Introduction

Each chapter includes a video by the author, the chapter’s text, annotated commentary by the author, discussion prompts, and examples from libraries. The annotations are the highlighted portions of text, and clicking on one will reveal the annotation information on the right side of the page. Readers are invited to create accounts on the Hypothesis platform [the technology that manages the annotations] and add their own commentary to the chapters. This is a participatory conversation – please join in!

Introduction to New Librarianship from R. David Lankes on Vimeo.

I believe that great librarianship, the kind you should expect, crosses boundaries. Great librarianship is great whether it is in academia, the public sphere, or K–12 schools. For that reason, this book is not about expecting more from public libraries or from school libraries, but from all libraries. School libraries have a lot to teach all good libraries about issues of assessment and learning. Public libraries have a lot to share about working with a wide range of demographics. Academic libraries understand the power of knowledge creation. Corporate libraries, and the ever-present bottom line, can teach us all about measuring impact.

Throughout this book I will use the word communities a lot. I mean this term in a very broad sense. While I will talk more about this in Chapter 6, the bottom line is that a community is a group of people who come together around a commonality. Communities form where people live, and where they study or work. A university is a community, as is a law practice, as is a hospital.

My goal in this book is to show you the potential of libraries to improve your community and society in general. That potential will never be realized if libraries or their communities build up rigid boundaries of library types. You can use what works in little libraries to inform your big library. Ideas that start in public libraries can be successfully used in academia or businesses.

Where I can, I have tried to include examples from multiple types of libraries. However, realize that this is more about building bridges than erecting walls. You should expect your library and your community to look across all categories of libraries for what works, and not be so rigid about what they choose to consider “peer institutions.” Innovation comes from everywhere and it is up to us to fit that innovation to our world.

A Special Note for Librarians

This book is for you to use when working with your communities. The main ideas are explored in much greater depth and in a more librarian-centric way in The Atlas of New Librarianship and The New Librarianship Field Guide. If you would like to promote or build on concepts you find here (or are looking for more reasons to disagree) I recommend reading the Atlas and Field Guide.