Please welcome Brian Leaf who is graduating with an MSLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2011. He writes at and tweets from @bdleaf. Brian’s interests include instructional design, library marketing/outreach, and emerging technologies. Someday, he hopes to take a leadership role in library administration and education policy. Read on for his take on how and why he decided to join up with HackLibSchool.

I’ve been watching HackLibSchool since the idea was proposed in a guest post at In the Library with a Lead Pipe last fall. I found myself intrigued but skeptical, only making minor contributions to the Wiki and Google Doc. I wondered how much energy should actually been poured into this effort when there are plenty of other opportunities to take advantage. There’s no shortage of projects to work on and skills to learn. There are also dozens of library and information blogs out there already, and I’m personally hundreds of posts behind on Google Reader–not to mention my master’s thesis, the job hunt, various committees, work projects, class projects, my own blog, and Thursday night salsa dancing. To be frank, I feel like I should be more concerned about looking out for Number 1.

As adopted buzz phrases like the “library echo chamber” or the “big tent of librarianship” have emerged, and observing the various campaigns being put forth throughout the library world, there’s no doubt in my mind that there are some fantastic and entrepreneurial information professionals out there. Then I remember something in “Information Architecture for the World Wide Web” about the world producing at least 1-2 exabytes (1 Exabyte= 1,000,000,000 Gigabytes) of data every year1. I also remember reading about how scholarly research also often goes unused or unnoticed for years before being uncovered or making a contribution2. With all the great ideas I imagine we all have, I start to understand that we are not as united as we could or should be, and that many of these ideas go the way of a lot of scholarly publications. But we’re the ones driving the future of the librarianship—not our LIS programs, and not our membership to professional organizations (which isn’t to say they’re not, just that we’re not all there yet).

It’s a tough environment. We want to change things and we want to know that we’ll have a job at the end of the day (or upon graduation), but the climate is far from stable. What’s the future of library and information services? What do we need to know or do to thrive in the modern world when it seems like we’re getting left in the dust? How can we be a positive force in the world when our profession is at odds with itself and others? Like in the show LOST, we’re kind of stuck on an island, and we don’t know where we’re going as a collective. But as Jack says at the beginning of the show: “If we can’t work together, we’re going to die alone.”

A decade ago, the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science (JELIS) published an article called “The Panda Syndrome: An Ecology of LIS Education3.” The authors examine the LIS profession and education from an evolutionary framework, and lead into their discussion with an interesting statement: “Individual organizations will be created, thrive or fail to thrive, and die and be replaced by organizations better suited to the changing niche” (House and Sutton 58). Information and information services has been the niche of librarians for centuries; but as it evolves, so must its stewards–or else we may be in danger of being expelled.

There are no superheroes to rescue us, and no magic bullet (or Cupid’s arrow) that will suddenly make us important and valued to everyone. However, I’m willing to bet that we’re going to get a lot farther together rather than alone, which is why I’m throwing in with HackLibSchool.

1Based on a follow-up study by Berkeley done in 2003, which claims 5 exabytes of information was produced in 2002.

2Halliday, L. (2001). Scholarly communication, scholarly publication and the status of emerging formats. Information research, 6(4):6-4.

3House, Nancy V., and Stuart A. Sutton “The Panda Syndrome: An Ecology of LIS Education.” Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 41.1 (2000): 52-68.

Categories: Hellos & Goodbyes

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2 replies

  1. I find it a bit odd that as concerned as people who are consumers of library school education, and our professional counterparts are (1), are professors seem strangely insulated from our concerns. I know academia is slow to change by these very same conversations have been happening for close to a decade(2). It almost seems that as institutions have begun to realize the problems they have begun to move the problem online so they don’t have to really deal with it.

    Their are probably structural barriers to fixing problems. However, Maybe we should stop thinking about hacking library school, and start thinking about organizing around the issues of MLIS students and professional transition? Hack Library School is certainly a very important first step.

    1. How to Dissuade
    2. Revolting Librarians Redux – Katia Roberto,Jessamyn Charity West


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