(a slightly different version of this post has been cross-posted as a comment on LISNews)
I was wondering why my hits were way higher than usual this morning, it was because this post had been mentioned on LISNews.
Because of the feedback there and the insightful and welcome comments accompanying the original post, I thought that I should write a little follow-up post.
I certainly agree that these changes in the information market do not amount to a zero sum game. That was one of my points, that there is room for a lot of different players.
Maybe this is heresy or flamebait, but I don’t think that there is anything sacred or unique about the Reference Interview. Other professions do a similar thing, it just doesn’t have the same name and is usually more unconscious. It doesn’t matter whether you are a librarian, lawyer, doctor or even a call centre worker, you still need to find out what the person you are talking to really wants, as opposed to what he or she is saying.
My concern is that librarians are losing mindshare, especially amongst younger people. While working at an academic law library, it was distressing to see how each new class of students had less of an idea than their predecessors of what libraries did and how they were relevant . Of course we tried to educate our patrons, and once in a while there were those magical moments when a few students realized how powerful these research tools and techniques were (and how helpful librarians could be).
Of course we need to improve how we market the profession to the general public as well to the specific groups and individuals whom we serve. This is a constant need, on the micro and macro level. I am worried that we are giving out the wrong messages which is making our efforts counter-productive.
Most library users (and I dare say, all people who don’t use libraries) don’t like being preached to by librarians. If people like using Google, I worry that we are being kill-joys by pointing out all its short-comings. Sometimes people want to be shown how to do effective research for themselves, but often they just want get the best answer and run with it. This does not make them bad people.
Rather than trying to fight our future and perpetuate the bad old stereotypes about libraries and librarians, we need to accept that many of our patrons have changed irrevocably, and adjust to this.