There’s always so much to think about in public libraries today, but if I could consider the top three trends, I would say:
1. Collaboration is huge. We are busy meeting the public’s information needs in different, more dynamic, more effective ways now, and it’s all about collaboration. Ask yourself, what does the fire department and the library have in common? Then decide: both are involved in public awareness of fire prevention. Then decide together on a booth, a display, a night where the fire chief comes and speaks at the library, on safety in the home, or whatever else may come into play. People can have fun with this one, it can be sort of like solving a riddle. Better yet, use your long range plan to decide with whom to collaborate (first choice, actually).
2. We are retooling our library spaces to be much more customer oriented. We enjoy style, adequate space for people to meet or work or just relax, ample lighting, views of the outdoors, maybe even something to nibble on while we’re there. Though I only have a couple of grievances with Melvil Dewey, he is now old school in favor of bisac (bookstore model) cataloging.
3. Online is where the action is. We need to have online resources, know how to use them, and be huge advocates of getting our customers there. We need banners outdoors and on buses and table tents in the library. We need to include in our stats the checkout or uses of our online resources, and report these locally, statewide, and nationally. As hard as some of the issues are in dealing with online vendors, we need to stay in the game and triumph. Our websites need to be much more dynamic and lure readers into using our online resources. A first start is having the marc records for resources such as OverDrive and OneClick Digital in our library catalogs.
Here are some thoughts I have gathered, some from professional literature, some from blogs, some straight from my own heart.
We are talking about reference and how it is changing in UPLIFT this week: August 15 at the Utah State Library & August 17 2012 in Ephraim, at the Karen A. Hunstman Library on the Snow College campus.
Thanks, Jon Ostler, for being so accommodating to the public library directors and others who are coming on campus.
Reference and Services Trends in Public Libraries, 2012
- Traditional reference work is less relevant to the needs of users
- Rather than worrying about reference’s demise, many librarians have been energized by their newly expanded roles
- Reconfigured or eliminated reference desks
- Consolidated desks and services
- Librarian and support staff work together on the one main desk
- Librarian can handle more complicated questions
- Increased training for support staff to handle basic reference questions
- The reference interview is as pertinent as ever
- Roving reference is more important—getting out to where people are
- Expansion of self-service options (self-checkout, online group study room reservations, self-service holds, and touch screen frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) on your website/ library catalog
- Reconfiguring online reference resources for smartphones and other mobile devices
- Librarians are exploring new roles in reaching out to meet information needs
- Reference through the stacks and other indirect means
- Reduction/elimination of print reference collections
- Greater marketing and promotion of online resources and services
- Librarians will spend less time staffing desks and more time outside of library walls
- Online reference: email, chat, Instant Messaging, and SMS (short messaging services) reaches users who may not visit the library
- Online reference requires continual marketing to be successful
- Collaborating with other organizations will do as much to keep libraries alive as any project or program
- Embedded librarianship: becoming an integral part. Getting close to users by getting out into the community; being actively present with the user at the point of need.
- The big shift: we’re not doing things “for” the community, but we’re being a part “of” the community
- Libraries are shifting from the physical to the virtual facilities and media; from an individual to a community focus; from being a collection library to being a creation library; from being an archive to being a portal
1. Yesterday’s library reference was all about looking in books.
Today’s reference is all about finding the resources the people need, wherever it’s found.
2. Yesterday’s reference was all about what was housed in the library building. Today’s reference includes online services and digital resources.
3. Yesterday’s reference was all about getting information.
Today’s reference is also about helping people create and share information.
4. Yesterday’s reference was about term papers for students.
Today’s reference is also about multimedia projects for them.
5. Yesterday’s reference was all about being copyright enforcers.
Today’s reference is about being intellectual property counselors.
6. Yesterday’s reference was all about teaching how to find information.
Today’s reference is all about teaching how to evaluate and use information.
7. Yesterday’s reference was directed by one librarian.
Tomorrow’s reference will be all about community collaboration to meet information needs.
8. Yesterday’s reference was all about developing print literacy.
Tomorrow’s reference will be all about developing multiple literacies – print, auditory, visual.
This means today’s reference is all about…
- Multiple choices
- Online resources
- Re-thinking what we’re doing
Nostalgia washes through me about the Utah State Library for the Blind’s loss of their Radio Reading Service, effective April 2010.
Sure, it may be an outmoded idea, not really a 21st Century Idea. And sure, the State of Utah has huge budget cuts and we need to keep a balanced budget. And sure, I support our Governor Herbert and our legislature on keeping a balanced budget. After all, we try to do that at home and it seems to be workin’.
I especially support USL admin for doing their homework and finding the least used service, since we can’t keep them all in these tight times. Hopefully one day we’ll be back to the days we had pre-recession. I’m all for that.
Moreover, many people may have given up the radio for something zestier like facebook, like twitter, like Salt Lake Tribune online, who has thoughtfully written an article about it.
I remember when Frank Layden (President of the Utah Jazz) used to come in and read for the radio. People loved that. They liked to listen in, hear his voice, feel his personality, his presence.
I remember when Gerald Lund donated his latest greatest book to be read to the blind. Right when it was sizzling hot off the press. He brought it right on over, didn’t waste a minute. People loved that too.
I remember when Governor Matheson spoke up for the blind patrons and one of them walked on over, slapped him [hard] on the back and said how much he loved him. Those were the days.
Maybe the time has come to give up sacred (purple) cows, especially when the State Library is facing such huge budget cuts that we can’t even breathe in and out all day long, but always remember these words:
I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one;
but I can tell you anyhow;
I’d rather see than be one
–Gelett Burgess, 1895