Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Not Your Grandmother’s Library

The former executive director of NELINET, Marshall Keys, was the presenter for this talk. I’m not sure, but I think I sat in on one of his addresses last year at MLA and my opinion hasn’t changed…and neither has his.

He’s a good speaker, and a funny guy. He makes good points about libraries serving the public, but goodness, I have to wonder what librarians he’s been talking to! Every time he speaks he makes us sound like the stereotypical little old lady with a bun, glasses on chains, grumbling about how the internet is “ruining” reading.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many folks in my library that are so dead set against new technology that they gripe for the “old days”. Mostly we worry how to balance good information with new ways of giving it to people, but no one’s angry that “These darned kids don’t know a book from a carrot!”

Statistically, they do. Nationally, the number of library users is climbing, and those using traditional services like story hours are on an up, as the presenter of the YSS Meeting segment on Reach Out and Read pointed out.

Still, Keys makes some good points. Looking at how users get their information from hand held devices like Blackberries is a good thing for libraries to do. Most users coming in are looking at cell phones and other hand held devices for their entertainment and info. Having services like stations to download music, and other such ideas serve libraries well.

People want personalized services. Let’s face it, they want quick and easy. They don’t care to learn the dewy decimal system to find a book; they want things done for them. His point is that’s not a critique, its just reality. They want Netflix brought to their door.

We have to look at what patrons want from us, and where they’re going to get it when we can’t give it to them. His point being, look at the competitor and then do what you can to compete in new ways.

Games and computer 3d environments like Second Life are new and exciting areas for libraries that patrons want. We already know they want things like Facebook and MySpace. We have to be able to provide them.

He gave an example of a library that offers things like drinks in the library, a drive through book service, and many other ideas that combine what we like about the instant gratification of many businesses with more traditional library services.

I was pretty surprised to see that he states that privacy is not very important to the newer generation (and I’m 30 years old, so we must be talking teens here). He says that the idea that librarians should protect patron privacy is not something patrons care about, but connivance is.

Far be it for me to cry for the “old days”. I for one am eager to see more technology and expansion of services in the library. Things like Video Games, Anime, Comics, computer usage, production of online videos as part of library culture. I’m all for it, but I have to admit that there’s a part of me that must be an old fogy when I hear that online users would rather have something fast and easy, than worry about who might be looking at it too. Maybe it’s because I never understood the idea of posting pictures of myself in my underwear, but apparently preserving your privacy is no big deal any more.

Still, I found a lot of what he said very interesting. I just wish he’d start hanging out with the librarians I know, and loose the uptight unwilling to change model of librarians he seems to tote.

-Sarah "The Dyslexic Librarian" Hodge-Wetherbe, Springfield City Library

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