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September 20, 2007

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Dorothea Salo

Can I hear an "AMEN," brother and sister librarians!

To be fair, librarianship needs to do a bit better than it historically has in recognizing that librarians who work outside The Library Building are still librarians, still doing librarians' work. I don't know how to make that recognition happen, except to be welcoming myself to librarians working outside The Building.

I wrote a short squib on TechEssence a while back on the confusion you note, if it helps at all: http://techessence.info/node/86

K.G. Schneider

When I'm working within the 4-year higher ed community, I see things just the way you do. But then I step back and think about the public library environment, which to a large extent provides services to people who *need* "The Library." The librarians working in these environments are being good librarians by delivering the services their constituents need.

The middling place I now occupy (a network for 2-year-college libraries) is fascinating, because this is an area that's so *ignored.* (The latest ECAR study on students and technology only surveyed four community colleges.) It's not that you can take every rule about the 4-year environment and turn it on its head: it's almost like a 90-degree twist. These students are perhaps the most nomadic of all in higher ed, and yet are somewhat less likely to have their own computers or laptops. They check out an enormous number of books (I did a historical report on circ against FTEs today and was startled to see circ almost where it was ten years ago) but they gobble up electronic resources, which they really appreciate. 75 percent of their system accesses come from outside campus networks, and yet they are far from self-reliant, using online reference, etc. to help them shape a research assignment, and because they are often working and attending part-time are very appreciative of the library as "place," because a place is often exactly what they need.

Anyway... guess I'm saying that most "2.0" librarians are advocating awareness of services that complement their users' realities (and as Loose Cannon Librarian recently observed, sometimes exceed them). It's all contextual. Sometimes the best thing you can do is build a library.

I for one have proceeded to skip 3.0 and go directly to 4.0...

T Scott

I do believe in the importance of "library as place" -- which I tried to indicate in my post. But I think there's a sort of Taoist paradox at work here -- if we focus on the relationship between librarians and the community, I think we will inevitably build good libraries, because that's one important means to the end. But we'll also do many other things -- librarians in nursing homes working with people who cannot possibly get to the physical library, librarians with a booth at the local farmer's market showing people where they can find resources to nutritional information, public librarians partnering with hospital librarians to participate in the health fair at the local mall. But if we focus on the library, we inevitably end up thinking of the library as an end in itself, and then we won't be thinking about all of those other things. If we believe that the best thing we can do is build a library, then I think we're selling ourselves short. More importantly, we're not fully meeting our responsibilities to our communities.

Kathleen (LibraryNation)

I agree... It's easy to slip and forget what the real goal of librarians is - to connect people in our communities with information. If that means providing a building, then we can do that. If that means going outside of the four walls (or outside of the "real world") and taking that information to where people need it/will use it...we can do that too.

I think we might get a little scared when thinking about that because without having a Carnegian building to rally behind, maybe it will be more difficult to justify our work/get funding... but there's nothing about a building that inherently says "successful" or "efficient use of resources"... there's thousands of nonprofits in every city who take their services where they're needed rather than spending a lot of money to make people come to them.

I'm always impressed by your ability to step back and look at the bigger picture.

K.G. Schneider

I think we're on the same page (more or less). I believe we need more untethered librarians... librarian "embeds." In some ways I think my work running a global portal was more important to librarianship than anything I did before or will do afterwards, because it reached so many people at point of need.

I'm just raising the cautionary issue that from inside the academy, it may be hard to understand the very fundamental needs of the population at large, particularly in poor communities.

T Scott

KGS -- point well taken.

And that's also part of the reason that I mention people in nursing homes. No matter how good we make our public libraries, there are still going to be people in those communities who can't get there and who would benefit from strong in-person contact with good librarians.

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