The very fine TEDxLibrariansTO team is counting down to this Saturday’s big event with some daily questions for us all to consider.

The topic, of course, is Librarians as Thought Leaders!

These are the questions for Day 5. I’ll attempt to answer them and every day’s questions very briefly. I figure if I go for extremely brief answers, there’s actually a chance I’ll get to them every day!


Question 1: Name one thing we could do right now in order to be perceived as thought leaders outside the profession.

My Answer: Predictably, perhaps, I’ll answer that we should mostly (but not completely) stop attending and presenting at librarian conferences and instead attend and present at the conferences our community members attend and present at. For academic librarians, this means attending disciplinary conferences as well as conferences on curriculum and pedagogy in higher education.

Check out my Manifesto for more.

Question 2: How do we recognize a thought leader?

My Answer: I’m not sure if this means recognize and in identify or recognize as in reward and acknowledge.

For the former, I think we need to try and track which librarians are embedded in their communities and making a difference in a way that really reflects the values of librarianship. In other words, for an academic librarian, say, a thought leader would be someone who blogs at a general higher education site, like Barbara Fister.

For the latter, let’s invite them to write and talk about their experiences at the librarian conferences we do attend and in the blogs and journals we read.

Question 3: Are the loudest voices online actually representative of important thought currents?

My Answer: Sometimes yes and sometimes no. This one is really hard to quantify in anything other than an anecdotal sense.

My tendency here is to encourage and develop a healthy skepticism about those loudest online voices, to try and understand where they are coming from, what their goals are, what their biases are, who they represent and what’s in it for them.

In other words, I try and bring librarian values to bear on that particular question.

I also recognize and understand that the most valuable voices are often the quietest and that we should try and pay attention to the less hype-ridden corners of the online world as much as to the busiest part.

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