Librarians for a new age?

What an interesting post I just read in the ALA TechSource blog! See "Desperately Seeking the Adaptive Librarian: On the 2.0 Job Description (Part 3)"

Here's an excerpt:
In the 21st century, library professionals will encounter a world where playing around with a new tool (toy?), experiencing new things without fear of failure (or success!), and spending time dreaming and keeping an eye on emergent technologies will be built into our jobs. We'll be expected to be connected. We'll be expected to collaborate with each other and our users. To be successful, we'll need to understand how social networks and gaming impact our libraries and our profession.
If you haven't re-evaluated your library job descriptions, maybe it's time... for a 2.0 librarian... for a videoblogger librarian... for a gaming librarian. Well, really for a librarian that can adapt and use whatever new methods—for reaching out to users—come along.
Great idea, huh? Join the conversation!


We Gotta Be Out There!

Sometimes I worry about what will become of us.

I think the Internet is great--I really do. I love how it has made it easier for me to do so many things:
  • check on movie times from home--any time of day
  • search library databases from home--any time of day
  • find out what time my favorite store opens
  • order prescription refills from home, online, without having to talk to anyone, or use a touch tone phone and put in the stupid (and long!) prescription number correctly
  • . . . I could go on and on.
I also like the way the internet has put "power" into the hands of the library user. They too, can do all the things I describe above, and all the things that they love about the internet. They don't have to ask a librarian to do some things for them. BUT. . . does that mean the internet is going to put libraries, and especially reference librarians, out of business? I don't think so--or perhaps I should say, I don't want to think so. But maybe I mean, I don't think so, if we're smart about it.

Sometimes I think it was easier when the internet was "new." Library patrons had heard about it, but they needed us to help them learn about it, and how to use it. Now, they think they know it all and by-pass us. I am exaggerating and oversimplifying, I know! But what can we do to stay "out there," on the cutting edge? Sometimes it seems things are changing so fast and there is something new to learn and master about the internet, and Web 2.0, and social software, and (I could go on and on) that I think if I have to learn one more new thing, I'll explode! But is that ability to master new things and "share" them with the "masses" (our patrons) one of the things that may keep us "out there"?

What do you think? What can we do to keep libraries and especially reference, out there, where they are? It's an exciting time, don't you think? How can we take advantage of that?


Top Ten Research Tools (and we're not there)

Alane Wilson, one of the OCLC bloggers at It's All Good, points to this ranking of top research tools from CNET. Guess what, gang? We're not on that list. The only thing remotely library-ish on the list is the 2007 Encyclopaedia Britannica. And the version of the EB they point to is a $50 DVD version for home computers, no doubt loaded with all sorts of nifty enhancements (and the ability to link access content from EB Online. Also on the list--Wikipedia. From the CNET editors:
These digital tools can keep you on track--whether you're working on a middle-school science fair, wrapping up a graduate degree, or pursuing a hobby.
Alane also points to the OCLC Perceptions Report that set librarian tongues to wagging last year in which survey data showed that very few people begin their research at the library. Under the "don't mourn--organize" category, Alane offers this:
Rather than cursing outrageous fortune and trying to beat these tools, we all should be coming up with ways to move our resources (people and content) into these tools as fast as possible--no, faster.


Introduction: Rochelle Hartman

Hi all! I was very pleased to meet Janice Dibble via email (after reading about their awesome after-school homework program at Oshkosh) and be able to brew up this project. I'm new to management, Wisconsin libraries, and Wisconsin and was looking for a way to connect with my new WI library colleagues.

My family and I moved to La Crosse on Memorial Day weekend this year, and on June 1 I started my new job as Information Services Manager at La Crosse Public Library. It's been nothing but thumbs-up for the new job, new house, new town and new state. We were even happy about the first snow and were very excited to make a pilgrimage to Farm & Fleet to buy boots appropriate for a northern winter.

I have been a library blogger for over three years, starting out at LISNews.com where I still post occassionally. My personal blog, which is very library-flavored, is Tinfoil+Raccoon, and I've managed to keep it going for over two years now. I've also blogged ALA conferences for the Public Library Association and have done guest blogging stints at Pop Goes the Library and the Teleread Blog and have hosted a couple Carnivals of the Infosciences. If you are looking for some other library blogs to read, here's a list of the blogs I subscribe to.

One of my favorite professional development activities is mentoring, and I look forward to continuing my role as student and teacher in the Wisconsin library community.

Pleased to meet you all! --rochelle (lisrochelle at gmail dot com)


Future of Reference in Wisconsin public libraries

I hope that the group who attended the Fall Reference Meeting will not mind my sharing these on the blog. These are notes that Mary S. provided attendees. Please share your thoughts with us.

Who has other ideas, programs, services?


General Observations

Web 2.0 is described as a “social web” versus the current web, which is a “semantic web.”
WebJunction.org is one example of a new approach to organizing websites and information.

Digitization has a “Lazarus effect.” Many materials formerly available only in paper are now on the Web for everyone to use. This gives information “a new life.” Indexing and putting things on the web is our job. Librarians are creating valuable resources.

Local history is a big draw to library websites. Digitization and creating websites, reader’s advisory and serving distance education students are important services.

BadgerLink statistics show that academic and school libraries use it the most. Public library use is much lower.

Millenials like to work in teams.

We are not the only “industry” going through rapid changes.

The number of reference requests is still going down in public libraries.

The Illinois North Suburban Library System has launched a service to provide “innovative and high quality support” for libraries of all types. “The strategic direction of the NSLS encompasses the promotion of lifelong learning, the development of new models of services to ensure the survival of all types of libraries, and the provision of information tools necessary to assist in successful advocacy efforts.” More information can be found on their website at http://www.ixiasoft.com/default.asp?xml=/xmldocs/casestudies/NSLS/nsls.xml

Online catalog venders are offering new features. SirsiDynix offers a program called Serial Solutions. Each library in the system can tailor the system for its own needs. SirsiDynix also offers “EPS rooms” (Enterprise Portal Solution) which allows libraries to gather high-quality information according to subject areas and then present that content in virtual spaces called "Rooms." There is also software for portable catalogs to allow librarians to search while roving the library.

Reference & Loan Library staff are investigating federated searching to be used with WISCAT and the BadgerLink databases. Local libraries would like to be able to use a local brand on this feature.

Research shows that people support libraries even if they don’t use them.

People still don’t know how to use print resources and need us to help them.
What Wisconsin Public Libraries are Doing

Staff at the South Central Library System use Yahoo and other instant messaging accounts to become familiar with the technology and to facilitate communication with each other.

Kenosha has an internal chat system to connect four library buildings

Winnefox has had a system workshop to help staff understand concepts so that they can better serve patrons.

Some libraries are abandoning traditional classification systems. Oshkosh PL staff are experimenting with arranging books based on the school curriculum in designated homework areas, so that students can more easily find materials.

Staff at Janesville PL teach library classes to sixth graders, who may in turn share what they learn with their parents.

Libraries are becoming “outposts” of the government, providing access to government services, such as distributing tax forms, registering to vote and Medicare information. One library has started issuing passports. Another makes money from staff proctoring exams.

At Kenosha, reference librarians are encouraged to go out in the stacks to mingle with patrons.

Challenges to Reference Staff:

There is a need to get kids’ attention NOW so that they will continue to use the library in the future.

Some librarians feel that reference collections are being “decimated.”

Reference librarians have to compete with other information services.

Reference librarians are handling nontraditional services, such as issuing passports, handing out tax forms and creating or participating in blogs.

Change happens so quickly. Ten years ago major reference resources were on CD ROM. Librarians need to be early adopters. Library customers don’t want classes on using the online catalog. They want training in using word processing software and email.

It is difficult to get people to use databases. We need to find a word to replace database. Maybe this could be done in a focus group.
How can we influence venders to make products easier to use? Also no two products work exactly the same.

Teachers are amazed when the library does training—they are unaware of the number of resources available in libraries.

Reference questions are becoming more specialized.

We need to focus on specific services. We can’t be “all things to all people.” At the same time, we need to give patrons the service that they want. Patrons have different needs. Some want to be taught how to use resources. Others just want an answer. We need to provide both types of service.

Millennials want instant results.

Librarians need to know users customers’ “lingo” and vice versa.

Patrons think the catalog is the library web page.

Suggestions for Action

Reference staff could tap into the distance education market.

Local libraries could work with schools to improve information literacy.

To promote libraries, target newsletter published by special organizations. Let them know what library resources are available in their field. For example, inform romance writers about library resources they could use.

At future fall reference meetings, pose a problem, do research in advance and then work through answers. For example, how can librarians work with venders to standardize databases and make them easier for customers to use?

People should be scheduled to rove. Users ask questions when they see people where they are looking for info.

Increase use of networking to cooperate with other agencies and businesses to promote services and get support at budget time.

Approach Wisconsin Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to find out if they are willing to promote libraries.

Have a library booth at the Wisconsin State Fair.

Publish monthly columns in local newspapers or in weekly free newspapers.

Distribute business cards with the library’s website and the BadgerLink website.

Libraries should also promote Newsline for the Blind.

Get people in the door and then focus on customer service to “give people what they want.” We must make sure that every library patron leaves with something, even if it’s only a card with information about the library or BadgerLink.

Need to evaluate service. One way is to use the secret shopper concept for unobtrusive observation.

Recruit college students to volunteer in the library’ homework area; create a teen advisory board to solicit input.


Reference: Heart of the Library?

I attended an interesting workshop at WLA titled "Reference: Heart of the Library or Superfluous Service" led by Stephen Johnson (Ebling Library, Madison).

Johnson began with the historical role of the reference librarian as the "gateway" hostess, greeting customers and guiding patrons through the process of getting the information they need.

From there, the discussion turned to whether librarians have become instructors. Do patrons really want to learn or do they just want the answer? Do they want (or need) to become self-sufficient in using the library's resources? Is it appropriate to do all the research for the patron and simply hand over the answer? And if it's not a complete answer but the patron is satisfied, should we consider that a "successful" transaction?

The workshop raised some other great discussion questions, such as where is the most important part of "reference" taking place - on the desk or off? How much desk work can be done by paraprofessionals, freeing up the professional for more challenging tasks? For example, patients with common illnesses are seen by a nurse practioner, not a doctor. Should libraries follow this model?

I think these are valid questions that deserve continued discussion; comments on any question raised here is welcome :)


Recap WLA sessions

Stealing an idea from MATS, would you like to volunteer to recap sessions you attended at 2006 WLA ?


Welcome to our new blog for Wisconsin public reference librarians. Janice