Internet Librarian International (ILI) 2012 – day 1 Keynote

It`s that time of the year again – ILI in London! This was my 5th consecutive ILI, and here are some of my notes and thoughts from the conference.

This year the conference took place at a proper conference centre (Kensington Olympia – no luxuries, but perfectly adequate for ILI) instead of the usual hotels. Moving the conference to a conference centre was a very good idea! I could hardly believe my luck as I could get online the entire time at the conference. As one delegate said: What`s ILI without bad wifi? So – good job with the venue.

This year, there was a 25 % increase in number of delegates from last year, and 32 countries were represented.

I was very excited about the first keynote as it was to be given by David Lankes, the author of “The atlas to new librarianship”. Unfortunately, Mr. Lankes was in bad health and couldn`t travel to London. He had instead made a recording. I was very disappointed at first, but he did a very good job presenting, and after five minutes or so, I could really emerge into it.

David Lankes talked about how tools have always been our forte (books, material..). Now, other tools are in demand, Google being one example. Instead of embracing this as a useful new tool, a lot of librarians are worried.

The core of our business is helping people to knowledge, Lankes said. We should be the gateway to knowledge and sharing collections with the community. That is why we shouldn`t see the glut of information beyond our library services as a threat to our library roles, but to get back to a sharing model.
Lankes then spent some time explaining why we need to drop the lending model and get on with the sharing model, and he illustrated this with an example: The dinner party. If you invite people to a set plate dinner party, and your guest suddenly decides to bring friends to your party, you will run around in your kitchen trying to find more food for everyone (= the lending model). If you invite people to a potluck party, the more friends your invited guests bring, the more variety of dishes you will have (provided everyone follows the rules) (=the sharing model). He further illustrated this with the well-known fax machine example. The first one was useless. It needed a network to be of any use. But, said Lankes, there is a problem: When everyone is trying to use a network of limited availability, it can get slower and more difficult to use, like bandwith. This problem also exists in libraries.

Librarians, Lankes continued, should not only link users to resources, but also work as a hub between people. We should be initiators of conversations. It is the librarians who create the library, not the other way around.

Who decides what “new librarianship” is all about? It is created every day. We are not guardians of knowledge, but we can be people that our users (I`m sorry, Mr Lankes, I cannot call them “members”. This is not a club..) want to talk to, initiators of learning. We do not have to lead sessions all the time, some times our users/patrons/people can do it themselves if we give them the chance.

Many of the indicators that we use say little about what we really do, and they are therefore of little value to us. How do we measure having contributed to someones learning experiences? How do we measure having helped someone to better self-esteem?

Lankes continued with: We should always ask ourselves two questions: What is a library? and What role can I as a librarian play?

The library is not a supermarket, Lankes said. We must reject the consumer model. We have to stop tricking people into using the library, with commersials and special offers. Libraries don`t work by that model. Libraries should be less like supermarkets, and more like really good kitchens. We want libraries to be a place where our users/patrons/people can create and learn, a place where people can come together.

All in all, I thought it was an uplifting keynote, and a good start to the conference. Of course, as in most keynotes, there is much philospohy and little pragmatism, but then.. that`s what keynotes are for. Would have been great to have him around for Q & A, but.. I thank David Lankes for his inspiration, and for sharing his ideas, and I hope he gets well soon.

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