The high point of my library advocacy has been attending Reference Renaissance 2010 this past August. The conference attracted progressive, dedicated professionals and it was such a learning experience for me to be there while they sharpened their saws. This week, Library Journal published articles from the plenary panelists and it brought the excitement and privilege I felt sitting alongside them right back to me.
Wayne Bivens-Tatum follows with Imagination, Sympathy, and the User Experience and encouragement for library staff to look at their organization – not as users who have learned how to master its resources and effectively tap their value – but as average users who want “simplicity, ease of use, and quality resources“.
And in an essay that warms my radical heart, The Visibility and Invisibility of Librarians, Jamie LaRue lists a few features of a library user interface I envision being delivered by the NPL. He also describes the professional pitfalls of being an invisible librarian and offers a different conception:
The visible librarian has a prominent seat at the community decision-making table, actively clarifies choices, provides reputable and relevant information, and through every action trumpets the unique contribution of the professional.
Need a little inspiration today? Take 15 minutes to read through these short essays. You’ll be glad you did.
Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library has produced a set of 3 video commercials to get students to use the library. Their message is simple: trust the library. To underscore the point, the clips open with an outlandish character (used car salesman, hyperactive adolescent boy, tarot card reader) representing untrustworthy sources and then cut over to happy, bouncy music and a list of citable media types found in the library’s collection. They end with the words “Trust Us” and the name of the library.
My sense here is that library staff and existing users will like the campaign, and anyone else who sees it will probably be unpersuaded. This is because the ads don’t tell us anything new: they say libraries have books and digital media, which everyone pretty much knows, but do not reveal what makes those holdings trustworthy. They also provide an exaggerated picture of alternative sources that is easily dismissed.
In today’s complex and dynamic information landscape, people have a proliferating number of information choices. Many are more convenient than the library, many are more robust (especially in the case of smaller public libraries) and many are highly credible. Simply saying “trust us” to undergraduate students or the general public is not enough. We need to know when libraries are an equal or better information source and why.
We also need help sorting out the myriad information that comes to us from outside a library. Librarians could help themselves and existing or potential users by expanding their view beyond the library’s walls — by creating public service messages that engage the topic of how to establish authority, credibility and trustworthiness of information sources regardless of where they’re aggregated. Who knows … reaching out to us where we live just might prompt us to seek you out where you do.