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! :)

No comments: