Loving the Model vs. Loving the Mission

By: Ann Wilson, MLS, MA, Collection Development Librarian


As a librarian, I think a lot about the evolving role of libraries. Sometimes I find insight from unexpected sources.

Our pastor has been sharing with our congregation some thoughts on our changing world and how the church can remain vibrant while seeking to connect with this changing world, which, on the surface, seems to change so much from day to day. Specifically, he has offered ideas from Carey Nieuwhof, a church communicator and strategist who wrote an article called “10 Predictions about the Future Church and Shifting Attendance Patterns” (23 Feb. 2015 blog). Prediction #2, “Churches That Love their Model More Than the Mission Will Die”, caught my eye especially, because I believe it is appropriate not only for churches, but also, for libraries.

Nieuwhof used the example of the invention of the automobile to illustrate his point. As automobiles became common and affordable for average families, carriage and buggy manufacturers lost business and many went under, even though human transportation actually exploded as average people began to travel more than they ever could before. The mission is travel; the model has changed over the years, from horse-drawn buggy, to car, to airplane. Many other examples exist – think of the recent developments in the fields of communication, music, photography – and even publishing. The mission is entertainment, but the model shifts from 8 tracks to cassettes to CDs and streaming audio and video. The mission is information, and the shifting model includes books, magazines, videos, audiobooks, online/digital content, social media use, innovative programming, maker spaces, and much more. Companies that innovate strategically around their central mission (think Apple or Samsung) will outlast companies that focus myopically on their method (like Kodak).

Can we apply this concept to libraries? What is our mission? Could that question be answered differently by different libraries? Could a library have several missions, perhaps dictated by the various populations who use the library (or who we WANT to use our library?) Does the mission of a library change over time?

Answering these questions consciously will help library decision-makers chart a path through a changing landscape. Keeping the mission(s) foremost in the minds of library staff should help the library connect with the changing world. The key to this effort lies in separating the specific means and media we utilize to serve our patrons from our ultimate objectives as community-based centers for learning and the exchange of knowledge and ideas. To paraphrase and adapt Nieuwhof’s summary statement, “In the future, libraries that love their model more than their mission will die.”





Ann Wilson started working for Brodart, where she is affectionately known as The Sourceress, in 2000. Ann draws from her high school/public library career experience to feed sources and choose key titles for our selection lists. Click here for more.



Fake News & Libraries

By Fern Hallman, M.Ln., Collection Development Librarian

myth and reality word cloud

One of the hottest topics around right now is so-called “fake news,” the recent explosion of intentionally false or highly biased news. Many of these stories are fabricated and then packaged and distributed to look like legitimate news. Librarians are major players in the fight for REAL news and information literacy.

A recent Stanford Graduate School of Education study found that most students have a hard time distinguishing between credible and unreliable news articles. Some even have trouble distinguishing paid advertising from news reporting. Another study, by the Pew Research Center, finds that a majority of US adults are getting their news from their social media feeds, which certainly do not present all sides of a story.

Throughout history, various fabricated stories have been presented as truth. In the 1880s, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst practiced yellow journalism, using lurid stories and sensationalism to attract readers. For a long time, tabloids such as the National Enquirer have done the same for readers in line at the grocery store. The current combination of a divided electorate and rampant social media has led to the deluge of questionable reports.

Fake news can take several forms. Some stories are intentionally misleading, and are packaged in a way that makes them appear credible. Other stories, often called clickbait, are just intended to lead readers to a specific site. Many stories may seem to contain real facts, but the perspective may be biased. There are also sites that specialize in parodies or satire.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), a leading organization for the library and information professions, has put together a simple graphic describing how to spot fake news. The first step in evaluating a story is to consider the source. Check to see if that story really is from a valid source, or if it is just someone using a similar name or URL. Read the whole story. Sometimes a headline will draw you in, but you will find there is more to the story if you dig deeper. Find out more about the author. Do a little checking to see what else they have written, and whether there is a reason for their point of view on a topic. When was the story written? Is this current “news” or a rehash of an older event? Is this a joke? Some stories from satiric websites go viral and certain readers may not understand or recognize the humor. And finally, determine the point of view of the story, and evaluate the role your own feelings are playing in your interpretation of it. It is not appropriate to call a story fake news just because you disagree with it.

Libraries everywhere are helping their users spot fake news. Many have assembled web sites and fact sheets on the subject, and are holding workshops and webinars. Here are some additional ideas. Julie Todaro, president of the American Library Association recently gave this quote to Governing Magazine: “The authority of the president of the strongest country in the world needs to be protected. But we have to think about facts and information now more critically than ever.”

For more information on this timely topic, here is a great guide from the librarians at Hillsborough Community College:




Fern has worked for Brodart as a Collection Development Librarian since 1990. She also did a stint as a reference librarian in the CNN newsroom and is married to a newspaper librarian. Click here for more.