Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thread 5: Improving Society

As I make my way through the Atlas, I really appreciate the discussions in this thread. Lankes highlights several terms that I hear bandied about in the library without much explanation as to their importance. Let's take policy, for example. With each change in supervisors comes a discussion of policy, but what the heck is its purpose and how much do we have to have? Lankes argues for as little as possible, only enough to facilitate decision-making (as opposed to removing the possibility of making a decision) (2011, p. 125). A lot of the policy (much of which was unwritten, so does it count?) that was in place when I started working at the library truly was designed to remove all decision-making from our purview. Changes in leadership brought about policy that liberated us to make judgement calls of our own, a freedom I found exhilarating. It's made us a much better department overall. Of course, it also helped unleash the evangelist within that now wants to jump on board the librarian gospel train to spread the good news about knowledge and learning to anyone and everyone who will listen.

Speaking of leadership, there's a lovely section in this thread devoted to just that. After a caution against conflating leadership with bureaucracy (Lankes, 2011, pp. 132-133), the author follows up with a discussion of leadership as risk (p. 134). Really, I find no prospect more personally terrifying or rewarding than that of putting myself out there for scrutiny - it goes back to the power issue. That, of course is where leadership begins: even though failure looms, it's too frustrating to sit back and not try something. So you jump in, perhaps armed with a ball of thread to find your way out, perhaps not.

Lankes turns to the St Crispen's Day Speech from Shakespeare's Henry V for inspiration at such moments (2011, p. 135) Me, I turn to descent stories. Any good story of descending into the underworld is going to include a map of where you're going, the kind of help you can expect along the way, the obstacles you're likely to face and the boons you'll gain from the entire process. Ideally, you'll be able to bring back some of those boons to your community. Let's see, then. "The mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities " (Lankes, 2011, p. 117). It may just be that fulfilling that mission looks an awful lot like a journey to the underworld, regardless of how you got there.

Lankes, R. David. The Atlas of New Librarianship (pp.117-135). Cambridge: MIT Press.

No comments:

Post a Comment