Wednesday, January 27, 2010

This dude's crazy.....

....but he might be on to something

An article just arrived in my in box, and the first line really caught my eye "Bill Mayer imagines a library without librarians."

Wha? Really? No.....Seriously....?

...and then I read the article. It seems that Mayer (the university librarian at American University) actually has some radical, and maybe even good, ideas.

He doesn't want to get rid of librarians, he just wants them out of the library and in the community. He also wants to incorporate various community collections (In the case of AU, collections that various student groups and campus departments have already built up) and pull them together with the library's collection. As I go through library school, I am amazed at how often that word pops up....community.

It seems that libraries have gone through an evolution where the original focus was on the information itself, and then the focus was on the systems of retrieving information, and then the focus was on serving the patron. I think its time to stop thinking about serving individual patrons, but looking at a community, as a whole, as the patron. I also think that we need to stop thinking about bringing the patron to the information, but bringing the information to the patron.

How do we do this? I have no idea. That's what I'm going into debt for.

Anyways, it's a great article, I highly recommend you check it out.

And I'm curious about this Bill Mayer character, he seems like someone to keep an eye on...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Amazon hates blind people....

Not really, just looking for a catchy title. But here is an interesting development:

Schools who were testing the kindle for academic settings are stopping, and even going so far to recommend that schools don't promote the use of Kindles in the classroom.

The impetus for this move? Complaints to the U.S. Justice Department stating that the Kindle is not accessible to blind students. Although the Kindle has basic text to speech functions, these functions don't include menus or search options.

I guess Amazon isn't saying a whole lot about this little blunder, but in earlier statements the company recognized that key modifications still need to be made before the device can fully service blind individuals.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

There's A Social Worker In San Francisco's Public Library

I would imagine that San Francisco's public library system is much like Multnomah County public library (Portland's Public Library); an amazing and vibrant library system that might be confused with a homeless shelter.

I love the central branch here in Portland - it's a beautiful building and the staff is amazing. I pick up the materials that I place on reserve there. I've even received some helpful research assistance from the reference librarians.

It is an open, free, democratic space. Hence, the proliferation of street kids, homeless folks and various other-rarely-discussed-members of society. Unfortunately it can make the library a little uncomfortable. On rainy days it's particularly smelly. Its hard to concentrate on homework when there is a gentleman having boisterous arguments with (I presume) the book he is reading. And you're generally pretty cautious when entering the restroom.

A few months ago I was having a conversation with two library staff members (one of whom holds a masters in social work) and they both agreed that a social worker embedded in the library would make a world of difference.

San Francisco's public library is one step ahead of us.

Not only has the library hired a social worker to refer patrons to various services (such as shelters, showers, food and employment services), she is overseeing a program where the library actually hires homeless patrons to act as "Health and Safety Associates," (i.e bathroom monitors). The social worker also trains library staff what to do when witnessing unpleasant behavior from the patrons.

I think this is amazing. Libraries should be information-sharing community centers. By having a social worker in the library, an individual with the proper training and experience is in a very visible place to assist specific members of the community find information that could directly improve their situations.

This is the view that I feel libraries need to take in general. It's not just about accessing books, it's more about accessing the community.

Monday, January 11, 2010

new ways to ask questions...

One of my first assignments this term is simply to shadow and observe a reference librarian for an hour or two, and write down my impressions of the reference interview. Working at a medical research library, I was looking forward to sitting at the desk and eaves-dropping on the interview, imagining what kind of crazy medical quarries I would be privy too.

I came, I saw, I was kinda bored.

That's not entirely true. I had a great conversation with the librarians about library school (he's an alumni of my program) his diverse experience (before becoming a librarian he worked for a video game development company) and librarianship in general (get us started and we go on and on and on....)

We just didn't have patrons come and ask us a question...in person.

We did receive a phone call, and the librarian was logged into the "chat with a librarian" and checked the general reference email. I was a bit frustrated, as I sat in during one of the busiest parts of the day - I was hoping for a little more action than what we got.

However, the hour wasn't a total loss - it did give me a chance to think about the future of information and information gathering behavior, making me wonder how we will be assisting information seekers in the future. As information dissemination becomes predominately digital, will librarians interact more and more with their computer screens? You can email with a librarian and chat with a librarian. There are companies currently developing programs that allow you to text a librarian from your cell phone. Maybe libraries should start a skype reference program....

In the next few days, I'll try the assignment again, and hope for better success, and maybe even recommend a revision to the assignment. After all the reference interview seems to be getting rarer and rarer, but there might be a future for the reference texting....

Sunday, January 3, 2010

writers who are better than me....

I think it is appropriate for my first post of 2010 to continue the examination of emerging content delivery technologies: eReaders.

Don't worry, it's short. (I'm way to excited to go home and cook dinner to focus too much attention on writing). I just wanted to share with you a great article on npr about eReaders. It features author Nicholas Carr (who wrote a great article, called Is Google Making Us Stupid, for The Atlantic), who brings up a very important question: is there a relationship between how we read and what we're reading off of?

So there you are: two great articles to start off the new year....