Thursday, July 12, 2007

Librarian 2.0- The new professional or the responsible one?

Reading the Librairan 2.0 Manifesto was both an inspiring and frustrating read. Inspiring because it iterates goals that make me love my profession. I love outreach, I love working online and I love sharing new web 2.0 finds with peers and patrons.

But frustating too because I was left wondering how we got to a point in our profession where some of the goals needed to be written. Take the following examples:

*I will not fear Google or related services, but rather will take advantage of these services to benefit users while also providing excellent library services that users need.
*I will let go of previous practices if there is a better way to do things now, even if these practices once seemed so great.
*I will recognize that the universe of information culture is changing fast and that libraries need to respond positively to these changes to provide resources and services that users need and want.

These are new goals for our profession!? We actually had to put in goals that state we need to be open to efficiency, convenience and we need to provide resources our patrons need and want? As public servants in information resources, it would almost seem as if these goals were a mandatory. And yet, I can also see why we needed to specify these goals; there are quite a few among our profession that need to be reminded.

But how did we get to this stage? Why do we have professional librarians who refuse to keep up with the professional and technological requirements? How did we reach a point where the patrons’ needs were less important than the traditional way of doing things?

All along, the job of a reference librarian has been to find the information patrons need. We are in the business of connecting people to the information they require... so why care about the format that information is found in?

Although traditionalists' argue the Internet is 90% junk, it was originally built as a means to convey information and expedite the communication process between people. Even among the copious amounts of junk found on the web, legitimate information has rooted itself firmly in cyberspace as well. For some reason or another some in our profession dismissed this technology as non-important, despite the visibly growing applications and use among our patrons. And because of this lackadaisical and rejective approach we are left with professionals so far behind the curve that waiting for retirement is as an easier path than training.

And so I grow frustrated when I read the goals and responsibilities of the 2.0 Librarian, it should've been part of our profession all along.

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At July 12, 2007 4:29 PM, Blogger Gabriel Lundeen said...

I couldn't have said it better. I feel the same excitement and frustration when I look at our profession.

At July 12, 2007 7:38 PM, Anonymous Rich said...

Well put. I'm a new librarian and have often wondered why any librarian needs convincing to keep up with their profession.

At July 12, 2007 8:44 PM, Anonymous K.G. Schneider said...

Well, keep in mind doctors have to tell themselves, "First, do no harm." Perhaps the tendency to do the wrong thing goes beyond LibraryLand. ;-)

At July 13, 2007 10:31 AM, Anonymous Seth Stephens said...

It is very easy to dismiss disagreement as an unwillingness to change. As my wife said to me once " Let me get this right, if I did everything you said I'd be fine". Often unwillingness to change is a symptom of something much deeper. Perhaps some people appear reluctent to change because, their understanding of libraries and librarianship is at odds with "Librarian 2.0"
Seth Stephens
Jefferson Township Public Library

At July 14, 2007 10:07 AM, Blogger Amy J. Kearns, MLIS said...

Love your post, Ty, and agree but have come to realize that we need a PRE-step here - I believe it is "CHANGE" itself, and not what we want them/us to change to that is the problem - all change is uncomfy and I think everyone needs to start at a previous step and deal with the issues of "change" in general, and THEN move onto the specific changes we are talking about.

I have become aware that a certain amount of gentle hand-holding is necessary here.

At July 18, 2007 4:49 PM, Blogger Librarian in Black said...

I am of the opinion that this unwillingness to change, to invest in keeping up with the profession, stems from job stress and overloaded-ness. When people don't have time to the work they already have, some of them will resist like heck anything new you try to or others. Obviously every single person has his or her own psychology affecting attitude and willingness to adapt, but this is a general trend I've seen.

At July 19, 2007 12:54 PM, Blogger Janet said...

Librarian in Black has it exactly right. Shrinking staff budgets and increased workload are taking their toll. I have to convince some of my co-workers that it's OK to use work time to learn new stuff and that it's OK to fail when trying something new. Some staff would love to take on new projects or find new ways to do things, but they "don't have time." We in libraries need to find the courage to evaluate everything we do in terms of its opportunity cost. Then we can stop doing things that are less valuable than what we could be doing with the same time and energy.

At July 20, 2007 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There seems to be a general feeling among other librarians (not me!) where I work (an inner city community college) that it is not only our responsibility to put patrons in touch with information, but also to teach them basic person to person interaction skills so that they might go out after graduation and be able to find jobs and/or live better lives. We also have a lot of books on manners >cringe<.

I think these librarians think that the more often students have to come personally ask us for help because our website is too confusing or the IM Reference is disabled or we have cryptic signage like "Databases", the better off they will be in the long run because We Will Have Taught Them Valuable Lessons.

Maybe this is part of the resitence to new technology and to using new types of reference methods and the like? Has anyone else run into this type of argument?

At July 20, 2007 8:49 AM, Blogger Amy J. Kearns, MLIS said...

anonymous - are you talking about a sort-of "job security" fear?

I'm not sure I have seen/experienced what you are describing but I can believe it for sure.

At July 22, 2007 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You - and the Manifesto - makes a huge jump in logic. Librarians need to be able to find the best information for their patrons, whether in books or online. But they don't need to enthusiastically embrace every 2.0 trend (Flickr, Twitter, Second Life) that comes along. One can easily be up-to-date on 2.0, but not actually using 2.0 in everyday life. I think the 2.0 Manifesto doesn't allow for that.

At July 26, 2007 6:37 PM, Anonymous Daniel CannCasciato said...

Regarding this part of the statement: " We actually had to put in goals that state we need to be open to efficiency, ... And yet, I can also see why we needed to specify these goals; there are quite a few among our profession that need to be reminded."

I don't by the premise. Sure, you'll find folks in ANY profession who fall out-of-date. Also, though, you'll find some who stay up-to-date but perhaps not in what is considered the cutting edge. Those are different issue. (My up-to-date might not fit your defintiion.) And if you look at librarianship, I don't see this as a comprehensive problem in the least. Librarianship is a very forward looking profession.


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