Saturday, December 02, 2006

Confessions of an Unpopular Reference Librarian

I am not always a popular person among reference librarians. With a Bachelors degree in communications - TV/radio production and marketing, and no MLS, some reference librarians may think that I'm lucky to be running an Adult Services department in a posh public library in an expanding community. Well, the truth is - I did get lucky. I lucked out when my director took a chance on me knowing that the world of Reference is rapidly evolving into a different form of library service altogether. For years Reference consisted of providing information to people who came to the library to enquire. Reference librarians were the gatekeepers to an almost unattainable world of facts, and with that position came a snobbery that still remains in places today.

Well, technology has produced a new savvy information consumer among the masses. These patrons, have become accustomed to having information delivered to them in whatever format they desire - whether that be in an email, an RSS feed, or even delivered to the door. Disappearing are the days when people actually go the library to find out the acidic content of an orange (one of my first reference questions asked in 1996) or what paper money is made of (another old favorite of mine). I am proud to say that this library (and this Reference department) does deliver content in a variety of methods and we're constantly exploring new ways to get that content to the people. However, libraries still need patrons to come to us, and this is one of the ways my director has been a great visionary. Our focus has shifted to programming - hosting authors, politicians, musicians and artists at the library. Not only do we bring this talent here for people to see, but we also are podcasting, and now vodcasting, these performances so that people can access them from their own computers. One might think that this is just another reason for patrons to not come to the library; why go there if they can get it at home? But our statistics show that these new technologies are added incentive for patrons to visit our building. They want to be a part of something that is exciting. And don't we all?

There are reference librarians out there who will say that we've got it all wrong. And there will be reference librarians who say I just got lucky. Let them say what they will...I hope this luck never runs out.

Allison Beasley
Head of Adult Services


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you pass your luck along and hire underlings who are nondegreed or otherwise seemingly unqualified for the positions you supervise.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Ivan Chew said...

I don't think it's an issue of luck only. Granted, we all need "Balls, Brains and Breaks" in life (I'm not being sexist, just trying to exercise alliteration, heh). Seems to me you've gotten a "luck break" but the crux is what we decide to do with that break, and from the results we produce. Let's put it this way -- if you're "unpopular" but still manage to get things done correctly, through other people (and assuming you do not coerce them and they ultimately do it on their own free will), then you must be doing something right, qualifications notwithstanding.

2:37 AM  

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