To the Community & Beyond: The Community is the Collection

Keynote Speaker, R. David Lankes
Keynote Speaker, R. David Lankes

Librarianship and the overall field of library and information science are in a current state of transition. The development of the role of the ‘new librarian’ is highly dependent on our recognition of the dynamic changes in the field in relation to the collections we maintain to provide service to the community.   The evolution of the collection in the last fifty years is dramatically different from that of the classical library. Today, we must alter not only our collections but also our mindset about the professional services libraries and librarians offer to maintain the high level of professionalism expected of us.

Symposium keynote speaker, R. David Lankes, Professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship at Syracuse University, addressed the audience on the idea of “The Turning Tide: From Collection Development to Community Facilitation.”

Lankes drew upon the evolving notion of community. Community has become a new media type in today’s age of librarianship, a component of the libraries collection. As part of the collection, librarians must reexamine the community’s role in the library. Lankes suggests a need to “weave and connect creative tissue among [the community]” by helping the community talk to itself. Unleashing community knowledge will help librarians gain the community’s perspective for making and knowledge creation.

The resulting mission of the new librarian is then to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in the communities they serve. Lankes stressed the importance of doing so by giving up the librarians’ current need to fill many public servant roles. Are we as librarians working at a library of city hall? Are we librarians or civil servants? To properly engage the community as part of the collection, Lankes says, librarians should instead act as the expert equipped with the specialized knowledge to modernize the collection by facilitating innovation and collaboration with community member skills. Lankes argues this is the fundamental spark and catalyst of the community, as librarians become caretakers of dreams and aspirations instead of pseudo-accountants.

When librarians and the community work together they break down the wall of service and work together to pick up the rubble through learning and human development.   This fosters feelings of ownership and involvement within the community. When librarians participate directly with the community, they will discover the best way to utilize and engage the community with itself.

Thus, Lankes believes, the library becomes a facilitated place, both physical and virtual, of learning and making. With less “posting and pointing” and more community advocacy. Transformative social engagement will make the community better by providing space to access community expertise. Including community as a dynamic component of a library’s collection allows librarians to aid in the learning and making process that improves society. Because, as Lankes reminds us, “knowledge is a uniquely human endeavor” so let us as librarians facilitate the process.

You May Also Like