November 21, 2017

Meredith Farkas | Movers & Shakers 2006

Playing with Technology

In her previous career as a child and family therapist, Meredith Farkas was often frustrated by her inability to give families the concrete assistance they needed. ‘I realized that I wanted a job where I could be [more] useful,’ she says. ‘Librarianship seemed a natural fit.’ Her experience created a natural bridge to librarianship, including a customer service background and the desire to help others. ‘Just as there is no one-size-fits-all approach to providing therapeutic interventions, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for serving individual patrons,’ Farkas emphasizes.

This variety of approaches serves Farkas well, since her role as a distance learning librarian encompasses both working with patrons and ‘playing with technology.’ From creating online tutorials with screencasting software to serving as academic computing liaison, both service and technology permeate her work.

Playing with technology also marks Farkas’s approach to professional development. Her blog, Information Wants To Be Free (IWTBF), originally focused on intellectual property and open source but grew organically to address using technology to serve patrons. Even before she started library school, her husband told her she should start a blog, ‘because I’m really opinionated.’ Although she ‘thought no one would end up reading it,’ IWTBF has grown into one of the most widely known and cited LIS blogs.

Using technology to serve underlies all of Farkas’s activities. After being ‘completely overwhelmed’ attending her first American Library Association (ALA) annual conference, she started the ALA Chicago 2005 wiki as a place for people to share knowledge about Chicago and tips on conference attendance. Her motto: ‘Two heads are better than one, but thousands of heads are even better than that.’ Since wikis allow every site visitor the ability to add and edit entries easily, ALA Chicago 2005 became the go-to resource for many conferencegoers needing a comprehensive reference and gave everyone access to reports and write-ups after the event. The latter solved conferencegoers’ problem of being able to attend only one program at a time.

Farkas followed her first wiki with the Library Success wiki, a knowledge repository where librarians and libraries can share information about successful programs and technological innovations. Her commitment to new technologies and their use in libraries underlies an upcoming book on social software in libraries, which Farkas describes as a ‘very ‘nuts and bolts’ guide’ (tentatively titled Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online, ITI, 2007). As Farkas says, it is ‘our professional duty to share our experiences and knowledge with as many other librarians as possible.’

Vitals

Current Position Distance Learning Librarian, Norwich University, Northfield, VT
Degrees MIS, Florida State University (FSU) Tallahassee, 2004; MSW, FSU Tallahassee, 2001
Blog Information Wants To Be Free (meredith.wolfwater.com/wordpress)
Wikis ALA Chicago 2005 (meredith.wolfwater.com/wiki); Library Success: A Best Practices Wiki (www.libsuccess.org)

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