Friday, 5 September 2008

Reference in Transition: a scenario for the future librarians

I found this article through iLibrarian blog. Stephen Abram has written an exciting piece on the fate of reference with Evolution to Revolution to Chaos? Reference in Transition in September issue of Searcher Magazine.
He talks about the biggest challenge the libraries need to face and provides a scenario for the future of the reference - the information commons, the learning commons, the embedded librarians, the remote librarians, etc. He says that "we have to change our own personal behaviors and styles to adapt and reach beyond merely adding websites, technologies, and content to our toolkits. For this change, we have to place ourselves in all of the spaces inhabited by our users. We have to introduce complementary in-person and virtual contact. We have to be everywhere they are, since that’s the user expectation, and adapt to the tools that match their needs — IM, texting, smartphones, social networks, and the rest. And we’re seeing strong resistance from many of our colleagues. Can we do it? Remember, the dinosaurs didn’t go extinct because the climate changed. They disappeared because they couldn’t adapt quickly enough to the changes happening around them!"
"Reference and research services, the front line of library service, are dealing with a far-less-predictable future. The asynchronous, asymmetrical threats facing us are very real hydra monsters challenging our roles in many ways, all having some truth. The fate of reference has come into clearer focus in Web 2.0/Library 2.0 discussions and debates. The emphasis has moved from understanding and learning the technology to understanding end-user behaviors in context. Policies have moved from serving library management needs and library workers’ preferences to where end-user needs trump librarian insights and personal search preferences. If this attitude hadn’t changed, we’d be in real trouble now — although, admittedly, you still occasionally encounter dinosaur tracks and hear the roar of distant mastodons. A plethora of new end-user research — from usability through personas and from hit analyses to ethnographic and behavioral studies — focus on workplace needs, scholarly behavior, learning styles, and entertainment and demonstrate a material shift in the library user firmament."

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