The future of libraries - bright but different

David Lankes believes librarians should ask fundamental questions about the key purpose of libraries and their role in communities.

The information landscape has undergone a dramatic transformation.  The old world of information scarcity is gone and we need a new librarianship to help our communities cope with information glut.

David Lankes' keynote session at Internet Librarian International called for a transformation in how librarians see themselves and their role in communities.  He sees the highest calling of librarians as the facilitation of growth and learning.  We help people learn, make better decisions and lead them to knowledge.

Getting the conceptual models right

In a lending model, the more you lend the less you have.  Lankes believes that libraries should shift from a lending focus to one of sharing.  The more you share (and encourage others to share), the more you have.  This model creates diversity, increases added value and strengthens the organisation.  Sharing - put simply - makes sense.

This shift in perspective means no longer seeing our users as mere consumers, but as co-owners and contributors to the collection.   Indeed, Lankes dislikes the word 'users' immensely, preferring to use the word 'members' (although each library will find its own best term to describe its community).  Libraries should be uniquely formatted for their communities.  The shift from seeing our users as consumers means libraries should see themselves not as grocery stores but as kitchens, existing in the heart of the community.

People as the collection

New librarianship means continuously changing with the context, helping people change as they use the resources we open up to them. 

Libraries should no longer simply focus on handing out 'stuff'.   The answer may not always be a book, a document, a website or a journal article. Sometimes the best resource may be a person and a key role for librarians should be to connect people to each other - and their individual collections too.  The library should help people collaborate, partner and find new ways of doing things. 

Key aspects of new librarianship

  • Aspiration
  • Compromise
  • Constant engagement
  • Conversation
  • Dreaming
  • Participation
  • Providing training, access, environment and motivation

You can read more about David Lankes here.

David Lankes was a keynote speaker at Internet Librarian International in October 2012.