From collections to community – a vision of new librarianship

R. David Lankes - Internet Librarian International keynote speaker - talks about his vision for a new, transformative librarianship.

A proud and passionate supporter of libraries

R. David Lankes is a proud and passionate supporter of libraries.  In his book, The Atlas of New Librarianship, David outlines his vision for a 'new librarianship' which focuses on knowledge creation and learning.   We are delighted that David is a keynote speaker at this year's Internet Librarian International conference (ILI).  He will share his vision for libraries and their invaluable role in improving society through knowledge and learning.  Here he introduces himself and answers some questions about his role, his keynote paper at ILI and his love of the profession.

I am currently professor and Dean's Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University's iSchool. In my career I have run an Education Information Clearinghouse and research center, I have consulted with numerous libraries including the National Library of Education, the Library of Congress, the National library of Canada, and the National Agriculture Library. I have headed projects advancing virtual reference and metadata. 

My current role is focused on the evolution of libraries from being focused on collections to becoming focused on communities. I'm working with a consortium of state libraries to prepare library staff to lead in an age of technology.

Libraries as a platform for community

In my keynote presentation at Internet Librarian International 2012, I will be talking about how our libraries should act as platforms for community learning and innovation. Our spaces, our services, and our collections are tools that a good librarian orchestrates to allow the community to dream and achieve its aspirations. While it sounds pretty abstract, I'll be giving plenty of examples of where libraries have succeeded by opening up operations and ideas to the community.

Unleashing expertise

What excites me is that technology has progressed to a point that we can free librarians from the shackles of routine and unleash their expertise in service of community aspirations. Once again that sounds abstract, but it has a real consequence. Instead of containing the service oriented expertise of librarians in a building or focused on a collection, librarians can now go out into the community (a city, a university, a school, a business) and engage in their original mission of improving society through facilitating knowledge creation. I get very excited when I see the brilliance and skills of librarians unconstrained by manual processes, and historical hold overs.

The library profession must shape its own future

I do worry that the fear of change and active engagement with the community will lead to increased isolation of librarians and libraries. I believe in the future of libraries... I think it is bright. However it requires the profession to shape that future and communicate to the world that we are powerful, on their side, and innovators.  

What's the best thing about working in our profession?


R. David Lankes is a professor and the Dean's Scholar on New Librarianship at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies, director of the library science program for the school, and director of the Information Institute of Syracuse. His book, The Atlas of New Librarianship won the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the best book in library literature.  You can read more about the Atlas on the author's blog.