A sold-out event such as The Inspiration Summit, sponsored by the Libraries and Literacy Branch of the Ministry of Education, the BCLA, and SLAIS at UBC, is one of those rare opportunities for all those with a stake in the future of libraries, librarians in public, academic, and school settings, as well as international, provincial and local leaders in library innovation and community engagement, to convene around the topic, Changing Times: Inspiring Libraries. Held in late November at the Sheraton Wall Centre, I was glad to have been invited to attend. In fact, more than 25 VSB TLs or administrators attended. We tweeted: #bclibinspire
Thursday evening, December 6: Keynote Address
On Thursday evening, Ken Roberts, formerly CEO of the Hamilton Public Library and former president of the CLA, set out a vision for change grounded on the impact of new technologies, new ways to create and share public spaces, and evolving trends and roles within communities.
What trends did Roberts identify as having an impact on libraries?
- Transliteracy: the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media.
- Moving from Information to Imagination: "Libraries are in the imagination business."
- Moving from Consumption to Creation: Roberts talked about "makerspaces" and "the Innovator's Dilemma," where the old service/customer frame implies no change.
- Noisy vs Quiet Use: The old message was, "We Have Rules"! These were generally and widely posted throughout the library. [OR, as another presenter suggested, Learning Commons need to be "about hum and hub, not about hush"!]
- Open Data: Wikipedia, Facebook, the democratization of information; while Reference Service (not something we do much of in school libraries, by the way) is not dead, it is on life support!
- The brand is LIBRARY. [NB: Could Roberts mean that we don't need to be re-branded as some other entity, that we are NOT A DEFICIT MODEL, the answer to our problems being superficial changes of name and appearances?]
- We work together.
- "As long as people are expected to pay, curiosity is limited."
- our capacity for innovation, outreach, initiative, teaching, our place in community as trusted facilities and institutions, our need always to find ways to sustain funding and community support
- Traditionally, libraries have provided bibliographic instruction for university entrants: it is time to critically interrogate this role and the role as provider of stuff [note: did he intend us TLs to interrogate this role? I hoped so.]
- A recent study of academic libraries revealed that books are no longer of primary importance, that the digital library and research, searching, and technology are key features; the latest information is not in a book. [note: he didn't say, books are no longer important]
Friday morning, December 7: Plenary Session
R. David Lankes is the author of Expect More: Demanding Better Libraries for Today’s Complex World and the award-winning Atlas of New Librarianship; he blogs as Virtual Dave ... Real Blog where you will find the slides, audio, and screencast of his presentation, Skyped, as Dave has been unwell. His academic bio tells us that R. David Lankes, PhD, is a Professor and Dean's Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies, the Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse (IIS), as well as director of the school’s library science program. Lankes received his BFA (Multimedia Design), MS in Telecommunications, and Ph.D. from Syracuse University.
Lankes is well known for his focus on the participatory dimensions and capacities of libraries; we must expect more and change what we expect. The revolution in thinking about libraries arises from disconnection, from different definitions of what a library is. The key enabler of a library space, Lankes asserts, comes with opening up and embracing a more progressive vision.
He continues: We move traditionally to undertake change. We start with the Vision -- move to the Mission -- create a Strategy -- and begin the Execution. But this begets a worldview that contrains or limits the capacity for change.
When libraries are viewed as common spaces, librarians can do anything, but the question is, What is it we want libraries to do? In a different worldview, one that embraces the community or participatory nature of the space, amazing places have developed that have kept civilization going for thousands of years.
What is the future of libraries? This terrible question makes a couple of assumptions: that the future is there and we in libraries are just catching up, having little control of it. BUT librarians ask, What if we don't hold copyrighted materials but are instead a place of creation, of "maker spaces"? That is, we are a community that builds materials to put into others' collections.
What should be the future of libraries? This is a better question. It is up to the community to start thinking about this and about what we can make happen. It can be different in every location. Why are there remarkably similar things in libraries around the world? For too long, "Librarians have tried to lead the community with their backs to the community." We have the power to create; we need performance "stages."
What should be the future of libraries and librarians? A building is just a building; it can't be a library. It takes people to make a library, including librarians. Librarians determine what a library is. It is simply a platform for innovation. It is a room managed by a librarian but owned by the community.
What should be the future of libraries and librarians in a democracy? We have done a horrible job of showing how we can make a difference. How have they shown the community the links between library use and voting, the ways in which libraries have an enabling capacity by giving the courage to have a voice and bring civil debate to people? What about "people lending"? How have their safe spaces allowed engagement or promoted the community as "collection"? Their books and other resources inform this collection of people? How is technology connected to this mission of enabling people?
The mission of libraries is to improve society through facilitating knowledge-creation in their commnities. Facilitation is always the basis of this mission; knowledge happens everywhere and cannot be stopped, but, unlike the "old mission" that puts bricks of knowledge in empty buckets, libraries that facilitate knowledge creation and learning offer motivation and new learning experiences. This must always be their mission. When people come to learn, they come on their own terms and we in libraries need to know how to facilitate this learning, to understand that access is important and more than just a book or an article. It's about librarians sharing. If you think of library as a civil service or a collection of books and not as a platform for community, stuff gets in the way: it is only going to get more expensive and more restrictive. It is the library's potential for innovation and re-invention that is important for building the knowledge component of a community.
It is the participatory piece: knowledge is learning, that is reading and writing, observation and experimentation. Libraries need to teach all of this, to go beyond knowledge consumption to creation. Librarians' roles are not to get someone a resource but to engage that person in something new and in active learning.
New tools in democracies, tools like Facebook and Twitter, give voice to those who haven't had one. This is the powerful aspect of this new framing of "collection development." They promote the search to answer the question, What do WE want to be? Librarians seeking reinvention need to reject "the deficit model" that promotes the message, Our community is broken because it is not the case and it's a tired and tiring message. We are not "lacking" nor do we need to feel guilty that, for example, schools need after-school programs and, thus, cede our place in community to other social needs.
Librarians are a radical force in society: society's views on copyright and intellectual access come from librarians, for example. We need to keep "our face" to the needs of the public.
Lankes' bio clearly suggests he brings a strong technology perspective on which to build his conceptualization of the kinds of libraries we need to create collaboratively with our respective communities in public, academic, and school contexts.
I recently cited Lankes in a report to the John Oliver Secondary School admin team on the new Learning Commons and in a paper "Just a Little Thing," submitted to 2012 Treasure Mountain event in Ottawa on the same topic. His thinking about Conversation Theory and the importance of creating meaningful "reading conversations" is particularly relevant to us in schools as we struggle to keep our place in the dialogue about literacy and to provide evidence that counteracts myths that kids aren't reading any more, myths that advance some cases for a place in the discourse over the place for school libraries and school learning commons:
How can teachers and teacher-librarians collaboratively construct such [meaningful reading] conversations?
Recent discourse in the field of reading deepens the connections for teacher-librarians amongst processes for learning, knowledge-creation, and community. R. David Lankes argues for community-building and connection, as opposed to collection, development when he suggests “that a functional view of librarianship has led us to focus too much on collections and artifacts (books, web pages, and the stuff we can point to) and not enough time on our most basic collection: our communities.” He draws on Conversation Theory and its implications for dynamic learning; that is, what is learned is a series of “tangles” or memory associations formed when participants engage in conversations that use common language and understandings to reach agreements or disagreements around new information that further shapes or re-shapes existing knowledge structures. As reading prompts internal conversations, readers make sense of the resources and artifacts collected in the context of inquiry-based learning. Teacher-librarians who understand how this works, suggests Lankes, construct learning as “participatory conversations”; they have something to contribute to the conversation.
For me, Lankes' case for re-consideration of the research about school libraries and Roberts' assertion that we are not in need of re-branding, we are not a "deficit model," made the whole day worthwhile. That, and Gino Bondi on school libraries needing to be "about hum and hub, not about hush." A much re-tweeted comment, my own response was: Couldn't have said it better myself, Bondi!
Inspired attendee Denise North, TL, Killarney, offers her Inspiration Summit conference notes with consideration of the implications for her own site: How might the Inspiration Summit help change the vision of the Killarney School Library?