THE BASICS Hall.com is billed as a virtual war room for teams to communicate and work in real-time. It allows individuals to set up networks and rooms. Networks can exist solely within an individual’s business or organization, or include team members from other businesses or a business’ clients/customer base. Rooms are set up to allow team members to leave comments and video chat in real time. The idea behind hall.com is to create a virtual collaboration space for team members that will serve as an antidote to “switching context between email. IM, and Skype.”
Pros: Hall.com makes inviting team members into War Rooms easy – all you have to do is simply type in a contacts name/email. Hall is synched with gmail and linked to other social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, so finding and inviting team members already hooked in to other social media sites is a breeze. Its also, all in all, super intuitive and easy to use and has some nice features (see field notes for more).
Cons: One of its best features, its openness, might be a cause for concern for some businesses that prefer closed circuits and want a lot of options to set permission sets for different users. Also, on the basic subscription, there is no way to edit/delete comments submitted to a room, and while you can upload files, there is no way to edit Word Docs, excel spreadsheets, etc. online in real time.
Background and Leadership: Hall.com was founded in 2010 by CEO Brett Hellman and CTO Ron Adams and is one of AngelPad‘s graduating companies. Brett Hellman is a former Product Manager at Intuit and Project/Product Manager at Yahoo. Ron Adams is a former Senior Software Application Engineer at Yahoo.
The Competition: The field of enterprise communication is fairly new, but by entering the field Hall.com is going up against some big names like Salesforce Chatter, and even some smaller names like Huddle. Hall.com does manage to distinguish itself by being so open, there are no guest accounts, license requirements, or portals that need to be set up to bring new team members into a war room. Below find a video of CEO Bret Hellman making the case to noted tech blogger Robert Scoble for how Hall.com offers something new and different.
Overall, Hellman makes his case, Hall.com does offer something unique in the sense that it is a perfect tool for collaborating across businesses and engaging clients/customers – but as noted in the pros and cons section – there are some tradeoffs. Specifically, in Salesforce for example, while setting up user profiles and permission sets or “sharing islands” can be tedious, sometimes it is a necessary evil. Also, Hall.com just doesn’t haves some features that other enterprise communication tools do – on Huddle for instance, although it clunky users are able to comment on and edit online specific documents. Just as users can edit online and track changes in word docs. and spreadsheets on Google drive. It would be nice if Hall.com, since it is already synched up through gmail, somehow integrated this feature through Google drive.
Pricing: There are three pricing tiers – Personal (free), business ($5/uers/month), and enterprise grade (you have to contact Hall.com for pricing). To find out what comes with each tier CLICK HERE.
All-in-all, a good deal, though prices might go up after Hall.com officially leaves its beta testing phase.
I’m not an employee at a fortune 500 so I can’t tell you how Hall.com measures up in the business world, but as a program manager at a non-profit, I can tell you Hall.com is an exciting product. Here is why I love it:
Hall.com already has some noteworthy clients like Amazon, Intuit, Capital One, and Nike. If that isn’t enough to make Hall.com buzzworthy, the fact that Hall.com recently raised $5.5 million should do the trick. To read more about Hall.com’s new investors CLICK HERE.
Two things from this week’s reading that immediately got my attention:
1) “According to the National Labor Relations Board, most social media policies in the US are unlawful.”
2) KTBS fires news anchor for responding to viewer defending her African American hair on social media.
My first thought…
My second thought…
Surely the KTBS policy (or lack thereof) is one of those appallingly frequent social media policies that are unlawful according to the National Labor Relations Board. Surely defending your ethnic/racial heritage is protected but… most social media policies are unlawful because the policy’s language is too broad.
Having a policy with language that is too broad is a problem because sweeping language could be misconstrued to interfere with the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law (i.e. unionization, discussion of wages or working conditions among employees, etc.). Meaning it really has nothing to do with Freedom of Speech.
Lessons Learned about writing social media policy…
When writing policies, be sure to be vague enough to make sure the policy covers enough ground, but not too vague as to unintentionally run a fowl of certain legal issues. A more extensive run-down of some of the legal issues to be wary of when writing policies can be found at:
One highlight from the above article worth mentioning here – the monitoring of employees. Too much monitoring/control of employee social media behavior could lead to the company or organization being held liable (argument: you had control, you are responsible). On the other hand, organizations/companies can’t use a lack of a social media policy or control over their employee’s social media interactions to claim no fault when it comes to things like harassment and whistle blowing. So again the lesson here seems to be a carefully worded policy that strikes a balance between two extremes.
Lessons learned about freedom of speech…
Is the lesson here that people have the right to freedom of speech, and employers have the right to fire them for it unless the speech is otherwise protected (i.e. under labor laws). After all, the First Amendment alludes to Congress not abridging freedom of speech, it says nothing about employers.
In the absence of constitutionally recognized legal protections, what is to prevent employers from what might seem to some, unjust firings (see KTGB example above). I think the answer can be found in this week’s readings in the article about Rule 40 (the prohibition placed on Olympic athletes by the Olympic Organizing Committee preventing athletes from using social media to promote certain brands). Basically the pertinent argument the article puts forth here is: whether or not Rule 40 was legal or illegal, it left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth because people don’t like to see what they view as inalienable rights taken away from them, whether it is taken away from them by government or another organization.
To put it another way, the Olympic Organizing Committee, “protected themselves in the court of law and lost in the court of public opinion.”
Questions for the class…
1) Besides speech protected by labor laws, should other types of speech be protected, not just from government interference, but from interference by employers as well?
Example: KTGB (see above)
Example: Politics (employee tweets or posts about supporting a political candidate)
Example: Religion (employee tweets or posts about religious affiliation)
Example: Sexual orientation (employee tweets or writes blog post about what its like to be gay and whatever their job title is’ working for company ‘x’)
Example: any other types of speech you can think of that employers should keep their hands off of
Example: try inserting Olympic athlete/Olympic committee, student/school, etc. or other dynamic relationship (those making the policy/those on receiving end of policy) besides generic employer/employee in the above examples to see if it makes a difference.
Example: try also thinking about whether the employee uses personal account or company account, and whether employee is a public figure whose identity is inseparable from the company/organization regardless of what account they use.
2) Should these be legal protections, or should the right to certain types of speech be protected from employers in the court of public opinion ONLY, or is it just good social media policy to write in certain freedom of speech protections into the policy itself?
3) Firing someone is the extreme example of free speech restrictions, is Harvard’s policy that gives them the right to delete/take down any posts any better/ the right way to go (i.e. you have freedom of speech, but the policy gives us the right to censor you).
In this week’s readings and my own research, I found many examples of hash tag fails. I thought it might be useful to break it down into three categories.
Category 1: The Hijacked Hash Tag
Also known as the ‘What were they thinking’ hash tag fail because these examples were so obviously in poor taste. This category is all about abusing a trending hash tag to promote an unrelated topic.
Category 2: The Unintended Consequences Hash Tag
This is where the development and/or use of a hash tag has unintended consequences and highlights the fact that companies can’t always control the direction a particular conversation takes on Twitter.
Examples could be the McDonald’s #McDStories example where people tweeted in stories “better left untold” about the fast food giant, or Wendy’s #Wheresthebeef example which garnered some pretty obscene tweets.
Yet another example could be desert company Entenmann’s #NotGuilty hast tag which unfortunately came out the same time of the not guilty verdict for Casey Antony.
Category 3: The Imposter Hash Tag
Taken directly from this week’s readings, a prime example could be the article about Western Kentucky University and the wku/(hash)wku hash tags. This hash tag fail in particular I think raises a few questions:
1) Which is the bigger problem: not zealously guarding your brand through your hash tag or overcompensating and making a mountain out of a mole hill?
2) Is the fact that it is a University the problem? In other words a university is supposed to be a bastion of free speech and creative expression – does that make it less OK for Western Kentucky to take action that might be construed a cooling free speech than say, a corporate entity like McDonald’s?
Finally please let me know if you find other examples of hash tag fails that do not fit into one of the three categories I have identified.
The Human Face of a Corporation
All jokes/discontented grumblings about Citizens United aside, companies and organizations are people too, with souls and personalities all their own, or at least, that’s what a successful social media campaign is meant to convey. The name of the game for social media these days seems to be: be genuine.
This is of course easier said then done – distilling a soul of a company into a Twitter account and Facebook page is no easy task. After all, the question of what constitutes the soul and personality of a company or organization is complicated and there is more than one answer. One answer could be for example, that the soul and personality of a company or organization is an amalgamation of its employees. More and more a company’s lifeblood is a stream of its employees collective consciousness as represented by their social media accounts.
On the one hand, this can be a good thing, as is the case with Trust Agents example Robert Scoble whose blog garnered his company Microsoft a good deal of social capital and good will even though Scoble “talked smack” about the company. In fact it was because Scoble was genuine and gave Microsoft such a human face that his actions resulted in a) success for Mircrosoft and b) hi not getting fired.
On the other hand, as this week’s readings in IST 686 illustrate, there are many, many counter examples. Which raises the question: what happens when social media paints a human face on a company, but that face is not so pretty?
While this week’s readings covers a wide range of policy points a company would be wise to consider when reflecting on a social media policy, this week I wanted to focus on some real examples. The following URL will take you to 13 examples of people who were fired for tweets.
1) In your opinion are all/some of the firings justified? If so, why and which ones?
2) If you were the company how might you deal with fall out from these tweets?
Although I agree with Lankes that librarians must look to the future in order to have a future, as someone who doesn’t necessarily mind a library’s resemblance to an episode of hoarders, I was somewhat alarmed by Lankes’ claim that eventually the bibliofundamentalists will have to be left behind. While I do agree that there needs to be a public conversation to renegotiate the terms of a new social compact between librarians and the communities they serve, I am confident, as I hope Lankes is, that librarians will be able to renegotiate the terms of this new social compact to include a forward looking philosophy that at the same time maintains the “historic responsibility” of the profession to be a living testament to where society has been. In other words, I believe the profession must emulate the god of Roman mythology Janus – librarians must reflect the past even whilst they look to the future in order to be true agents of change.
In order to illustrate why it is important for the information profession to look backwards as well as forwards it is helpful to consider the field of political philosophy. It is true that the likes of Hobbes, Locke, Kant, and Marx changed the world, but it is also true that these men and their ideas were shaped by the world in which they lived. Nothing is created in a vacuum and even agents of change must first learn to speak the language of the status quo.
Here I think it is important to note that the call for librarians to maintain their “historic responsibility” is not a retreat from the position advocated by conversation theory or indeed Lankes’ own particular brand of conversation theory and relativism. Rather the idea that past, present, and future states of knowledge and knowledge creation are intimately connected is an idea that shares a certain congruity with Lankes’ position on knowledge creation through conversation and an emphasis on relationships.
Subsequently the call for librarians to maintain their “historic responsibility” is therefore an attempt, not to refute Lankes per se, but rather to place greater emphasis on the tension that librarians and information professional will invariably face when trying to fulfill the role of agents of change.
I have to say I, like a certain Utah librarian and critic of David Lankes, was at first skeptical about the ability of librarians to “improve society.” Not because I didn’t believe that librarians have the wherewithal to effect meaningful social change in their communities; rather, my skepticism was due to a long-held suspicion of any individual or even group of individuals who purport to know what is “best” for society. As a ‘certain-Utah-librarian-and-critic-of-David-Lankes’ put it, “who the hell are [librarians] to know what is good for society” (Lankes class lecture, July 23rd, 2012).
In the end however, Lankes (2012) won me over by emphasizing the process by which librarians determine what is best for society. It’s not about an individual or group of individuals replacing the community’s values with their own; rather it’s about the ability (and duty) of a librarian to engage the community in a meaningful dialogue. A dialogue whose very meaning is derived from the values, societal norms, and principles, by which a community (which includes the librarian) determines its own destiny.
Subsequently, I began to try to think of ways to defend Lankes against the argument that it is hubris for librarians to think they can know what will improve for society. The counter intuitive but perhaps practical way to go would be to say that they (librarians) don’t know what is best for society. That’s why librarians need to try new things and experiment to see what works in their communities and what doesn’t. Susan Considine, executive director of the very successful Fayetteville Free Library certainly takes this approach and, considering that the Fayetteville Free Library went from an operating budget of 300k to 1.6 million under the leadership of Considine, I think it’s safe to say that in this case at least, the trial and error model proved to be an effective method by which librarians can improve society. (Lankes class lecture, July 23rd, 2012). Even if you don’t accept the correlation between a higher operating budge and an improved society, it is hard to deny the fact that if Considine’s methods hadn’t worked for her community, it is unlikely the community would have voted to increase her budget time after time with a margin of approval for the increase never lower than 71% (id.)
Practical argument aside, there is a more philosophically driven argument to make on Lankes’ behalf. Essential to this argument is the comparison between librarians and judges. High level judges, like librarians, are not elected officials. No one votes them into office and yet their decisions usually incorporate an interpretation of policy – which necessarily includes a determination of what is best for society. For political theories like Dworkin, this is a problem that needs solving. Political philosophers, like Dworkin therefore seek to explain this seeming affront to liberal representative democracy. Dworkin in particular argued that:
“The sharp distinction between background and institutional morality will fade, not because institutional morality is displaced by personal convictions, but because personal convictions have become the most reliable guide he has to institutional morality” (1978, p. 128).
In other words, for Dworkin, a judge’s background morality does not replace or trump institutional morality (the community’s morality, values, etc.). Instead what is happening is more interesting – the judge’s background morality (i.e. his own personal conviction) is informed in such a way by institutional morality that his background morality then becomes the judge’s best guide to institutional morality. The judge therefore, like the librarian, uses his or her own experience within the community in order to determine community values and community mores.
Of course one could argue that the judge’s role as society’s “interpreter,”unlike the librarian’s is written into the Constitution, except well… it’s not! The precedent for judicial review actually originates in Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803), a case in which Supreme Court Justice Marshall literally carves out judicial review for the court (much to the dismay of many a founding father!). The argument I am making here therefore is, philosophy aside, also a practical argument. Human society is not like bee society. Each individual is not instinctively aware of what is the best course of action for the collective. We, as a society, in particular a liberal democratic society, necessarily must have among us those whose responsibility it is, is to interpret what is best for society and what will make it better. While I certainly admit my own bias might be at play here, I think there is a strong argument to be made that a) the role of society’s “interpreter” should not solely be the purview of judges and politicians and b) librarians, being an integral part of the community, are ideally situated to be one of many social actors to fulfill that vital role. As (I think) science officer Spock would say, “It’s only logical.”
Dworkin, Ronald (1978). Taking Rights Seriously. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lankes, R. David (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Lankes, R. David. “Introduction to IST 511.” Syracuse University, summer session. Syracuse, NY. 24 July 2012.
As someone who watches Fox news and CNN for entertainment, and Jon Stewart and Colbert for “real news” (just kidding… barely) my interest was particularly piqued by Lankes’ discussion of credibility in his ‘communities’ thread (2011, p. 90-91). Specifically I have a bone to pick with his observation that due to a “large number and large variety of information sources on the web, members can build credibility determinations from the consistent repetition of key factors across these sources” (Lankes, 2011, p. 91). While it certainly is true that there is a plethora of news sources available in a variety of platforms, and while members certainly could make credibility determinations by ascertaining which key factors are repeated consistently across sources, the reality is that a large number of members do not make these determinations. Of course I recognize that Lankes (2011) never actually said that member did make these determinations, only that they could, but I am more interested in why a member wouldn’t make these determinations and what that means in terms of divergent community credibility standards.
To begin with, I think the main reason why some members do not take advantage of the many news sources available to them in order to make credibility determinations is due to the fact that – unless you are a political science major – you really don’t have the time or motivation (like I do!) to spend your free time haunting news sites and political blogs. You might watch the evening news with Brian Williams or the PBS Newshour, or you might listen to Rush Limbaugh on your drive home from work – but what you don’t do is spend the time and energy it would take to gather news from both sides of the political spectrum.
In terms of community credibility standards, I think this means that within a single community (like the United States), there can and will exist divergent views on what is, and what is not, credible. (Again I must note here that Lankes does also make this point: “Some find Fox News to be credible, whereas others do not.” (2011, p. 91). Here the main point I want to draw out is not that there can and will exist divergent views on what is and what is not credible, but that with the explosion of news sources, there is a danger that the divide between divergent viewpoints will grow at an exponential rate. As liberals are able to only consume news sources that reinforce their world views, and as conservatives are able to do the same, I think what will happen is there will be less common ground and fewer open lines of communications between these two communities.
How does this translate to the study of libraries and Lankes’ (2011)”communities” thread? I think that although I agree with Lankes that it is imperative for librarians to cater library services to a specific community’s needs, I think I would reinforce the strain in Lankes’ (2011) argument that advises librarians to have a larger picture of how a particular community interacts and links up with other communities. If I were an academic librarian, for example, I would try, as Lankes advises (2011, pg. 114) to be an embedded librarian whose information services provided a kind of “circulatory system” for the academic university or college community I served (2011, p. 115). I would also however, work to connect the academic university or college community I serve with, not only the larger academic community, but with the local township community and even the part of the national community that scoffs disdainfully at eggheads in their ivory towers. After all, what good does a fancy degree really do for you if it only allows you to preach to those already converted?
Lankes, R. David (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
David Lankes’ (2011) thread on “facilitating” in his book The Atlas of New Librarianship made me want to go out, buy a black t-shirt, and spray paint “FACILITATOR” all over the front and back just so that everyone I meet while wearing said t-shit will know: as an aspiring librarian I am a force to be reckoned with! While there is a part of me that loves being in a quiet cozy corner surrounded by books, there is another part of me that wants to run out onto the moors at midnight and shout defiantly into the wind like Boudicca, warrior queen. I am after all, a daughter of aging hippies. Surely, somewhere within me there must be the seeds of a revolution. All that is needed are the right conditions.
But what are those right conditions? I won’t go as far to say that I hope that studying information science will provide those right conditions; but I am hoping that by studying information science I can get a better understanding of what those right conditions are. I want to know how revolutions are started and sustained. If I’m a librarian and I have a patron who walks through my door passionate about an issue, I want to be able to say that at the end of the day, like any good gardener I ‘facilitated’ or created the ideal conditions for that patron’s seed of inspiration to blossom into a full blown revolution!
Here I think it’s probably important to explain what I mean by ‘revolution.’ I don’t mean the violent overthrow of government, rather, when I use the term ‘revolution’ I mean anything that inspires an individual or group to, as Gandhi put it, “be the change [they] want to see in the world.” Ultimately, what intrigues me most about Lankes’ (2011) argument is the idea that librarians have a duty to not only empower themselves, but to empower others, and create networks of power from which the next internet, the next billion dollar idea, the next spiritual awakening, and the next game changing moment in history will arise. In that sense, I think librarians are a bit “Boudicca-esque.” They, like any good warrior queen (or king!), can provide leadership and rally a community together to solve problems and fight to live in a world of their own making.
Lankes, R. David (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
David Lankes’ (2011) discussion of ‘knowledge creation’ in his book, Atlas of New Librarianship reminded me of a particular experience I’ve had as a student.
This experience I’ve actually had more than once. It usually entails a class discussion on a topic that inspires strong opinions. While not always the case, as someone who has participated in her fair share of fierce debates both in and out of the classroom setting, I’ve found that a lot of actual disagreements are due to semantics. Let me give a specific example. I can remember having a discussion with a group of students over whether or not it was possible for free will to co-exist with theories of bio-determinism. After about an hour or so hashing it out, it was only when we – as a group – tried to nail down ‘free will’ as a concept in terms of what we each meant by ‘free will’ that we were – as a group – able to find some common ground and move forward with the discussion. This relates to Lankes’ discussion in the sense that as a student, I have had experience with the importance of clearly defining relationships, of not relying solely on words as static concepts in order to create and communicate knowledge. In that sense I think Lankes’ (2011) observation that part of understanding something is through its relationship with other things is correct. If only because in my own experience I’ve found that a concept like ‘free will,’ to a group of students, only has meaning and the potential for knowledge growth if that group of students are all on the same page in terms of what the concept of ‘free will’ actually means and how it relates to each individual student’s pre-existing knowledge base.
Lankes, R. David (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
#############Notes on class discussion July 24th, 2012###############
Today’s class made me want to add one or two observations to my discussion of the “knowledge creation thread.” In particular I was intrigued by a blog post Prof. Lankes brought to the attention of the class. The blog post, written by Lane Wilkinson, expressed enthusiasm for the scope of the The Atlas, but ultimately rejected the Atlas for it’s “relativist world view.” A link to the blog post can be found here.
First I should probably begin with a disclaimer. It has been a long time since I studied epistemology and for the most part, my concentration has always been philosophy of law and political theory and not epistemology. I should also probably mention that I am currently taking #IST 511 with David Lankes and have no doubt probably been brainwashed. That being said, as someone who ‘has drunk the Koo-Aide so to speak’, I do feel compelled to offer one or two arguments on Lankes behalf. While it certainly is legitimate to question whether a group of students discussing human free will and bio-determinism ever come close to the truth or the other epistemic concepts Wilkinson lists (justification, warrant, objectivity, etc.), what is not legitimate is to assume that the absence of those epistemic concepts necessarily results in no knowledge creation.
Let me explain. As one of the students in the discussion, I can fully admit that it would be a breathtaking display of arrogance to assume that, because I had discussed the matter with a group of students, I somehow had become aware of the truth. That I somehow, through conversation, had arrived at the correct understanding of the relationship between human free will and bio-determinism. I would never argue that; but what I would argue is that through my conversation with the other students, I gained a better understanding of not only the beliefs and understanding of the issue of the other students, but a better understanding of my own beliefs and understanding of the issue. While this awareness might not be knowledge of the topic discussed, it is knowledge of the how my beliefs and understanding of an issue relate to others’ beliefs and understanding of an issue.
Subsequently, it is important to distinguish between knowledge with a capital ‘K’, which would be the kind of knowledge that satisfies the epistemic concepts, and knowledge that is created through dialogue and is more of a self-awareness of one’s own beliefs and understanding of a topic, as well as an awareness of the dialogue’s other participants’ beliefs and understanding of a topic and how the two are related.
Of course, I can imagine Wilkinson would come back with an argument along the lines of, ‘so what.’ So what if the knowledge created is not the kind with a capital ‘K.’ The main concern of librarians and scientists should be knowledge with a capital ‘K.’ To this I would ask Wilkinson to imagine, instead of a group of students, a professor of philosophy who specializes in issues of free will, a psychologist who specializes in compulsive behavior, an evolutionary biologist, and a professor or neurology and organic chemistry who specializes in the chemical pathways of the brain. All of these esteemed colleagues decide one night, over a pitcher of beer, to embark on a joint venture together to seek truth and knowledge with a capital ‘K’ in order to shed light on the question of free will and bio-determinism. I don’t think Lankes would argue that a conversation between these individuals (hopefully helped along by an information professional and not just beer) would result in knowledge with a capital ‘K’, rather I think what Lankes would argue would result, and should result, is a consensus of what the issue at hand is as, through the conversation, each member gains a better understanding of what each of them has to contribute to this endeavor and how to move forward together. While the knowledge created through such a conversation might not be knowledge with a capital ‘K,’ it is a very important sort of knowledge that shouldn’t be discounted out-of-hand (especially by librarians).
Here, at the risk of destroying all the good will I’ve built up with professor Lankes by trying to defend the Atlas, I think it’s important to note that I do actually agree with some of the viewpoints expressed by Wilkinson. I agree for instance that it is somewhat disappointing not to find more philosophical viewpoints on the field of librarianship in a book that is meant to serve as an introduction to the field. On the one hand, I think I can see where Wilkinson is coming from. In philosophy of law 101 for instance you get a broad overview of the concepts and you spend a lot of your time as a student thinking things like, ‘Hobbes was the guy who said life sucks so we have to hand over power to a king, and Locke was the guy who said, yeah, but only some power not all of it.’ It’s only later when you fulfill all your prerequisites and have a general understanding to build upon do you get to read the treatises of any one philosopher or philosophical standpoint and are able to be truly swept away by a particular philosopher or viewpoint.
On the other hand, back to defending Lankes, it’s very clear sitting in Lankes class that he has a clear agenda. Lankes wants to churn out activists, he wants to churn out librarians who are ready to hit the ground running, who are confident in their ability to literally change the world and make it a better place. I see Lankes as the Marx of librarianship, and while you would never probably read The Communist Manifesto in an introductory philosophy course, you would read it first thing if the goal of the instructor was to inspire students and professionals-in-training to improve and actually change the very issue or profession they are studying.
Consequently, since I have already exceeded what is proper for not only this assignment, but for a blog post in general, I will end this discussion with a somewhat silly analogy to recap my original objection to Wilkinson’s critique of Lankes’ (2012) use of conversation theory in the Atlas and here it is:
If knowledge with a capital ‘K’ is batman, than the knowledge that is created through conversation is Alfred and, before you sigh with exasperation, realize that Alfred, like a librarian, is in reality quite a bad ass!!
In the Atlas of New Librarianship author David Lankes argues that libraries and librarians have to have a mission – some vision of libraries and their purpose that goes beyond a description of libraries and librarians in terms of mere function. All I can say is… SOLD. I am not entering the field of information science so I can sit behind a desk all day and perform mindless tasks – quite the opposite in fact. I am pursuing a degree in information science precisely because I believe in the potential of the field of librarianship and what it has to offer society. What I find most interesting about Lankes’ argument therefore is, not the idea that libraries are more than just book warehouses rather, what I find most interesting is the idea that the mission of libraries and librarians must also entail a social compact between librarians and the communities they serve. Interesting from my perspective because as a political science junkie, I am interested in how diverse community members come together to agree to the terms of social compacts.
In other words if a library’s mission, as Lankes argues, must be supported by the larger community (2012, p. 28), then how does the fact that communities almost always entail divergent viewpoints and perspectives affect a library’s mission as it constitutes an integral part of a librarian’s social compact with the community. One subset of the community for example, might believe that the terms of a library’s social compact with the community entails an agreement that the library censor any and all materials that somehow promote a ‘gay agenda,’ while another subset of the community is equally ardent in the belief that such censorship is not only abhorrent, but also an egregious breach of the terms of the social compact.
In analyzing this situation it is first important to note that this problem can not be solved by simply reiterating that a library’s mission is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities. One cannot simply state that censorship is an anti-agent of knowledge facilitation and therefore can not be a term of the social compact that exists between libraries and communities. The very nature of the social compact entails a negotiation of terms – librarians can not simply one-sidededly state what is and what is not an acceptable term of the social compact.
Subsequently even if librarians strive to negotiate the terms of the social compact, there is no guarantee that there will be a resolution of terms. Say for example, in this situation a librarian did work to ‘facilitate knowledge creation’ by engaging the community in a conversation about censorship. Practically speaking at the end of the day, it is unlikely that the contenders on either side of the issue would change their mind to the extent that the community comes together in agreement on this specific term of the library’s social compact with the community. It is also unlikely that either side will see the actual process, the actual effort of the librarian to facilitate a dialogue as sufficient to fulfill the terms of the social contract. Meaning, in this situation, it is nearly impossible for the librarian to prevent a loss of faith in one or the other (and maybe even both) subsets of the community in the social compact.
Here I think it is important to note that even though the act of forging a social compact with the community is a hard, and often times impossible endeavor, it does not make that act or endeavor any less important. My intent in this discussion therefore, is not to necessarily dismantle Lankes’ social compact argument, but rather to merely point out that forging a social compact with a community is made increasingly difficult as the make-up of communities increasingly include radically divergent viewpoints and beliefs to the point where a mutually agreed upon mission between a library and all of its many sub-communities is virtually impossible. As however, I do no wish to end on such a sour note, I must also add to this the observation that it is not necessarily a negative when it is impossible for a community to reach a consensus when negotiating the terms of a social contract. Movement in society, whether it be backwards or forwards, can only occur if there is a class of individuals who refuse to follow the herd – who are willing to crash violently against social barriers and operate outside the bounds of a social contract. Libraries and librarians therefore must be aware that in their negotiation with the community over the terms of the social compact, they themselves, as a part of the community, may at some point be called upon to engage in the community activity of working outside the bounds of a social compact.
Lankes, R. David (2011). The Atlas of New Librarianship. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.