Thursday, November 08, 2012

ILI 2012: Stop Lending and Start Sharing

From London 10/2012

I had a great time in London, both during the vacation portion of the trip and the conference portion.  To see my vacation pictures, click here.  Now on to the conference portion.

Stop Lending and Start Sharing
Keynote presentation by R. David Lankes, professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies.

This is the best keynote presentation I've ever heard.  I was really inspired!  Dr. Lankes wrote the book The Atlas of New Librarianship, which I must put my hands on immediately! 

The key ideas were:

Libraries and librarians exist to help community members cope with continuing change.  We are change agents, not holders of information.  We help people change by helping them to learn.  We don't (or, shouldn't...) just lead people to information and then move on to the next thing.  We don't/shouldn't just organize our collections and keep our buildings safe and hope it is enough.  We definitely DO these things, but as a means to helping people change, to learn, to relate information to other information, and to direct attention to information tols that will help them make informed decisions and to participate in our communities.

Sharing is "combining resources together to create a richer commons."  Lending is "allowing people to borrow from a common resource."  Dr. Lankes used the analogy of a dinner party.  The more people who show up to a dinner party, the less food you have to serve.  You have to constantly monitor how much is left, how much is being used, and maybe even restrict how many people can come.  That is lending.  A potluck dinner party is sharing:  the more people who show up, the more food there is because they all contribute something.  The host can sit back and relax and contribute to the conversation (the learning) without having to worry about how much, how many, etc.  "The more you share, the more you have.  The more you lend, the less you have."

Our libraries are the same.  We are not just a building that houses a collection that we lend, one item to one person at a time.  We are places where people come to learn, and even to share their knowledge and talents. Librarians bring life to our collections and buildings.  We facilitate conversations and discovery of information.  We contextualize.  We are what Dr. Lankes called THE ULTIMATE RESOURCE.

We have no reason to feel threatened by all the new information tools out there, like Google, Amazon, etc.  These tools enable us to be even better.  The core of librarianship is to help people find and use information to improve their lives and our communities.  The more tools at our disposal, the better we are at sharing information.  The more information people have, the more they will share, and the better our communities will become.

"The new promise is participation."  We should talk to people about what they want to do, not about what the library has or does.  Once we know what people want to do, we can help them DO it.  We need librarians now more than ever because information has become so free and accessible.  We aren't here to help people read.  People can easily find information.  We are here to help people analyze what they have found and use various tools to learn.  The effort is in the learning, not the information gathering.  We're not here to lend materials. Libraries and librarians are here to share learning opportunities.

There is so much more to this hour-long presentation than I can ever blog about. Get a hold of R. David Lankes' book The Atlas of New Librarianship and read ALL about it.  I plan to.

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