Friday, June 18, 2004

Sometimes you get the banana, sometimes you get the peel

Today I had 20 minutes to talk about the E-Scan at the OCLC Update Luncheon at the Canadian Library Association. Today I learned that 20 minutes after lunch is not a good time to talk about the E-Scan. There wasn't time for the discussion that makes this thing so vital and interesting, and after a lunch (heavy on the carbs) many in the audience were flagging. The other speakers before me set me up fine, so it's not like there was some buzzkiller I can blame; it just didn't jell.

The interesting thing though, is that before the lunch, I had a wonderful conversation with the director of a large Canadian research library. I will call this person Sam to avoid any complications. Sam said that the University Library is in big transition. This Library has a number of backlogged projects, major retrocon work pending, a subject library that is classified in an idiosyncratic system, a new ILS system being installed, and a building project. Sam seemed tired just clicking them off the list.

But unbidden, Sam started talking about one of the findings of the study that has gotten less attention than others. Sam said that the library has had a number of retirements, and this has allowed the Library to employ new staff with experience and skills that aren't traditional "librarian" skills. Sam said, "We don't learn about how to run facilities in library school, why should we expect someone with an MLS to do this?" Sam talked about the need to focus on the core competencies the librarians do have, and work those competencies tirelessly to provide the best services possible. Then, hire PR people, fundraisers, and systems staff that can do those jobs well. Sam also said that even if there are certain jobs the library staff can do well, the library director today MUST consider if this is the best use of that person's time. "Sure, we COULD do this job," Sam said about a project a staff member had proposed, "But why SHOULD we? There are people who can do that for a lot less cost, and then we can use our staff to provide more direct service to our users."

One of the things I've always believed is that if we want other people to respect the MLS, we need to respect the skills and education others bring to their jobs. I don't want an MLS as my lawyer, my accountant, or my building manager. I also don't want a plumber covering the reference desk. This is why we specialize.

2 comments:

ruhan said...

I wish your successes ' continuation

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