Libraries and Librarians

Last week David Lankes hosted a webinar for New Zealand librarians who had registered for The Atlas of New Librarianship discussion groups. David’s presentation contained so many gems that it’s going to take me a long while to unpack, polish and share them with others. But I am working on it; and here is the first take-away.

We don’t need a building to define what we do. We define what the building is for.

One of the fundamental distinctions I think David made was to differentiate libraries from librarians. It’s not something that I’ve consciously thought about prior to picking up The Atlas of New Librarianship and it definitely resonated with me. For example should the Strengthening the Profession LIANZA project be about #brandlibraries or #brandlibrarians? Does it matter? Are they different? I think they are. To me #brandlibraries is about the building and #brandlibrarians defines what the building is for. What do you think?

The distinction between libraries and librarians was also illustrated by the following: What if the future of libraries is absolutely dismal and on the verge of extinction; and the future of librarians is bright and flourishing? Could they be? How would you feel if this were true? What would librarians be doing in this future? How would you feel if the reverse were true?

The Atlas of New Librarianship delves into why we do what we do, and it certainly makes me consider the profession in new and exciting ways.


  1. Hamish says:

    Hello, I was just thinking that perhaps the idea of what a library is needs to be freed up along with what a librarian is. What if we define it as a space where a community within a knowledge society can come to create knowledge, and where librarians can facilitate this, as well as collaborating with each other as a team. That’s not to say that the librarians are chained to that space, but it’s good if they’ve got a homebase where people know that they can find them physically. The same space can also exist online, where people can collaborate and librarians can facilitate knowledge creation.

    I would be concerned about brand librarians instead of brand libraries, because libraries to me says something about the collective nature and something shared, not just a building full of books.

    1. Sally says:

      Hi Hamish, Wouldn’t it be great to have a space (virtual and physical) as you’ve described – full of community collaboration projects. How could we make that happen?

      1. Hamish says:

        hehe, huge kettle of fish! I think that there is a massive, almost inert concept in the minds of many librarians and most of the public about what libraries are. I have seen some examples of a progressive view, but I’m not sure how much sway that view has in the big picture. However, I think that the ones who’d like it to evolve can create new phenomena in libraries that allow people to see the value of these new possibilities. I am working on a project where I visit classrooms virtually, through a chat server, and introduce e-resources that my library has to offer to children. This is a way of getting out into the community and changing some people’s perception of what a librarian is and does. I’m also offering for them to do a feedback/discussion session to talk about what they want from our library, again which changes people’s perceptions, and introduces the idea that they can have a say in what they want the library to be for them.

        Stuff that was talked about by David is so blue sky, miles off in the distance, so I think if we want new librarianship, it’s all about baby steps towards that idea, to discover what it actually looks like and get more people along for the journey.

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