Sunday, December 2, 2007

"Going to the Library"

A good driving day:

                

I suppose everyone muses about the absurdity of their jobs at times, but it's so strange to travel as much as I'm traveling in order to passively sit at the library reference desk to try and appear approachable. Librarians moan about how they don't need a master's degree to change paper in the printer, and the amount of time scheduling and maintaining coverage of the desk can be mind numbing, but as a profession we're still upholding this strange tradition of the reference desk. 

    It's very trendy these days to discuss the alternatives & how to put the library in the spaces that our patrons are inhabiting. (Thus the attempts of libraries at joining Facebook and MySpace.) The problem with that is we're not friends with our patrons -- we are a service and they are the users. Or maybe that's too black and white: It's more like, we're friends at work but would never socialize outside of the job. 

     So we're back to the idea that physically being there, sitting in the library at a desk signposted 'reference' is more efficient than trying to provide the same services solely via email or online chat or the phone. This is why library theorists spell the end of the reference desk, I suppose -- not only because patrons don't want to have to come to the library for reference help, but also because the alternatives aren't any better. (Maybe the problem is that the tool we need doesn't exist yet.  Another thing to think about in the car.) 

     In a way I'm quite happy about the people who come to the library to write and print their papers and have me refill the printer with paper: Occasionally these people realize that I'm trained and willing and able to help with far more complicated tasks.  But I'm not confident that this alone is worth the drive. In the meantime I'll be at the desk if anyone needs me.  

2 comments:

  1. One thought I had -- there's a lot of buzz around Second Life in academia, and this seems like one possible online environment where the library still has a place. Although, frankly I'm surprised that people would want to go to the library when they can fly.

    But hey, if instructors are successfully able to teach courses there, then maybe their students can successfully use library resources there. I can't say I've joined it yet. It just seems too weird.

    It does trump this whole commute thing though -- I could be a reference librarian from my comfy little apartment instead of schlepping around in horrible winter weather.

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