Monday, April 27, 2009

Librarians Everywhere

swamp pink, on the Blackwood campus

I'm noticing lately that my perceptions of student needs and abilities are probably very skewed, in that the bulk of the students with whom I interact at the reference desk seem to be those who are completely clueless, horribly stuck, or attention-seeking.

I've been wondering about the students I don't see -- the average users whose opinions I wish I knew, but with whom I seldom interact because they are quietly working online. As a fairly web-savvy Millennial, I do not have trouble connecting with my peers and professional colleagues online, but I know I am not regularly connecting to our local library users online.

(On a related note, I've also been wondering how much time average students actually spend on computers, and whether they use computers the same way that I do, for example. I work sitting in front of a personal computer pretty much all day long, with a fast internet connection, as many programs as I need, and a reliable printer, but our average users may face various technological hurdles. We assume a lot about them. In fact, maybe they are most often online for social activity and perceive any other time spent online as a chore.)

The more I think about it, the more I worry that in order to be connected with our average local library users, the more places online we need to be, in order to stay visible and present in their worlds. Beyond haunting all of the normal online places -- instant messaging through the library website, accessible via email, facebook etc. -- we also need to have a presence in public discussion fora, twitter, and anything new that comes along. Believe me, I know this ubiquity is difficult to even grasp, and many of us already feel stretched thin, budgetarily or otherwise. But the only way we will continue to be relevant to the average user and not just the squeaky wheels at the reference desk is by being online, representing ourselves professionally there, and reminding people (hopefully some of our local users) that there are librarians who exist to help people navigate the vast sea of information confronting everyone.

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