Tuesday, May 22, 2007

New Technology: Twitter

I'm a pretty fast adopter. And I like to try new things. I learn quickly. (these are fairly standard traits of the modern librarian I think) These traits are what lead to a podcast for School Library Journal last year.

There's been a lot of talk recently about Twitter. I've tried it. I don't like it.

I particularly don't like Twitter, but that's only because I can't see a use for it in my life. Maybe if I did more texting on my phone. I don't know. I don't see the point of using Twitter if you're tied to a machine. Sure, some people have used it for a 'what I'm reading type thing' like I used LibraryThing. That's pretty cool. But I like what I'm using for that same concept. Some people use it to coordinate themselves at a conference. That's really cool. But I'd have to be using some sort of web-enabled handheld device that I don't own to do that. And go to a conference. And have everyone I was trying to meet also doing the same thing I was doing.

Hey, I like being in touch with people. I just 1200 miles away from all the people I've known for the past ten years. Twitter isn't going to help them connect to me. And I can't imagine why anyone would care what I'm doing from minute to minute. If Twitter could watch me and post its own updates every five minutes or so, that would be way cool. I think I hate how much extra work something like Twitter makes for me. It's tough enough getting everything I need to get done without also telling people what I'm doing while I do it. That's what this (and the other blogs I write for) is for. For big events.

I also like my privacy. I have a 14-month old baby girl. There are a lot of things that I talk about online. I'm a fairly open person. At the same time, there are parts of my life that are private. That I don't share. If I'm not travelling (physically moving) my cel phone is off. There are very few people who need to get in touch with me at ANY moment. The list consists of my wife. Everyone else can wait until I get their message.

So basically, Twitter is too intrusive for what I like about technology.

So You Want to Start a Revolution?

Emily Clasper is, among other things, the creator of Library Revolution, a well-needed shot in the arm to the library field. Emily pulls no punches, writing about everything from librarian's fashion sense (or lack thereof) and how you can't complain about the public's image of a librarian if you don't promote a positive image to how she doesn't feel (in general) that the library is very convenient and that she'll use other services that are convenient even if she has to pay. It's great stuff. She makes me angry almost every day.

And that's a good thing. She presents an attitude, an opinion of the library that's very honest and probably directly in line with how many patrons and potential patrons think. Her basic premise is: this is my life (points to space around her), what is the library going to do to make a presence for itself in my life?

Yes, what can the library do to make a presence in the patron's life? Be open 24 hours? Extend checkout times? Get rid of due dates (a la Netflix)? Provide easier and multiple ways to sign up for events? (why do we insist people come INTO the library to sign up for an event? What if the patron has the time during the event free, but really doesn't have any time leading up to it free?)

The library is about the patron. The librarian is not better than the patron. The patron is not some evil thing out to destroy the library.

The patron may cause the destruction of the current library model, and that's ok. Libraries mostly exist in a 19th century frame of thought. Times have changed.

Today, Emily makes an important point that I've tried to make in the past. It's not enough to keep up with library blogs and journals. You need to read outside the field. And you need to make time to do this. This is true of any profession you're in. You cannot be successful, you cannot be revolutionary (and maybe many of you are content to put in your time and retire some point in the future...I'm not) if you subsist only on your field.

Think about it. Do you listen to only one type of music? Do you watch only one type of movie? Do you read only one type of book? And by one, I mean one. By one I mean you watch sports television and NOTHING else. No news, no sitcoms, no dramas, no DIY, no cooking, nothing. Just sports. Who does this? No one. There is no librarian who is so singular in focus that they do nothing but one thing in their time outside of work. If you're like that outside work, why not during work?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Branding Librarians

No, I'm not talking about a scene out of City Slickers 3: Cataloging on the Range, I'm talking about the image of the librarian. Andrea Mercado posted on the PLA blog about this very issue. She poins us toward a survey from the Emerging Leaders Initiative member Brendan Gallagher. The survey lead me to this LONG comment on the PLA Blog:
As strange as it may sound, I really enjoyed taking the survey. It reminded of the reasons why I changed careers from computer programming to librarianship back in 2004. It gave my batteries a nice recharge to think about the questions--and my answers--in the survey.

I never worked in a library until 2005 (at the young age of 34), so of course my ideas of what should happen in a library are very different from many of the people that I work with. I'm always thinking of things in a more business-oriented way, and I think that's beneficial to the current state of affairs in libraries.

I think that at one point libraries were at the forefront of people's consciousness when it came to information, but we've fallen WAY behind the rest of the world in the past decade or two.

I know a lot of people don't like to think about marketing (or don't think we need marketing) but there are so many things going on at the library that public don't know about. They have other things consuming their attention.

It's even gotten to the point when I would tell people that we could get them a book we didn't have in the catalog that they were amazed. Isn't this the most basic thing we do as librarians? Provide books for people? And they were amazed that I would do this 'just for them.'

It's not good that people are unaware of our most basic functionality. It only drives home the idea that the public will even less of a clue that we offer MP3 audio books, online databases, book club in a bag, movies, live music, cafes, etc.

I think there are three areas every librarian can improve on no matter how good they already are:

Customer Service
Passion for the field

At the same time, there is a lot I'm learning from people who have been in the field as long as I've been alive. These people know so much about the community they're in, the field they're in, the specific area they work in, it's something for me to aspire to. I look forward to the day when I can be an expert, a role model, for a new librarian.

We need to get the public to see us the way we see us.

What about the rest of you? Are you tired of librarians ranting about this issue? Or are you tired of librarians claiming that things are just fine?