Like many of my colleagues, I’ve spent the last four weeks participating in the New Librarianship Master Class MOOC offered by David Lankes at Syracuse University. I’ve had “The Atlas of New Librarianship” on my list of books to read since it came out, and was excited to take the class. I teach online and did my whole MLIS program online, so I think I have a pretty good background for evaluating the course based on its execution. I was not impressed by the presentation of course materials. I fully understand the limitations of the Blackboard Learn environment, but the course seemed very slapdash and like it could have been put together quickly. I appreciated the video lessons, this is one component that was lacking in many of my graduate courses, but they seemed repetitive and to lack depth.
I admit that I didn’t have the time to complete the (long) list of readings that accompanied the video lessons, but what I did read I thought could have been covered within the videos if Lankes had spent less time repeating anecdotes and concepts throughout each video. I got the impression that the videos weren’t made sequentially or perhaps were re-purposed from other iterations of this class for his Syracuse students. The quizzes were short and the questions were often confusing and didn’t seem to speak to what I considered the most important aspects of each lesson. I liked the opportunity for discussion on each piece of the week, but the Blackboard layout made it hard to track conversations. The first week was overwhelming and it was impossible to read through all of the discussion. I’ve also attempted to participate in Twitter discussions using the #newlib hashtag and found these useful (as others have stated).
I think I’m being especially critical because the message beaten into my head by the course is that libraries and librarians should be innovative and should be fostering knowledge creation in our communities, and I felt like this course didn’t meet those objectives. I’m a big believer in practicing what you preach, and I thought Lankes could have done a better job incorporating his vision into the course itself. I’ve read many blog posts and discussions criticizing the content of the course, but as I said, without having done the readings I don’t feel as though I’m prepared to do so in the same way.
I did like a lot of what Lankes had to say, and I welcome the forum/structure to discuss the future of librarianship with my colleagues. One thing that resonated with me has been the debate over “rockstar librarians” and who gets recognition in our field (see Matthew Ciszek’s post “’Rockstarism’ and Librarianship” and https://mrlibrarydude.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/image-public-perception-and-lego-librarians/photo-2/). As a new, young librarian I feel the pressure to be innovative and to make big exciting things happen. Lankes points this out in one of his lessons and draws attention to the fact that many young librarians get hired because supervisors thing young equals innovative, and that this prevailing attitude can influence older/more experienced librarians to either stay comfortable in the status quo or feel like their ideas won’t be taken seriously.
My experience working on ACRL committees and attending ALA Annual combined with the work in this course have made me feel a strange mix of energized and overwhelmed. On one hand I feel like I can’t wait to push boundaries and try new things, and on the other I feel like I haven’t done enough in my first 23 months as a librarian and that I’ll never catch up to some of those so-called rockstars. I have been thinking about this a lot, and had a moment recently that was eye opening. I have been working with the co-chair of the ACRL ULS Conference Planning Committee to put together a joint DLS and ULS program proposal for ALA Annual. We recently emailed librarians that we’d like to be panelists for our session if it’s accepted. One of them is definitely a library rockstar and if I named them you would likely know who this person is. They accepted our offer, but in an email wrote “. I feel the need to keep reminding folks that I am still a very early career librarian, and a lot of the initiatives I’m working on look/sound good because I know how to sell them as such online. They are playing out much more slowly and less “leadershipy” in reality.”
This kind of floored me because it made me realize that they work I’m doing IS valuable and IS worthy of recognition. I think it’s harder right now because I’m starting over in a new place (during the summer in an academic library no less!) and I feel like I haven’t found my niche here yet. I know I was doing great things at Cleveland but I don’t know how to translate what I’ve done in the past into my current role. I need to start publishing and would like to present more but I don’t know where I’m going with that yet. I have some ideas rolling around but feel like I need to get through a Fall semester before I can find my place here. I know that my committee work will keep me busy and engaged with the profession on a greater scale while I work on finding my voice here.