New Librarianship MOOC: The Importance of Worldview and Mission

A consistently appealing aspect of R. David Lankes’s “New Librarianship Master Class”—a massive open online course (MOOC) under the auspices of the University of Syracuse School of Information Studies— and his book The Atlas of New Librarianship is how much further they reach beyond the obvious target audience of librarians.

New_Librarianship_Master_Class_LogoGiven that so many members of library staff are involved in facilitating learning within the onsite and online communities they serve, it’s no surprise that Lankes’s expressed hope “that members and communities beyond libraries find value in the Atlas” (p. 11) does, in fact, match the potential to appeal to many involved in training-teaching-learning regardless of whether our work takes place in public, academic, or special libraries; in (other) academic settings; or in the workplace learning and performance (staff training) programs served by my colleagues in the American Society for Training & Development.

At the heart of this expansive approach within the course and book is worldview, a topic nicely addressed in Lankes’s Week 1 taped lecture “The Importance of Worldview”; a second taped lecture—“The Mission of Librarians”—adds even more context to any discussion we have.

Lankes begins by reminding us that worldview helps shape the very questions we ask (e.g., “What is the future of Libraries?”) and, therefore, shapes the ideas we consider and the actions we take as a result of our explorations. In a particularly fruitful example of how questions and worldview affect the world we help create, he takes us through variations that product distinctly different responses and results:

  • “What is the future of libraries?” becomes
  • “What should be the future of libraries?”—a less deterministic view in that is doesn’t assume there is one already clearly-defined future to consider—then becomes
  • “What should be the future of libraries and librarians?”—which then becomes
  • “What should be the future of libraries and librarians in a democracy?”

And that’s where an astute reader makes the leap that Lankes facilitates without directly adding it to his agenda: applying that style of employing a series of evolving questions to challenge and reshape our worldview can have a positive impact within any profession—particularly the field of teaching-training-learning. This, for me, is another confirmation of my own long-held belief that librarianship is in significant ways part of the larger playing field of training-teaching-learning rather than being a field completely unto itself.

“Worldviews matter,” Lankes says in his lecture. “Worldviews help us shape policy. They really do shape our thinking.”

Furthermore—in defining the mission of librarianship as “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities”—he tells us in his “Mission” lecture that “Journalists can see themselves with this mission statement. Teachers can see that. Publishers. Authors. Lots of folks can see that mission, so the mission statement is not enough to define librarianship.” But it is enough to remind us that we have colleagues and potential partners across the aisle, and that tremendous collaborations that serve our overlapping communities of interest are possible if we’re willing to step away from our traditional desks and workspaces to engage with those potential collaborators.

Lankes also, in that lecture on mission, explicitly confirms that “in new librarianship, we focus primarily on how people learn….Learning theory becomes a fundamental part of the worldview of librarianship, of new librarianship.”

If we are astute enough to pursue this line of inquiry and action, all of us involved in teaching-training-learning—whether within or outside of libraries—will be closer to playing the transformative role that Lankes documents in his book and course, and that our profession-vocation inspires.

N.B.: This is the second in a series of posts inspired by the New Librarianship MOOC.

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