New York State’s libraries may have relied on standardized practices and uniform operational formulas in the past, but to ensure future success, they must get creative, be responsive to the specialized interests of their constituencies, use the resources available in their backyards, and reflect the compositions of their communities.    

That shift in orientation will be discussed by noted library scholar R. David Lankes, professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship at the School of Information Studies (iSchool), in his keynote address later this week for the 2015 New York Library Association annual conference. Titled “Day 45,625” (reflecting the number of days leading to the Association’s 125th anniversary), his talk will examine the widening differences between how libraries have operated over the last century and how they will need to adapt to best serve patrons in the future.

An internationally regarded thought leader on librarianship, Dr. Lankes noted how, over the past century, libraries have succeeded by adopting the ways of the Industrial Revolution–creating uniform practices, having interchangeable parts, being efficient by functioning in a single way. “Libraries sought one system, one way; many adopted standard ways of organizing materials like the Dewey Decimal System; we were all sort of similar, industrial-scale versions,” he explained.

In the Information Age, however, Lankes noted, “that’s not how we think about the world these days. Today, the key to success is to look like and help the local community perform better–and we need to look at and shape services and tie our success to the unique nature of the communities we serve, not a generic nature of all communities.”

NYLA previews Dr. Lankes’ talk this way: “45,625 days ago, Melvil Dewey, one of NYLA’s founders, saw the future of libraries in standardization, efficiency, and industrialization. 45,625 days ago the future of libraries was in shared structures, shared methods, and librarians devoted to the maintenance of institutional libraries. On day 45,625, this is the formula for disaster. On day 45,625, the future of libraries is in librarians building libraries around the unique communities they serve. The success of the next 125 years is intimately tied to the success of the counties, cities, towns, and villages of New York. Our next 125 years is in the dreams and aspirations of New York’s citizens, students, and scholars, not our stacks.”

Dr. Lankes’ keynote is scheduled for Thursday, October 22, at 9:00 a.m. The conference is being held in Lake Placid.

A passionate advocate for librarians and their essential role in today’s society, Professor Lankes also is director of the Information Institute of Syracuse. His research seeks to understand how information approaches and technologies can be used to transform industries. His recent work involves how participatory concepts can reshape libraries and their credibility.

He also has authored, co-authored or edited 15 books, written over 30 book chapters and journal articles and numerous pieces for the professional audience. He has been principle investigator on over $13 million of competitively awarded research as well as serving as a researcher on numerous projects, and has given more than 187 presentations at national and international conferences. In addition, Dr. Lankes has served on advisory boards and study teams in the fields of libraries, telecommunications, education, and transportation, including at the National Academies. He also has been a visiting fellow at the National Library of Canada, the Harvard School of Education, and was the first fellow of ALA’s Office for Information Technology Policy.

His book, The Atlas of New Librarianship, won the 2012 ABC-CLIO/Greenwood Award for the Best Book in Library Literature. He currently is conducting his “Expect More” world speaking tour in multiple U.S. cities and around the world.

Alumni Reception

In conjunction with the annual conference, the iSchool is hosting an alumni reception. It is scheduled for Wednesday, October 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at The Brown Dog Cafe & Wine Bar on Main Street in Lake Placid. Alumni, faculty, staff, current and prospective students, and their guests are invited to socialize and hear about the School’s projects and initiatives. Attendance RSVPs can be sent to Barbara Settel Executive Director of Alumni Relations at the iSchool.