The Librarian and the Community

Dr. Lankes’ “The Atlas of New Librarianship” provides a very definitive lens for library students to consider–or, more accurately, reconsider–the relationship library professionals have with their respective communities. What strikes me in particular is the notion of the librarian as motivator.

“You must facilitate the knowledge from access, to knowledge, to environment, to motivation.”

The two questions this statement raises are:
“what CAN motivate your patrons?” and “how can we motivate our patrons?”

The supposition that fruits in the shadow of these questions is that everyone can indeed be motivated to (want to) learn. Librarians I’ve talked to about this have been fairly divided on this point. One of my supervisors posits that motivation in academic libraries goes as far as “empower[ing] them to find the resources.” The mindset here is that successful independent searches can lead to further attempts to search for information. An elementary school librarian on the other hand, is ALL ABOUT fostering that drive to learn any and everything and motivating students when that drive seems to languish.

In my interpretation of Dr. Lankes’ point, the role of the librarian as motivator should strike an appropriate balance for the particular user or group of users in question. I imagine that the larger/broader the audience, the more subtle the manifestation of active motivation should be.

So how do we as library scholars go about figuring out the answers to these questions? How will I know what will motivate my patrons? and how?

As I continue to participate in the near west side, Little Free Library project, I hope to find the answer to these questions. If they exist.



About darrenjglenn

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2 Responses to The Librarian and the Community

  1. Hi Darren,
    You pose some very fundamental issues regarding the role of the librarian toward their community of users. I think it is an important distinction to make between academic and school librarians vs. public librarians in this role. The former seem to have an intrinsic role in motivating their users, where the latter does not, in my opinion. I agree that the level of motivation should be an appropriate balance for the particular audience.
    I offer the dialog between Dr. Lankes, myself and others in response to my Book Review: R. David Lankes – The Atlas of New Librarianship Post of 30 August on my 21st Century Library Blog, as a deeper perspective on this conversation. The Sep 8 “Final Review:” Post also has some dialog worth considering.

  2. darrenjglenn says:

    Hi Dr. Matthews,
    Sorry it took me a little while to get through the dialogue between you and Dr. Lankes. You’re both highly knowledgeable and sharply opinionated scholars… I needed to take it in a little at a time.

    You don’t mince words when you said that you “accept” his motivation theory (among others) as just that… a theory. This particular aspect of Lankes’ perspective on new librarianship proved troublesome for me as well and (though) he can be wearyingly pedantic at times (in person and in the book) I still, cautiously*, wish that he had spent more time fleshing out the idea of access to motivation.

    Since I wrote this original post and read your comment I’ve had time to think about Motivation as a part of the mission of librarians and the idea has actually begun to sit much more comfortably with me. Dr. Lankes’ extrapolation of his intent and inspiration for the Atlas… on your blog helped tremendously to shed some light on this particular issue.

    To put it briefly: If you accept that knowledge has the power to improve society and that as a librarian, facilitating access to knowledge creates productive micro and macro-political dialogues and thus positive social change, then motivating communities and individuals to pursue the information services available to them and develop a requisite information literacy is perhaps not so much of an absurd calling. Of course, you’d have to embrace a mission oriented view of “the profession” before cozying up to such a notion. Further, I’m starting to see flaws in relegating such motivation to exclusively school/children’s librarians (an assertion that both of us have alluded to).

    Obviously, motivation is a critical element in working with patrons beginning and in elementary education. But it doesn’t have to end there or take a solely overt form. We’re clever folk. Perhaps there is an innovation bound up in this discourse to provide motivational relationships to all patrons without being obnoxious, clumsly or tactless.

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