needs? Since when has librarianship been about exclusivity?

If this is where 21st Century librarianship is headed, I want no part of it. I will not be the librarian that ALA’s visions and programs are espousing. I will not impose my personal biases (and don’t think for one second that you don’t have any, because everyone has them) on my community and judge what improvements it needs. Especially not when it is paying my salary to serve it.

If ALA has any perception that librarianship is lacking a clear identity, then they are clearly clueless about what it should be. In fact, they are so clueless that they are willing to buy some program from The Harwood Institute and adopt Professor Lankes’ New Librarianship, both approaches that will surely destroy any resemblance of what librarianship is in favor of creating a library workforce intent on changing the world. Change the world to what?

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