Quotes from Lankes 2016 Field Guide – Part 1: Librarians

(Post building over time as I record quotes & related thoughts. I’m looking for things that particularly resonate & things that challenge)

p. 4 – “Librarians can make a difference, but to do so, we must hold a proactive view of our profession and our communities”

p. 4 – “Too many librarians see our profession as a passive occupation: they stay safely in the background, ready to serve, but only within their libraries. That is wrong. Good librarians, the kind our communities need, see our profession as a chance not just to promote reading or inform their communities, but also to make a positive difference there. They see their mission as the improvement of society”

This really speaks to me & it so nicely articulates why & how I got involved in the proofreading issue in the Faculty. Many of my colleagues could never see the legitimacy of my involvement but this section expresses, in general terms, exactly what I couldn’t. 

Let’s briefly explore: International HDR students coming on board but struggling to express work in written English (studying & socialising in their language communities led to the loss of their English capabilities over time making it very difficult to write up their dissertations) → Came to me as someone they could trust to proofread their work as the Research Division did not acknowledge this as an issue needing resolution even though the uni was attempting to improve its research profile → Not part of my job but I helped out in my own time as these students are people on the other side of the world from their extended families & friends, often in countries suffering war or lots of violence. Also, these students would go home with their PhDs to help rebuild their distressed communities → Doing the proofreading on a voluntary basis let me get to know these clients better, gave me opportunities to explore library services with them, let develop a much improved understanding of the research being done & the general research environment being experienced by the students → Let me see other ways I might work with clients to support their work & the uni’s goals & research insights fed into ways I could deliver undergraduate info lit. Also, was eventually able to convince the Dean that proofreading support was necessary for his HRD students & he discussed the proposed policy with me as the person most familiar with the big picture issue demonstrating executive level respect for the Library’s role & performance within the organisation as a whole ⇒ Improvements for research students & their supervisors, library, me & uni as a whole

p. 8 – “Librarianship grows and adapts to the present because it adopts and adapts the social constructs of the communities it services”

This is especially important in a rapidly changing & increasingly disruptive environment. So, we can’t identify or legitimise our contribution according to the tasks we perform, we need to have a higher level identification than that. There’s support for this link that I’m making in the research about disruption.

p. 14 – “One huge problem with this approach is what I call the “functional view” of the profession, that is defining librarians by what they do”

I agree that this is a big problem for the profession. It gives us “nodes of practice” but no overarching theory that connects them. I think that this probably creates problems about professional identity & legitimacy that can lead a reasonable proportion of librarians to focus on stereotypes to the detriment of their impact & perhaps development as professionals over time. This becomes a big issue in our rapidly changing & increasingly disruptive environments – it encourages us to focus on ourselves & react to our clients. In this environment, we need to understand our clients so we can be proactive & remain relevant in the disruptive environments (I’m pretty sure there’s research which shows how understanding clients & customers allows organisations to flourish in disruptive environments). If I’ve overstated things here, at the very least, it leads us to spend time worrying about stereotypes when we could be spending that precious time better understanding our clients.

p. 17 – “The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities”

I think that we need to be very careful about how we define communities. Two of the things that I thought about when I took on the proofreading issue were: 1. In supporting these students, I was helping them get ready to help their communities back home make life better (their communities were often in the third world); 2. Often people in non-Western countries see us as selfish etc. Some of us are but many of us are not & I wanted the students to go home & be able to talk about the generosity they experienced here – I saw that as bridging gaps in a very small way. So for me, the community was really the world.

p.17 – The mission statement “provides both direction to a group and a benchmark to test new activities and concepts against”

p. 17 – “However closely libraries have been associated with collections, the items collected were almost always tools to serve a higher purpose”

This is exactly how I have seen things for all of my professional life. For a long time I couldn’t articulate it so took on the information professional mantle because everyone else did but was never comfortable with it & never really fit in with the dominant world view of the libraries where I’ve worked. Talking about collections as tools but the focus being on people (& their knowledge creation & sharing activities) sums up 20+ years of practice for me.

p. 18 – “Through all of this history, the librarians, historians, monks, and clerks in libraries have sought a better tomorrow though learning and knowledge”

Fabulous – continuity of purpose over centuries & perhaps in some way can help articulate a professional legitimacy as well as identity???

p. 19 – “No matter how different the missions of their libraries, the mission of the librarians remains the same – improving society through facilitating knowledge creation. That the missions for libraries and librarians differ makes sense since … libraries as institutions must reflect the unique aspirations and characteristics of individual communities, whereas librarians must  e ab le to function as professionals across a wide range of contexts.”

I wonder if this is more obvious to librarians who have worked in different sectors?

I’m not comfortable with just knowledge creation. I think that I need to add knowledge sharing as the actual sharing by oneself is often very important to clients. Also, sharing is important to me as a practitioner. And, it sets up the reciprocity aspect of professional practice that is really important to me.

p. 20 – “Our mission is vital, but insufficient to uniquely identify or guide our profession. To it, we must add … our means of facilitation and our values”

If I do develop a framework for development, this is important as the means of facilitation will probably be different for different kinds of librarians – according to role such as content management & ontology which will be diverse according to roles, identity (eg info prof) & situation (eg. qualified librarian but not yet in a librarian’s position).

p. 21 – I’ve often wondered if we can justify calling ourselves professionals (especially when we don’t have any means of ensuring that people are competent), but this quote helps me feel that it is a legitimate way to identify librarianship:

“Every day, librarians must make a choice between doing what’s easy, doing what’s right, and determining what’s right in the first place. No textbook or mission statement or policy document can relieve us of the necessity to make those decisions, nor remove the complexity of those decisions. That’s why we are librarians and why librarians are professionals, not clerks”

p. 23 – “So you’re a librarian on a mission to improve society. You are not alone … One of the key things that separate you from many other professions is that you seek to do it with a firm focus on knowledge. That is, a librarian seeks to improve communities and society through making them smarter”

p. 24 – “To be a librarian is not simply about knowing how to change things, but about knowing why things are done. And what underlies our knowledge-based profession is the nature of knowledge itself. The way we understand the process of becoming knowledgeable (learning) affects the services we offer, the way we organize resources, the way we evaluate our performance and ultimately the value we provide as professionals to our communities and to society as a whole”

I think that this is a critical point. It’s the understanding that we demonstrate to our clients that opens them up to the things we have to offer. Here’s an example:

I’ve worked with Engineering & Spatial Sciences people for a little over a decade. At first I struggled to understand where they were coming from but, I hung in there & I started to understand them & see that sometimes we understood our world quite differently & couldn’t quite meet while at other times, we took different journeys to the same destination. Either way, the more we interacted, the more we understood each other & the more we enjoyed each other. I eventually came to a short hand description of the world – “numbers boys, word girl”.

As the years went by, I was able to contribute to conversations with greater frankness without people feeling that their territory was being challenged. In fact, people began telling me that I occupied their territory just as they did while I saw myself on the margins of that territory. So, when I spoke up on this issue, I new that although it was a risk, it was something that I could pull off.

A couple of academics raised concerns that the students didn’t have the ability to think sufficiently analytically to complete the project tasks that they were being assigned. That didn’t surprise me as I’d been watching students unable to respond to a task by thinking like an engineer (to the level that was appropriate). When we were doing info lit work, I’d often ask them what an engineer would think about in this situation or how is your lecturer asking you to thinking things through in these contexts or how would you apply the problem solving cycle. Many students struggled with these questions, they even seem surprised that I would ask them. Working with uni students for so long, I wasn’t terribly surprised by this – I could remember being in similar situations when I did my first degree & our lecturers & tutors despairing.

The meeting talked around the issue for a while & the concerned academics were becoming a little frustrated that they weren’t really getting any traction. So, I spoke about my experiences. I explained what happened when I asked students the above questions & then asked whether it was possible that part of the issue could be that the students weren’t developing a professional identity during their studies. I was able to explain how, when I worked with Surveying students transitioning to an Urban Planning topic, I was able to get students to talk about how Planners would try to think through the issue. It was hard for them (they had to move from “hard science” thinking to “social sciences” thinking) but I felt that I had a hook to grab on to with them because the Planning courses were working explicitly to help students develop a professional identity. They could take that glimpse of an identity & start to figure out what questions they needed to ask to help them find the information that they needed.

I’d been working with the Planning academic/s for several years & our info lit support deliberately sought to help students develop their professional identity so I’d done reading & thinking on the topic. That reading had confirmed a conclusion about an important issue for professional identity development in the Engineering students – that their identity was often caught up in their survival of a very hard university program rather than an awareness of their growing ability to think like Engineers.

I asked if the pedagogies that they were using did actually support their students’ ability to think like Engineers. Nobody was offended or objected, people genuinely thought about it (though the meeting didn’t come to a conclusion about taking some action to change things).

A week later one of the concerned Engineering academics approached me & said how much she appreciated what I had said, & that people listened to me because the recognised that (from my position in the School) I saw things that they couldn’t. And, that I could talk about those things in a way that made people willing to listen. Had I been able to continue to work, I would have been trying to leverage that discussion to progress info lit embedding. That mutual understanding & respect also came to the fore a little later when the other Engineering school approached me about the review of one of its undergrad programs & how they’d come to the conclusion that the refreshed program should have info lit embedded across it as a knowledge management theme.

Being able to understand why my clients thought & did things, was the reason we’d gotten ourselves to this point. I was really disappointed to have to leave at this point but I hope to hear how my replacement progresses from here. I’d like to think that I was a really effective custodian of the relationships between the library & each school, & that I have left her in a position to seriously progress info lit in a really new way for the library & both schools.

p. 34 – “I can’t stress it enough: we must be credible if we are to fulfil our mission as librarians. If our communities don’t trust us, we can’t help them improve. That trust must be earned over time, however, and granted to us by our communities. Trust comes from a mutual respect, not from a disputable neutrality that refuses to take stands. In the language of learning, we must be credible conversants”

p. 43 – “Librarians facilitate knowledge creation through access, knowledge, environment, and motivation”

I love this – I think that some librarians in the technical side of systems & collections might struggle a bit to find a way to identify with knowledge as a driver rather than information as a driver & this quote makes it clear that it’s an identity meant for everyone so people may be more motivated to hear things out.

But, I think that for these librarians & librarians dealing in areas related to the reference services tradition, if they are behaviourists, there’s a big gap between knowledge as a driver & information as a driver which would be difficult to overcome. I suspect that a discussion around behaviourism & constructivism would have to come first. This would also reflect any framework that I develop.

p. 66 – “A librarian is defined by a mission, a set of facilitating tools, and a set of values that underlie the entire profession. These values are:

  • service;
  • learning;
  • openness;
  • intellectual freedom and safety; and 
  • intellectual honesty”  (bold is mine not Lankes’)

p. 67 – “Here’s the thing, the only way you can empower someone is to first empower yourself. You can’t teach someone to read unless you can read. You can’t help someone find and use resources unless you have some proficiency in information seeking. To empower, we librarians must become powerful. Not powerful to impose our views on others, but powerful to make others powerful. In this model, librarians serve as stewards for our communities. We steward our communities’ resources and allocated power (through a charter or a budget line) to achieve some mutually agreed-upon end. We are “of the community” in that we and our communities have a voice in how that stewardship is accomplished, and, most important, both benefit from the stewardship. As librarians, we have a stake in our communities improving because when they improve so does our own standing and thus also our ability to be of greater service”

Check Meaning of steward & stewardship. They aren’t words that I use so I’m not actually sure that I know what they mean.

Empowerment is definitely a role that an adaption of Elbaz could play & in the end the reason that I want to work it up.

p. 70 – Value of openness – “Openness is also about transparency. The word of librarians should be to open to community comment and, of course, participation … (goes on to tell a story about set up of 3D printer) He wanted to figure out how the printer worked, of course, but, more than that, he wanted the process of learning to be open and to serve as an example to staff and community members … alike”

I have examples of this in my pedagogy of practice.

p. 70 – “My frequent use of “professional” in this guide is meant to constantly remind you that a librarian is not some clerk mindlessly applying pre-determined tools and procedures. To be a professional is to make decision, work through ambiguity, and balance competing priorities”

There are a couple of points here: 1. Some librarians do see the role as administrative with a strong element of clerical | 2. Some managers also see the role as administration with at least some element of clerical | 3. If a librarian sees herself/himself as an “information professional”, is it easier to take on the administration & clerical as part of their identity?

p. 72 – “We’ve now explored the three major factors that define a librarian: 1. Our mission: to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in our communities; 2. Our means of achieving that mission: facilitating two way access to conversations and resources to spark conversations; building knowledge; provide a safe environment; and build on the motivations of our community members; and 3. The core values that underlie our work: service, learning, openness, intellectual freedom and safety and intellectual honesty” (bold is mine not Lankes’)

Check: Have academics or students ever referred someone to me to help a student find information when they are also hoping that process will help the student to think better about their topic/question? Marita’s project students will be candidates here & so might MEC3203.

p. 73 – “Librarians are principles professionals working with their communities in transformative social engagement”

This needs unpacking to ensure that I understand its meaning. Not every client (Lankes uses word “member”) & client-librarian interaction requires transformation as part of their engagement with us.

Check: What does Lankes mean when he says “transformative”? May need to follow up through the Atlas

Check: Participatory era report which I have downloaded &, if necessary, Lankes, Stephens & Arjona 2015

pp. 73-4 – “There are three means of entering our profession: by degree, by hire, and by spirit”

What about the people who qualify but take a good amount of time to get a librarian’s position, particularly people who do gain their quals because they really, really possess that spirit? Could they get valuable E-related awareness & growth to help them get a librarian’s position or develop & maintain meaningful growth & work?

p. 75 – “The mission of librarians and museum professionals is to foster conversations that improve society through knowledge exchange and social action”

p. 75 – Salzburg Curriculum driven by “core values:

  • Openness and transparency
  • Self-reflection
  • Collaboration
  • Service
  • Empathy and respect
  • Continuous learning/striving for excellent (which requires lifelong learning) – me – should it be excellence?
  • Creativity and imagination”

p. 76 – Salzburg Curriculum specifies “a set of key areas of knowledge (“curricula topics”):

  • Transformative Social Engagement
  • Technology
  • Management for Participation (Professional Competencies)
  • Asset Management
  • Cultural Skills
  • Knowledge, Learning and Innovation”

p. 76 – Transformative Social Engagement (table reproduced):

p. 77 – “Service requires you to make decisions, to prioritize one activity over another, for example, or select one resource over another. No longer can libraries believe they do good in society without recognizing that they actively shape both what that good and what society are”

p . 77 – Technology (table reproduced):


My PLE concept fits nicely into Technology but also draws on some of the other tables – I don’t think I have the original document so I should work up again with this new input to consider

p. 79 – Asset Management (table reproduced):


p. 80 Cultural Skills (table reproduced):


Need to work up Hall with relation to this table & Knowledge, Learning & Innovation table & check for relevance to other tables

p. 82 – Knowledge, Learning, and Innovation (table reproduced):

knowledge-learn-innovat-table.PNGI can definitely use Salzburg in my work. It’s just as relevant to LLL over the course of one’s professional practice as it is to university students.

As well as dealing with innovation, we need to deal with environments where innovation is happening but is not acknowledged for workplace political reasons. Innovators need to be able maintain an awareness of their work which will help them stay motivated to keep performing rather than become demoralised. Palmer 2007 will be useful here – professional vitality.

p. 85 – Management for Participation (table reproduced):


pp. 86- 7 – Fabulous points relating to advocacy – need to work through & record appropriately here

p. 88 – Assessment – “There are ways you can learn how to assess the work of librarians outside of the context in which they work”

pp. 91-2 – “You don’t give up your humanity, your desires, your passions or your views when you become a librarian. What you sign on to provide, however, is service that is open and inclusive”

This strikes me for two reasons:  1. I often feel that we do things & talk about things in a way that “greys them out”. I’ve talked about this with a colleague who also feels that we do this. I wonder if this is because neither of us takes a administrative view of librarianship?  2. I’ve really got to explore post-modernism properly if I’m going to have a shot at developing this framework – I like post-modernism but it’s such hard work. Perhaps research educators who work with people in the work environment might give me a “digestible in” before I go further?

p. 92 – “As librarians, we are pragmatic utopians” – a very, very interesting way of describing us 🙂



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