Professor Mary Jordan on Kickstarting The Library Corps of Discovery

I am a big fan of libraries. As a former employee of several libraries, current library professor, and extremely enthusiastic library user (who may possibly have skipped classes in high school to hang out in the public library), this is probably not a big revelation. What may be a revelation to some, though probably not YOU as you are also a library fan I’m sure, is how amazing public libraries are today! I travel around the country a lot, and visit every public library I can – and I am always impressed by everything happening in them. Libraries big and small are taking their resources and returning an incredible amount of value to their communities!

Libraries deserve to be explored further, with their past uncovered, their current services shared with everyone, and their future to be mapped. This summer I will do these things – and I want you to join in the adventure! Check out our Kickstarter, and join the community: “Library Corps of Discovery: Exploring Public Libraries.”

I will be driving the Lewis and Clark Trail, and visiting every public library along the way. I will be interviewing library people to find out about their past, present, and any plans they have for the future. I want to know what kinds of history they know about their libraries, and if being located near a trail so emblematic of the American desire to go westward has had any impact on them. They can tell me all about the service they now provide to their communities. Based on work done in other public libraries, this can include services as diverse as planting vegetable gardens and donating the harvest to local homeless shelters, hosting star parties with their telescopes, providing a permanent card (and a place to call their own) to kids in foster care. It will, of course, also include the traditional services of book groups, reader’s advisory, computer classes, and technology training.

These need to be gathered in a systematic way, and shared with the wider community, so people understand that public libraries are not now (and never really have been) dusty repositories of books. And I really want to know what these people think about the future of their own library, and what ideas and plans they have for public libraries in general. The only thing we know for certain is that public libraries are changing; I want to uncover the small hopes and big dreams people working in them have for the future!

Every adventure is more fun with a group, and some good plans. The original Corps of Discovery took some time and some planning (and some research in Jefferson’s library at Monticello, of course); this journey is no different. A good group of Simmons GSLIS students have been working on the planning stages of this trip for several months, collecting library names and contact information, articles and information on the trip, and information on the Kickstarter process. GSLIS students Lindsey Clarke and Sara Smith worked to set up our project, and are manning our social media, busily connecting with people all over the web to tell them about the excitement of this Kickstarter.

Now, we want you to join us! We want to build up a community of people who are interested in public libraries and their future. We want to give people an opportunity to share opinions, suggestions, ideas, and dreams for the future. If you like history, Lewis and Clark, camping and exploring – we want you too! All these things will be included in our project, and we will keep the conversation going not only through our fund raising stage (it ends Tuesday, May 6 at 10:30 AM EDT), but also through frequent updates of both words and pictures from the Trail to let you keep up with all the adventures.

We are asking for your help in supporting three months of travel, and we have some rewards aimed at people interested in our project. We are commissioning a set of five postcards to be mailed out to supporters. Some people will get special stickers (students – these are aimed at you!). Backers at higher levels will receive copies of the e-book about the adventure, can celebrate with us at the ALA Annual Meeting in Las Vegas this June, and can have personalized thank-you cards photographed from the Trail and sent to you. We want this to be a community that embraces libraries as organization, so have set up a few reward levels for programming or staff training, which may be useful to public libraries. (Simmons students: if we are funded, we have a surprise for you! Join us at the student rate of $10 to share in the fun.) So check out our Kickstarter page, and see all our plans. Join us at a reward level that works for you. And plan to have an exciting library adventure this summer, as part of a great community!

If you want to talk with us now, send an email to us at [email protected]. Or follow us on Twitter, or Facebook, or Tumblr. We want to talk with you, and for you to share your ideas about libraries and their future!

-Professor Mary Wilkins Jordan

Introducing: The GSLIS Collaboratory

This week, we’re excited to show you around our new Collaboratory – a collaborative space designed to support projects and initiatives undertaken by the entire GSLIS community. This space was made possible thanks to a gift from the estate of alumna Mara Dole. In the Collaboratory you will find six new Macs plus two mounted 55 and 70-inch touchscreen Mondopads, and modular furniture that can be arranged as needed. It is available for hands-on activities in GSLIS classes as well as for collaborative group work.

Read more about this incredible resource and learn how faculty are using it to flip the classroom and more!


Professor Mary Jordan: The Future of Libraries

Everyone would like to know about the future, whether or not we are rich and successful and beloved there. Libraries are no different. We are becoming something new, and using tools prior generations of libraries may not even recognize. What will work? How will we know? What will be the best things we do in our libraries, with our limited budget and staffing? It would be good to know all the right answers.

Although we cannot know the specifics of the future, we can make decisions based on our strengths. Our primary offering is customer service. Everything else we do in libraries is focused on helping people find and use information. There may be fun tools we can use to make that happen, or exciting new strategies we can use. But at the core of what we do is always service. We can take that foundation, and build on it in making decisions for the future of library work.

Some of the ways libraries are serving people as they build toward a positive future involves technology tools. A variety of tools exist now that did not even a few short years ago, or even a few months ago. Once example is the library in San Antonio, Texas, the Bexar County Digital Library Inaccurately referred to in many popular news stories as “bookless,” this library provides digital content and training to patrons. The flexibility of this digital format means that not only does this library reach out to an increasingly connected patron base, but also provides material in flexible ways. There is also the flexibility of checking out books at night, in the car (not while driving, please!), and otherwise outside the traditional service hours of libraries. Audio books can be listened to while doing housework, walking in the park, or on road trips in the car. E-books can be read on a variety of devices, and the availability is increasing. Many audio and e-books can also be returned early and another checked out immediately, making it more patron-friendly. Likewise, people can see how many patrons on a wait list ahead of them, and can check out a book immediately when notified a hold has become available.

Some patrons (and even librarians!) have a fear that an e-book or an audio book is somehow not a “real” book because they do not have a paper format in their hands. Books printed on paper have been good for sharing information over the centuries, and have some advantages over digital copies in longevity and accessibility, and in ease of sharing between people. But the format is not the only relevant criteria in providing or enjoying a book. Helping our patrons to use and to enjoy the content of the materials we provide for them should be the focus of everything we do. We will move into the future of providing information, the choice of tools we can provide to our patrons will continue to increase. As librarians, we need to stay on top of these changes and continue to build our knowledge to keep ourselves on the cutting edge of service.

And libraries have even more tools for connecting with our communities through other technological tools. The Chattanooga Public Library has reshaped their library’s fourth floor to make it a technology-friendly area for the community. “The 4th floor is a public laboratory and educational facility with a focus on information, design, technology, and the applied arts.” ( By providing the tools and training for people to use in their professional and personal lives, we are providing information and ideas and tools to help people.  This may require some flexibility of thought on the part of librarians, as was seen in Chattanooga – thinking about the work we do in new ways requires putting together ideas and strategies for connecting with our communities.

As we move toward the future of libraries, they may not look exactly as they have in the past – and that is okay. The communities we serve are always going to be changing and evolving and growing, and we need to keep up with them.  The various ways we provide service will continue to change, and we have the opportunity to provide the best ways to train and provide tools for our community to learn and use and create information. The future of librarianship is an exciting one!

Professor Mary Wilkins Jordan

the LIS throwdown: archives vs. libraries

This weekend, I encountered my first archivist versus librarian philosophical battle! It was riveting, shocking, and completely irritating, but, it did result in a of lot questions about the future of LIS curriculum and how we treat these two separate professions pedagogically. But wait, are they supposed to be separate?

Read more to learn about this contentious debate! 

3D printers – gimmick or godsend?

This week, we discuss the recent popularity of 3D printers in public library maker spaces. Are these devices just another gimmick to lure patrons into the library, or, are these high-tech offerings proof that libraries are leading the way in innovation?

At this point, we have yet to reach a sound conclusion, but, we have many questions, concerns, hopes and fears and we want your feedback. If your library is using a 3D printer, what are the benefits and setbacks? How are patrons using it, and would you recommend the investment?