MOOCing up Librarianship

During my final month of library school I decided to add one more item to my to do list: take the New Librarianship MOOC. The massive open online course (MOOC) was offered by Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies for graduate or continuing education credit, or just for fun. MOOCs can be a great way to supplement your library school education, so I enrolled just for fun as a final library school experience.

Previously Topher introduced the topic of new librarianship to Hack Library School readers, and Micah wrote an unbook unreview of Atlas to New Librarianship. The MOOC builds off of Atlas and primarily asks the question, What is librarianship when it is unmoored from cataloging, books, buildings, and committees? It explores the core of librarianship and seeks to generate discussion about the future of librarianship.

The mission of New Librarianship.
I’ve seen countless mission statements for libraries and information organizations, but not one for librarians. Do you agree with this mission statement? Do you have your own?

Syracuse’s iSchool runs its MOOCs on Blackboard technology. The New Librarianship lectures are pre-recorded videos from Dr. Lankes, Professor at Syracuse’s iSchool and author of Atlas to New Librarianship. Overall, the MOOC is well organized, easy to navigate, and all the embedded videos work. Plus it was aesthetically pleasing for a MOOC/online course. My MOOC experience didn’t feel too different from my school experience, since I am a distance learning student at a university that uses Blackboard. It felt similar to an asynchronous class, but with more engaging and easily accessible lectures. It was nice to see the presenter in addition to hearing the lecture and viewing the slides. Current distance learning library students will have no problem adapting to this MOOC format. It should still be a fairly quick adaption period for other library students or librarians.

What is great about MOOCs is that you can decide your level of involvement and tailor it to your learning style. I primarily watched the videos and read from Atlas. I chose not to complete quizzes and to avoid the discussion board in favor of the #newlib discussion feed on Twitter. Thousands of librarians enrolled in the MOOC and there were hundreds of posts, so the discussion board was a bit intimidating. Library students may be particularly interested in checking out the Week 2: Librarians discussion board, which includes topics about the MLS, library school admission, and rethinking library training.

I’ve seen some ideas for fixing the discussion board problem, including separating out the MOOC participants into more manageable chunks or introducing a chat room feature for live discussions among participants. Personally, I would have liked a discussion board section on the main MOOC site for easier access. My favorite solution though is from John Jackson who suggested a Reddit-style threading feature so that MOOC participants can organize the discussions by rating, number of responses, and rising threads, and can go straight to where the action is.

Overall, the #newlib conversation on Twitter was a great way to explore the ideas presented in the MOOC. The MOOC even contained a tab for the Twitter feed! I wish more courses (both MOOC and distance learning library school classes) took advantage of Twitter, since it was one of the most enjoyable experiences of the MOOC for me.

The takeaways
When I began the first week’s lecture videos late on a Sunday night, I thought, why did I sign up for this? This is my last four weeks of my MLIS. I’m overwhelmed by projects. I’m tired of school. I should go to bed. I’m so glad that I stuck it out and pressed play on the first lecture. Because there it was—the spark! The inspiration I had been waiting to experience during library school. Something new and engaging. So many interesting ideas and a kind of librarianship that made me feel valued.

Some ideas and takeaways from the MOOC:

  • Knowledge is created through conversations. New librarians facilitate conversations.
  • Librarianship changes all the time.
  • Librarians are radical positive change agents.
  • “A room full of books is simply a closet, but that an empty room with a librarian in it is a library.”
  • Kill the concept of the user/costumer/consumers. Instead look at the community as participants and individuals.
  • Share don’t lend.

Many library school courses focus on the information or organizations that librarians manage, but rarely focus on librarians. The MOOC offered a focus on librarians right off the bat. The first two weeks cover librarians, then move onto libraries and the community. New Librarianships empowers librarians (whether MLS/MLIS holders or paraprofessionals) by focusing on librarians, developing a mission statement for librarianship, and stating that librarians are agents of change. Ultimately, my greatest takeaway was found in the first week when Lankes referenced a quote from Alan Kay.

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

What a fantastic idea! If anything is taken away from the MOOC it should at least be that library science students and librarians have control over our future. We can invent it. We can create our own definitions.

Experience the MOOC yourself
The MOOC is accessible to anyone. You can access it simply by going to CourseSites and selecting the self-enroll option. Check out one of the first lecture videos to get a taste for the material and delivery before enrolling.

I’ve completed my MLIS coursework and this will be my final regular post for Hack Library School. Although the New Librarianship MOOC added extra work into my final semester, I am thankful that I decided to take it during that hectic time. It came at the perfect time and provided me with a much needed reminder: It is a wonderful time to become a librarian.

Did you take the New Librarianship MOOC? What are your thoughts on new librarianship?

5 replies

  1. thank you for sharing your thoughts after completing the MOOC. I was one of the students too, and since I live in NZ it was a particular treat for me. I ‘discovered’ David Lankes and the Atlas last year and have become an eager follower of the conversations he has started and which I try to facilitate within my exciting role as a school librarian. The MOOC forums were far too intimidating for me too, I like the idea of smaller, localised groups though, and so I concentrated on the sessions and the quizzes with back up reading where I needed clarification. Now as I continue my study toward my LIS degree via distance learning, I am continuing to change things here at school from the old user concept to the students leading the conversation towards their own creation of knowledge….


    • I’m glad that you got to participate in the MOOC and found a way for it to work with your learning style! I bet that many other MOOC participants, especially students, feel the same as you and would have preferred a smaller, localized group. Syracuse is probably going to do another MOOC soon and perhaps Hack Library School could help organize a library school student discussion group for that.


  2. I’m so glad knowing that there were more students out there (as crazy as me?) who decided to take the course in their last semester. And, I’m glad to find that your takeaways from the MOOC were the same as mine. After slaving away for endless homework assignments, I just wanted to finish classes and be *done.* But, I stuck with the course, and it was a refreshing way of entering the profession with a new outlook.

    Overall, I just enjoyed the conversations happening in the MOOC, although I was a backseat participant. One of the most interesting takeaways I had was the redefining of patrons as “members”–an indication that the library is actually changing in society, and that we can manage that change proactively, as well.

    Thanks for a wonderful summary of the course!


  3. I’m really happy to see that this blog commented about this course! I decided to take the MOOC as well – I’m still an undergrad student but I wanted to get the feel of a graduate online course before I apply to MLIS schools in the fall.

    I thought that Dr. Lankes’ points about librarians having to be involved in the community and moving beyond the idea of giving “stuff” to sharing ideas and connecting people was very well said. I’ve noticed this a lot within my own intern work at a library, and that the position is gradually becoming more dynamic. It’s impossible for any position to be delegated to just “stuff” (or in our case, books), but as we grow into the a society with a large access to information, to build connections. In this way, the path of librarianship is a profession of creation and facilitation, not just providing materials.


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