(The assignment was to read a library-related blog or wiki and write up a review of it.)
In the Library with the Lead Pipe: The murder victim? Your library assumptions. Suspects? It could have been any of us.
I’m a sucker for clever names, and the blog/online journal In the Library with the Lead Pipe certainly fits the bill for me. Suggestive of the murder mystery board game Clue, wherein players must name the murderer, the location of the murder, and the murder weapon, this blog’s title leads us directly to the library and a heavy, blunt object as the weapon. No murder suspect is named, however, and the tagline notes, “It could have been any of us.”
On the About page, the authors state:
In the Library with the Lead Pipe is intended to help improve our communities, our libraries, and our professional organizations. Our goal is to explore new ideas and start conversations; to document our concerns and argue for solutions.
Their mission is fairly broad, and the topics of their essays range across the library science profession rather than focusing on particular issues within the field such as other blogs that are particularly interested in technology, for instance, or those that deal with just one specific kind of library like public libraries. The posts on the blog tend to focus on large-scale issues in the profession and to explore what librarianship means. Some of the biggest tags in the tag cloud, for instance, are ALA, information literacy, instruction, and librarianship. This interest in assessing the state of the profession is what drives many of the posts.
I found out about this blog at the CLIC (Cooperating Libraries in Consortium) professional development workshop in October. The workshop facilitator, Char Booth, praised the blog at least a handful of times over the course of the day, and I was curious what was so extraordinary about it that would warrant such attention (she didn’t mention other blogs that I recall). I looked up the blog shortly after and discovered an incredibly well-written and thoughtful group blog. Its format is on the formal end of the spectrum for blogs, with longer posts at less frequent intervals than other blogs. The blog strives for a degree of peer-reviewed quality, too, with each article post reviewed by at least one internal and one external reviewer. The blog has a Creative Commons license that allows for non-profit reproduction and circulation of its material and an ISSN that marks it as more akin to an online periodical than more informal blogs.
In the Library with the Lead Pipe has a core group of bloggers who are library professionals in academic, public, and school media libraries. There are also guest posts by information professionals in archives and special libraries who speak to their particular work environments. The seven authors currently listed for the site include Brett Bonfield, Ellie Collier, Hilary Davis, Emily Ford, Eric Frierson, Kim Leeder, and Leigh Anne Vrabel. The bio pages for each author include details of where they work as well as contact information and links to other online material such as résumés, social networking profiles, and personal blogs. Their authority stems from their status as professionals working in the field in their communities, and the openness with which they engage readers in comments and other forums helps to validate their trustworthiness.
The blog makes full use of tagging to help users find posts on particular issues. Most of the posts have at least a handful of tags. The sidebar in the right column also includes a tag cloud that visualizes the most common tags for posts. The sidebar also includes lists of the most recent posts, recent comments, and twitter updates for the site (@libraryleadpipe).
Each blog post reads much like a fully-formed essay or journal article. Many of them have distinct sections and a references list for further reading. I’ll mention a few posts that I read that seem to characterize the blog’s scope particularly well:
Renovation as a Catalyst for Change, November 9, 2011
The most recent essay from November 9, 2011, discusses renovations at two academic libraries as a catalyst for change. Erin Dorney and Eric Frierson write,
For an entire year, the library [at St. Edward’s University] will exist without a reference desk, a print collection, or dedicated computing and study spaces. “If we don’t have those things… who are we, exactly?” asks Frierson and countless others.
While many conversations about the current state of libraries often veer towards bemoaning the changes that make libraries unrecognizable as spaces that house books and reference services, Dorney and Frierson instead look at this moment of the library’s physical dissolution as a chance to assess what librarianship means in the 21st century as patrons’ concept of reference services shift, as physical collections of books and journals disappear, and as even the buildings that we call libraries transform. The authors suggest that the renovations offer a chance for a radical break from the assumptions that drive many librarians to cling to tradition rather than to embrace new forms of librarianship that are possible in a more technologically-dependent world and a substantively different social milieu in which people interact with each other in new and startling ways.
A Conversation with Char Booth, June 10, 2009
I noticed Char Booth’s name in the tag, and clicking on it took me to a few posts that mention her. Booth is a librarian at the Claremont Colleges, and she specializes in instructional literacy. She previously worked at UC Berkeley, and she draws from her experiences reaching out to faculty and students at these two very different institutions (small liberal arts colleges versus large research university) in formulating her discussions about librarianship. In the Library with a Lead Pipe interviewed Booth a couple years ago and offer a recording of that interview as an audio post (with text transcript). This use of multimedia technology demonstrates the blog’s interest in presenting discussions of the library science profession in a range of formats and genres. The interview focuses on Booth’s path to librarianship and her expertise in education and technology.
The book we read for the CLIC professional development workshop is Booth’s Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators (ALA Editions, 2011). One of the things I find most refreshing in Booth’s work is her emphasis on needing to learn how to teach and how to learn from teaching to improve. Often, people just assume that teaching either comes naturally or doesn’t, and by extension, you either can figure out for yourself how to become a better teacher or not. Instead, Booth rehearses some important work in theories of learning and pedagogy that help educators in any context understand what it is that we do. I wanted to mention Booth’s work in particular because one of the trends I see in current library science discussions is about shifting the conception of librarianship away from books and even reference work towards a broader understanding of education. I’ve heard a few librarians suggest that MLIS degrees should require some coursework in pedagogical training, for instance, and others like R. David Lankes in The Atlas of New Librarianship state that we should define librarianship not as stewardship of information but as facilitation of knowledge creation. (Another post on ILLP, “Sense of Self: Embracing Your Teacher Identity” by Carrie Donovan, also argues for librarian’s self-conception to inhabit a teacher identity more fully.)
Collaborating with Faculty Part 1: A Five-Step Program, April 7, 2011
Collaborating with Faculty Part 2: What Our Partnerships Look Like, July 13, 2011
Finally, I want to mention a two-part essay on collaborating with faculty written by Kim Leeder. Since I was previously a faculty member in an English department on a college campus, I have participated in the faculty-librarian partnership but from the other direction. It remains one of my interests to explore how faculty and librarians collaborate, from the typical library instruction days for classes to longer-term projects that might involve multiple points of contact with students, librarian, and professor over the course of one semester. I am also interested in how librarians and faculty communicate and what we know about each other (or think we know about each other).
Leeder’s posts are especially interesting to me since she writes from the perspective of librarians who have to establish contact with faculty and explain what kind of expertise they can offer for students. In the second post, Leeder breaks down librarian-faculty partnerships into three types: communication (exchange of information between partners about students’ work but no consultation about how they do their own jobs), cooperation (working together on a project with one way support, as in the typical library instruction session), and collaboration (a dynamic, equal partnership in which librarians and faculty set objectives and curriculum together). Acknowledging these different levels of engagement is useful, and I particularly like how Leeder offers examples of how partners might go about carrying out these shared projects.
To wrap up this review, I should say that though this blog has only been around a few years, there is a substantial amount of conversation in its archives that I will have to read through in the next few months. The depth of the discussions is what is most refreshing in this blog. While brevity is generally a strength of the blog format, it often leaves much to be desired in terms of a thorough thinking through of topics. ILLP solves that problem by offering longer, more formal essays that are peer-reviewed. What comes across on the site is that these posts are carefully-considered, and that they are already the result of much conversation between the authors and other professionals in the field rather than just the off-the-cuff thoughts of an individual. I highly recommend checking out the site and perhaps searching the archives to see if they have covered a topic you are particularly interested in exploring.