Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Librarians and cool things on the internet: A merger is possible
Over the summer I interned for a public library and was able see firsthand that the culture of public libraries is so focused on in-person service (i.e. people walking in and asking for books or where the computers are) that they fail to see the entire audience of users who are at home on laptops, sitting in classes or meetings with tablets, or out shopping with smartphones. These are the people that the library should be reaching - people who crave data and information that is useful, informative, and accessible. These are people who care about their communities, and while they might not regularly visit their local library, they still support it. And that's why a digital presence is so important.
Almost all libraries have an online catalog, but there needs to be more than just a website with a search bar that uses Google (which is pretty effective). Instead, librarians should be using the digital tools that are all over the internet and creating interesting and usable information. Librarians are smart, or at least they should be after earning a Master's degree, and that knowledge should be put to more use than telling people how to browse for Agatha Christie in the mysteries section.
Digital Resources Librarians, such as Nathan Masters, a staff writer at USC libraries and Kenn Bicknell, the author of the Primary Resources blog at the Metro Transportation Library (where I currently intern), are great examples of librarians who are taking information and making it usable, relevant, and interesting to a wider audience than only those people who use the physical space of the library. These librarians are able to use their talents and skills to educate a community of online library consumers. Through research and writing, these types of blogs and articles shed light on local history as well as on the resources that libraries and archives have to offer. Not only are these fun posts to read, they are relevant and educational.
The future of libraries is in creative outlets for information. Blogs serve this purpose, as well as other media sites like YouTube, Tiki-Toki, PeoplePlotr, History Pin and Flickr (I created the Tiki-Toki and PeoplePlotr pages for the Metro Library, they are still in progress). As technology and media platforms change, so should the way libraries present information to the public. The information and resources that libraries present to users can and should be more than a library catalog or monthly flyers about events. I think that librarians will have to start looking for more creative ways to share information with users if they are to prove their relevance in a career that often seems less like an information profession and more like a personal directory service.