Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm a Nerd, Are you a Nerd?

Yesterday when I checked-in on Foursquare for our library I was awarded a Bookworm Badge and called a nerd.  According to Joe Murphy on his blog this is a new feature of Foursquare.  I had just thought that they were trying to tell me something in a not so subtle way.  One might forgive me for making that assumption as I have been accused of nerdom a time or two before.  Ok, maybe three.  I had also thought myself as nothing short of brilliant as I had left a tip promoting the Overdrive app to check out and use library ebooks and audio books on iPhone and Android phones.  Turns out I am not the only clever one.  Joe suggested using Foursquare to promote library programs and to award users for becoming mayor.  I like the way he thinks!  My only question is how to coordinate this in a large library system of which we are but a humble part.  Since Foursquare is a location based app, it would seem to make sense for each library in the system to go about this individually with occasional coordination for the central office.  Something to ponder.  How do you use Foursquare in your library?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Agnostic, Maybe - Dream Big

I was reading Andy Woodworth's post on Dream Big and his tweet which asked what are our dreams for libraries?  My dream is for libraries and librarians who are not afraid to try new technologies.  I would like to see libraries who are not afraid to be trendsetters instead of waiting to see what technologies will last long term.  With the technological landscape changing so rapidly in the last twenty, heck, even ten years, can we afford to wait a decade for applications to 'work out the kinks' before we adopt it?  If we are willing to try new things, we are better able to meet our customer needs.  Many of our users are tech savvy, and they expect the library to be on par with them.  If we are not, they will stop coming to us.  They will find the information and fulfill their needs somewhere else.  Instead of trying to force our users to adapt to what we feel are the proper protocols perhaps, and this is just a thought, we should adapt to our users' needs.  Revolutionary I know.

Looking at the other side of our customer base, if the librarians are tech savvy they are better able to help the customers who are being left behind by the digital divide.  Those who write or teach about reference often propose that use the reference interview as an opportunity to teach the patrons how to find the information rather than just hand them a book.  I propose that we also teach them how to use technology.  Many libraries have created a start by offering basic computer classes or computer tutoring, but let's embed it into our reference interview process.  As librarians, we should not be on the bottom or even in the middle of the digital divide.  After all, information is our business.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reference Librarians and library staff, never the twain shall meet?

Public libraries are seeing a gain in the number of non-MLS reference librarians. In addition more and more library staff members such circulation clerks, pages, and public computer specialist are answering reference questions or ready reference questions.  This has caused some resentment amongst various staff members as librarians feel that reference questions aren't adequately being addressed, and non-librarians feel as if they are being unfairly criticized.  The librarians are also feeling that their degree is not being utilized.  We are also looking at moving to a combined circulation and reference desk which will only excaperbate the problem.

To address these issues we have decided to develop a training program with written guidelines for all library staff.  For example, the program will address what type of ready reference questions can be answered by any staff member and when a the question needs to be referred to a reference librarian. A further extension of this will be reference training for the librarians - both those with MLS and without a MLS.  

There are four main areas in which I want to focus on for the reference librarian training.  One area I want to exam is how we are using information resources at the desk.  Are we just finding books for consumers, or are we also utilizing our databases, websites, and other forms of media.  Also, how do we provide utilize all of the sources without overloading the user with information?   The second area is how we are presenting the information to our customers.  Are we expecting them to learn to adjust to library lingo and methods, or are we adjusting to our changing customer needs?  If we are, how can we continue to improve in that area?  The third area is emphasizing good customer service.  This begins with a proper reference interviews and includes getting up and walking the customer to their resource.   The last area I want to investigate is what technological tools we can use to help us and to help the customers.  As I love to play with new gadgets and apps, this will be a fun one.

How do you handle reference in your library?  Is your circulation desk allowed to put a book on reserve?  At what point do they refer questions to the reference librarians?  In what areas do you recommend training?