Monday, April 23, 2007

To or not to be...or Reference desks are in danger

I don't know what made me think so, but it seemed to me that all the problems, that Russian librarians have been facing recently, had already been solved by our western colleagues. But, to my sincere surprise, it not absolutely true. most of the thing we worry about, are still actual abroad.
For example, my elder colleagues are completely upset that the amount of the reference questions asked, falls every year. And what upsets them much more - most of the questions have nothing to do with real reference, the questions are - "Where can I make copies?", "How long can I work on PC?". Questions like "Where can I find this book?" or "Do you have this books in the library?" are very seldom.
We have to answer lots of questions on computers and information retrieval, but still the questions are simple to the limit "How to save files?", "How to switch languages?", "How to spell "yandex" or "google"?"
It's become a great pleasure to me to tell a rare student how to search and work with databases that our library has access to.
What am I driving at? At the problem that was outlined in the article "Are Reference Desks Dying Out", and raise a hot discussion at The Ubiquitous Librarian and walking paper. And also (Thanks to Kathy DeMey) aroused a nice talk on DIG_REF list.
The main issue is the following: Do our patrons still need face to face communication with librarians or they are completely virtualized.
My IMHO is - A virtual reference desk will not (in the nearest future) replace a real in person communication with our patrons. And all information services should supplement each other, not replace. May be we just need to think over the reference desk construction and to get rid of cumbersome tables or desks made of wood or metal, that to a greater extent separate us (reference librarians) from our patrons.
Lets get closer to them! :)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Information Services : Part 1.

A little earlier I posted a link to my presentation called "New forms of information service". I think it is high time to discuss two issues: what information services are and how libraries with different levels of technical equipment can organise them So, basically information services consist of 3 main points, and libraries should
1. Provide information services to the patrons
2. Provide access to information
3. Satisfy patrons' needs in information
Libraries should form the amount of services and resources considering different patrons' needs. The whole variety of patrons' needs can be generally divided into three main groups. Now let's try to think how can we develop service realisation and information access to meet patrons' needs.

THE FIRST NEED - open access to different kinds of information in different forms and on different media.
In other words, a patron may need textbooks, reference works, dissertations, reviews, biographies, etc. in different languages and publication date. They may need a printed original or a digital copy, they may want to watch a screen version of a book or listen to some audiobooks. A library must provide not only the resource itself, but an opportunity to read, watch, listen or study it. So, if a library possesses a nice collection of e-books or e-journals, to work with them there should be computers for patrons. If a library has audiobooks - it must have a couple of mp3-players or, at least, earphones. And so on...

THE SECOND NEED - means to convert information from on format to another.
It means that a user might need to digitilize a traditional printed resource. This can be executed at least in three ways - to scan, to photo, or to type on PC. So to cope with this task a library should have a good scanner, prosumer's digital camera and, of course, PCs for users to type their research works or other assignments.
And, on the contrary, a user might need to print a text or image - so, libraries need printers. I can't but mention photocopying, saving information on various portable data media, though they have already become a must in all libraries.

THE THIRD NEED - our patrons wherever they are want their questions to answered 24/7.
The first thing that comes to my mind regarding this issue is virtual reference, but not every library can find resources to manage such a great project. So I suggest more simple variants. Telephone reference - with great amounts of mobile phones and respectfully low call costs - this service will be in great demand. The patron doesn't need to go to the library to learn its working hours or to find out if the book she needs is in the library. She or he can call. A lot of problems can be solved this way.
If a library has its own website or a webpage - all the information may and must be published there, so that users that got used to search all kind of information via don't feel lost and helpless.
And for that category of patrons that doesn't like to use phones or computers, a library can make a kind of booklets, where all addresses, phone numbers, working hours and services should be noted.

.... to be continued

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Library Instruction 2.0

I ve recently found a very nice wiki presentation Library Instruction 2.0: Free Online Tools for Teaching With Technology on how to make classes in library instruction more usable for students. I think, I ll try some technologies for my classes on Information literacy next year.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I've promised to share my presentation on New forms of information services.
You can view it here (3 Mb, in Russian).
Comments will be posted later

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Upcoming Presentations

09/04 - Forms of information service in libraries.
Topics to discuss: virtual reference and blogs, and, if I have time - RSS and wiki-technologies
16/04 - Information Internet resources for libraries: bibliographic and full-text databases.

Abstracts will be published