Monday, March 20, 2006

March Madness 2

I'm back in the office for two days before I leave for the PLA shindig in Boston. Last week was a blur, and this one's not much better!

Monday night, I guest lectured for a wonderful group of LIS students about the Environmental Scan and the Perceptions Report.

Tuesday afternoon, I talked about the Perceptions Report with directors from the Association for Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL).

Thursday, it was a gaming presentation at the Greene County District Library in Xenia, Ohio.

Saturday, I was in Utica, New York, at the Mid-York Library System, talking about library futures.

At the ASERL meeting, one of the issues that emerged was how we expand the library brand to start penetrating public consciousness about what libraries have to offer in this world.

In the other three programs, one of the biggest topics of discussion was "Google versus books" as a reference tool. How can (or perhaps the question is should we...) get students to go deeper into the literature to use all the resources the library owns or licenses, when all they seem to want to do is use Google?

One librarian in Xenia expressed frustration that she could answer a question for a student from books that are readily available,but all they want to use is the web. She said that by the time she referred the student to the public computers on the second floor, and the student repeated the question for the librarian there, she could have easily found the answer for him. One of the other librarians in the room suggested that perhaps the computers are on the wrong floor.

In Utica, the discussion was framed around "instant gratification" in public libraries. Do we give students and other library users answers, or do we try to teach them how to become independent, lifelong searchers? This is a question that can roil nearly any gathering of librarians.

Charles Robinson, one of my personal heroes in libraryland, drove a stake into the ground in this argument by summarizing his philosophy of library service as "give 'em what they want." I definitely come down on that side of the argument; I was inoculated with his way of thinking many years ago. When we view the world through our library prism, we try to slot users into our preferences for printed materials and thorough research. We try to make little librarians out of people who only need enough material to do a one page theme on frogs. Today's kids have so much to do that I have no moral or professional compunctions about providing instant gratification from our publicly funded institutions. If the student wants to learn a couple of quick tips about how to make her own searching faster and more effective, fine---but it's the student's call, not mine.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

I just wanted to say that I was one of those LIS students you spoke to last Monday and it was a great presentation.

I didn't realize that you were one of the "It's all good" bloggers - I feel like I've met someone famous now. :)