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The Atlas of New Librarianship – a review

October 11, 2011

Earlier this year, the review editors for portal: Libraries and the Academy asked if I would consider reviewing The Atlas of New Librarianship by David Lankes. I agreed, because I’m generally interested in current attempts to recast libraries, librarians, and librarianship. What emerged and recently appeared in portal (warning: paywall) was a fairly negative review, perhaps made more pointed by the necessity of cuts for space considerations. For those who are interested in reading the submitted version (author’s final version, in the parlance of open access), I’m publishing it here with a Creative Commons license. Please feel free to comment on the review.

  1. October 24, 2011 12:24

    BRAVO! I agree with everthing you’ve critiqued about Lankes’ text book.
    I only add that he appears to be seriously working his SLIS audience for validation (i.e. website, blog, etc.). That seems like the least influential audience to me, unless he’s abandoned the current librarianship profession as a lost cause for SLIS students who will embrace his world vision of new librarianship.

    • October 24, 2011 15:44

      Thanks, Steve. I would characterize his approach somewhat differently, but what I see developing for which this book is somewhat of a bellwether is a fracturing of the profession, where group A of librarians is going in one direction and group B is headed in another. I don’t mean the line librarian/administrator divide that some would draw, but rather groups based around skillsets and responsibilities, so more of an IT vs. public services conflict.

      The library and the librarians of which Lankes writes strike me as something I know from the not-too-distant past, having started my career in public services. What I recognize, however, is that in the space of not all that many years, the job through which I entered libraries would be a marked anachronism were it posted today. Conversely, much of the work I direct now hadn’t even been widely articulated then. Lankes, for all his modern terminology and acceptance of the changes that continue around us, writes of librarians as if we were still in that former scenario. I’m oversimplifying a bit here, but all of the pathos-laden missives appearing these days about the critical contributions of librarians seem to be trying to preserve an existing set of roles rather than create or accept new ones.

      • October 24, 2011 16:22

        Again, I have to wholeheartedly agree. Librarianship of the future has little similarity to that of the past for so many 21st Century external influences. Thus my assertion that discontinuous thinking is more appropriate now to the profession than simple evolution. “Discontinuous change requires discontinuous thinking. If the new way of doing things is going to be different from the old, not just an improvement on it, then we shall need to look at everything in a new way.” Handy, 1989.


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