5 Principles for New Librarianship


Do you ever feel like making innovative changes in your library is equivalent to pushing a giant boulder up the hill? Been there, done that, could write a book on it!

Change is upon us though, despite those who relish the “old ways” of doing things.

Librarianship is in the midst of a paradigm shift, thanks to technology and its impact on literacy and learning. The AASL has called for school librarians to become technology integration leaders. Bell and Shank have called for academic librarians to become blended. And the practice of embedded librarianship is becoming more common. The same themes run through all of these ideas, so I will refer to them as new librarianship.

I haven’t come across anything that attempts to merge these (very similar) ideas together, so I came up with a set of 5 principles that I think embody new librarianship. Here they are:

Principle 1: New librarianship promotes multiple literacies.

  • Literacy is a set of socio-situational practices. Different disciplines have attempted to define literacy practices as multiliteracies, new literacies, the new media literacies, and metaliteracy, among others. New librarianship requires an understanding of these literacies, and what they mean for lifelong learning.

Principle 2: New librarianship supports ubiquitous learning.

  • Ubiquitous learning is anytime, anywhere learning. As an example. new librarianship supports ubiquitous learning by providing ‘always available’ (i.e 24/7) and ‘anywhere available’ (i.e. mobile) access to resources and services.

Principle 3: New librarianship is rooted in multiple disciplines, including library science, information science, media studies and the learning sciences.

  • By the 1990s, the separate disciplines of library and information science had merged together in library school (thanks to information literacy). It’s time for another merger, and in particular, media studies and the learning sciences (e.g. digital media and learning) need to be merged with library and information science. The technology integration skills called for by the AASL and blended and embedded librarianship require an ability to find, use, evaluate and integrate appropriate technologies for a variety of literacy and learning practices. At the very least, that requires an understanding of human learning and how it’s applied to digital media.

Principle 4: New librarianship emphasizes technology leadership.

  • Technology leadership is far more than being an authoritative source on technology. Libraries are learning institutions, so the technology leadership of new librarianship requires both technical skills and technology integration skills. New librarianship calls for librarians to act as innovative technology users, teachers and co-teachers of technologies that promote and support literacy and learning, and coaches for technology integration (i.e. supporting and training teachers).

Principle 5: New librarianship facilitates the ‘library as Third Space’ concept.

  • The Third Space concept is that of a community gathering space (virtual or physical) outside of the home, classroom or workplace environment where informal learning takes place. New librarianship facilitates the ‘library as a Third Space’ concept by serving as a bridge between informal and formal learning and literacy practices.

The irony about new librarianship is that it’s not so new after all. The modern library (dating back to Dewey) has always been a Third Space, serving three primary purposes: educational, social and civic. Technology has only changed the way it’s done (and the skills required to do it). In new librarianship, librarians will become experts in technology-related learning. They will harness physical and virtual library spaces to bridge formal and informal literacy practices. But in order to do that, they must first venture outside the library. Those who hide in the stacks will be left behind!

16 thoughts on “5 Principles for New Librarianship

  1. Well said, Amanda! I think it is important for those of us in the field to be able to communicate these principles to others. At our institution, it seems that a shift to outcomes based learning is helping faculty to be more eager and accepting of these ideas, particularly that of multiple literacies. I’m glad you “merged” these concepts together–very helpful!

    • Thanks Jess! Changing beliefs is the hardest part of all this, but I do know that professional development and training go a long way. That’s where librarians come in, and I’m glad to know that more voices are emerging from our field to advocate for these changes!

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