Reflection upon introduction and first thread of The Atlas of New Librarianship

I really enjoy that the theme of social action runs throughout the Atlas.  It is discussed to some degree in the introduction, but is also inherent to the mission statement (Lankes, 2011).  I think this mission is in accord with Syracuse University’s pledge to scholarship in action found on the University’s webpage (, and is a personal mission I try to carry throughout my work and studies.

The main mission stated throughout the threads, often with accompanying graphics, is that “the mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” (Lankes, 2011, p. 15).  I also think that it is important that Lankes recognizes another mission in his introduction, that librarians “continue a centuries-long mission to use knowledge to better understand the past, make a better today, and invent an ideal future” (Lankes, 2011, p. 2).  This connects today’s librarians with librarians from hundreds of years ago, and puts librarians in an active role in shaping the present and future.  Lankes also makes an important point that the primary mission needs to be supported by the larger community that the library serves (Lankes, 2011, p.28-29).  With the focus of the mission on the librarians, Lankes supports the view that it is the librarian that makes a space a library – the books and other resources are just artifacts (Lankes, 2011, p.15-16).

Lankes claims that basis of our worldview is changing, with a shift in focus to human knowledge and the learning process instead of on things or artifacts like books (Lankes, 2011, p.23).  This has also changed what he defines as a librarian’s duties: knowing a community and its needs, building a collection, organizing programs, answering reference questions, completing inventory, and bringing his/her knowledge and worldview to the community (Lankes, 2011, p.24).  Most of these duties are related to knowledge acquisition, and emphasize that in order for a librarian to be proactive he/she must understand the motivations of the library’s patrons (Lankes, 2011, p.26-27).  I think connecting to patrons and the larger community and realizing their motivations and needs are what will keep libraries thriving for years to come, and a librarian’s role is crucial to this success.

Finally, I would just like to say I enjoy how the book is structured, with each of the threads building upon the others.  These threads also are connected to the overall theme and mission of the Atlas (Lankes, 2011, p.13).


Lankes, R.D. (2011).  The Atlas of New Librarianship.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


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