Both Richard Anderson’s Away from the icebergs, and Michael Stephens’ Into a new world of librarianship serve as reminders that we have to keep current, not only with technology, but how it is being used, so that we can serve our public in the best way possible. Stephens lays out something along the lines of the Six Commandments for Librarians, while Anderson cautions us to steer away from old ways of thinking about the library, if libraries are to survive. Neither seems to be speaking to K-12 libraries, and while I can use their ideas, I also had some reservations.
Meeting the needs of the user was the primary emphasis when I was in library school (1990), and we took it seriously (and still do). The internet was in its infancy, we had very rudimentary email, and the technology was focused more on bibliographic databases and library catalogs. We all saw the importance of learning to use automated catalogs, and how these could benefit our users, but for many of us, the other stuff was more for the “techies” than those of us “serving the people”. However, because we are curious by nature, and overworked in practice, we seek more efficient ways of getting the job done, and have embraced new technology as a valuable co-worker.
But we must forge beyond practicality, if we are to remain relevant, say both Anderson & Stephens; they urge us to stretch the library’s boundaries, so that we can provide services for our users in the various spheres where they seek information: Instant messaging, weblogs, wikis, MySpace profiles, etc. The library must also be made more user-friendly:a place for people to create their own content, and be able to carry out research without facing the obstacle of unfriendly interfaces. Furthermore, Anderson suggests that we redirect our resources into online journal subscriptions and other materials, and not spend as much on print when we don’t have to.
Okay, I have some thoughts…
Students do need training, especially at the primary and secondary level; younger folks may know more than we do about the Web and its clever tricks, but they often too readily accept its authority-we need to teach critical approaches.
My impression of social networking sites, IM-ing, and lots of Web 2.0: it’s recreational! Maybe I’m too serious…
Can the Web replace library research? How do we impress the need for discipline and intellectual rigor in this kind of environment?
Anderson stresses that change like this needs to happen one library at a time, not wait for the profession to make a sea change. I think that’s already happening- what we need is more opportunity (a bigger boat) to share ideas and strategies on how to move the thinking of administrators, politicians, etc. so we can get the funding for making these changes!