On Monday afternoon, the Dallas City Hall Quality of Life Committee met to discuss ideas for the future of the Texan city. Featured on the agenda was Syracuse University School of Information Studies (iSchool) Professor David Lankes, who was scheduled to give a presentation titled, “Dallas and the Opportunities of a New Librarianship.”

Robert Wilonsky, a blogger for the Dallas Observer, was surprised when he saw this topic on the agenda, and decided to interview Lankes to get a better understanding of his expertise. Lankes was invited to the meeting by Corinne Hill, interim director of Dallas libraries, and The Friends of the Dallas Library to explain new ways of thinking about libraries.

“A library is a place where we’re having a conversation, which more often than not goes something like, ‘How can I be better and be part of a better society?’” Lankes explained. “That’s why Andrew Carnegie built libraries 100 years ago in cities like Dallas: He wanted an informed citizenry. And that’s what we’re getting back to.”

One of Lankes’ most important points is that we need new kinds of libraries that will serve as a “fourth space.” We have places to work, eat and shop, and libraries can serve as a place for communities to come together.

“Even things like economic development are based on an informed society,” Lankes said. “We need police to keep us civil, we need firemen to keep us safe, we need parks to keep us connected, and we need libraries as places to preserve our dreams. And that’s different than saying we need big buildings with long hours for people to go and get a lot of books. I wouldn’t bite on that either.”

R. David Lankes, PhD, is a professor at the iSchool, the Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse (IIS), as well as director of the school’s library science program. Lankes received his BFA (Multimedia Design), M.S. in Telecommunications, and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He joined the iSchool faculty in 1998. Lankes believes librarians are more important than ever, which he discusses in his new book, The Atlas of New Librarianship.