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I Heart Library "Provocative" Statements

Some disappointed soul wondered why I would criticize the Darrell Stalemates this week but not the Taiga (so-called) Provocative Statements. Why haven’t I addressed the Taiga Forum and its provocative production? Boredom, mostly, but let’s take a look at them.

For those who don’t know, the Taiga Forum is just a fancy name for a bunch of associate university librarians and assistant directors who get together at ALA and complain about how library directors never seem to retire. That, and they make statements which they think will be provocative. It’s not entirely clear who they intend to provoke, though, because nobody seems to pay them much attention. That’s sort of the nature of being anAUL or AD, really. It’s like being Vice President. Nobody really cares what you have to say. You’re not at the top giving all the orders and you’re not at the bottom doing all the work. So what do you do? You make provocative statements and write performance reviews. Maybe they’re meant to provoke other AULs and ADs, like the ones who don’t show up to the meetings.

They did this three years ago, and I think it’s pretty clear from looking at the past statements why nobody pays any attention to them. Everything, they say, should be prefaced by "Within the next five years…." We’re only three years into their five years, I know, but how dramatically do we expect things to change in two years? So, what did this exceptional group of library second-stringers have to say back then?

How about this one: "Reference and catalog librarians as we know them today will no longer exist." Hmm. I don’t see that happening. What about this dire statement: "there will be no more librarians as we know them. [This seems redundant to me.] Staff may have MBAs or be computer/data scientists. All library staff will need the technical skills equivalent to today’s systems and web services personnel. The everincreasing technology curve will precipitate a high turnover among traditional librarians; the average age of library staff will have dropped to 28." You’re probably starting to get some idea of the low prognostic power of these librarians.

So what are we getting from the current round? Well, there’s this gem: "all librarians will be expected to take personal responsibility for their own professional development; each of us will evolve or die." I’m still trying to figure out what the hell this one even means (which may be one reason I’ve ignored these until now). Each of us will evolve or die? Well, some of us will no doubt have died in the next five years, but it won’t have anything to do with not evolving. And what would it mean to take personal responsibility for our professional development? Does that mean we get no travel money from now on? Wait, do we have to supply our own computers? What about furniture? I need a good chair to to professionally develop; will I have to buy my own chair? (Actually, at my library that’s a distinct possibility for the future, but it has nothing to do with taking personal responsibility and a lot to do with crashing budgets.)

And this one: "collection development as we now know it will cease to exist as selection of library materials will be entirely patron-initiated. Ownership of materials will be limited to what is actively used. The only collection development activities involving librarians will be competition over special collections and archives." These are mostly ARL libraries we’re talking about. I know a thing or three about research libraries, and one thing I know for sure is that you can’t run one like a tuppeny ha’penny rural public library and only buy things patrons ask for or "actively use." I love statements about research libraries that are clearly made by people who don’t do any research. Very impressive! I wonder what the beloved faculty think of this one.

I like this one: "libraries will have given up on the ‘outreach librarian’ model after faculty persistently show no interest in it." As I’ve written, librarians are desperate for the "faculty" to like them, but no one pays attention to the librarians. Since libraries have had outreach librarians for a very long time, and the faculty have never shown any interest, why would things change so suddenly in the next five years? It seems to assume that up until now the faculty have been all excited about librarians or something.

Within five years, "libraries will have abandoned the hybrid model to focus exclusively on electronic collections, with limited investments in managing shared print archives." Yes, and universities will give up the study of anything or anywhere outside of North America. How provincial can these "research" libraries possibly become? Please don’t answer that.

Maybe gloom and doom is supposed to provoke us to something besides sleep. Within five years "… 20% of the ARL library directors will have retired. University administrators will see that librarians do not have the skills they need and will hire leaders from other parts of the academy, leading both to a realignment of the library within the university and to the decline of the library profession." There’s been a bit of discussion about these statements by the usual suspects in the blogs, but I think my favorite comment might be this one from the Confessions of a Science Librarian blog: "Since these statements are coming from AULs & ADs, I find it odd that they don’t seem to think that they are qualified to make the next step and become directors. Or that anyone on their campuses will think that they are." All I have to say is, if you knew some of these people, it might not seem so odd.

The Taiga folk think they’re provoking us with these gloomy statements that can all be summarized thusly: "Libraries are doomed." Librarians have such low professional self-esteem that it doesn’t surprise me much. Some people have compared these to the Darien Stalemates and found them much gloomier, but really they’re based on the same false assumption that everything will radically change sometime very, very soon and if we don’t panic about it and do some major changing we’ll be extinct. Nothing in the history of American libraries warrants that assumption, and nothing in the present outside the heated rhetoric of the frustrated trendsetters, but let’s not be bothered by facts. If anything is going to change libraries, it’s going to be a lack of money, not the rise of Twopointopia. The Taiga gloomsters have no hope, but then again their statements don’t mean much. The Darien Staters are hopeful pollyannas, but they don’t have any more persuasive case that we need radically change or die than anyone else does.

Both these sets of statements are just attempts by some librarians to draw attention to themselves with a lot of hot air and little substance. Trust me on this one: we can smell our own.

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Comments

  1. AcademicLibra says:

    You said it best about the statements by saying they are full of “hot air and little substance.” I too am confused about why they are so worried about the 20% of directors or deans retiring in the next five years. It makes me wonder WTF these fools (AD’s, Associate Univ Librarians etc) are doing.

    As far as outreach:

    I entered the academic librarian world last summer. The first thing I did was develop personal relationships with faculty members and then later used opportunities to propose things (like incorporating library instruction into more classes). Everything I have proposed has been accepted, thankfully. I am not sure I would call that “outreach.” I see it more as development…like a development officer doesn’t go out to potential donors and ask them for money right away. The officer develops a relationship first and then finds ways to ask for money.

    Anyway, AD’s get off your a**es and do something.

  2. Zapgun says:

    I think must of this loops back around to the personalities of academic librarians in general. Most of them were A+ students, despondent about the mere possibility that they might get a B in something. They are just still sucking up to the teachers for a gold star.

    Doom and gloom serves them well. They love to panic. And they love other people to panic because panic makes other people ”

  3. Zapgun says:

    That’s irritating.

    panic makes other people “serious” like they are all the time. Crisis is when stupid ideas gain currency merely because they can be seen as “doing something.”

  4. Dr. Pepper says:

    AULs make me laugh. They seem to be a useless lot :p (speaking from experience having served under or interacted with a lot of ‘em)

  5. MilitaryLib says:

    Zapgun,

    Good point about librarians (“Most of them were A+ students”). It’s weird. I see two things in my library system: (1) librarian committees can’t make a decision or changes unless it is perfect or pleases everyone, therefore a lot of things do not get done. For instance, the library’s website is known for being poor but since the committee can’t make changes the work is put on hold.

  6. Dr. Pepper says:

    Aren’t MLIS courses so ridiculously easy that everyone gets an A+? @MilitaryLib, I know librarians who are a “committee of one”. It’s like they are in arguing with themselves about the pros/cons of something and they never do anything because they never choose to take a side…in their own head!

  7. MilitaryLib says:

    Dr. Pepper,

    Great description of “Committee of one.” Hmmm…maybe that’s why the “Army of One” slogan needed a change lol!

  8. Walt Lessun says:

    I bought my own chair. Of course, I do have a rather large [remainder garbled in transmission]

  9. TwoQatz says:

    Libraries and librarians have been on the verge of extinction for years (yawn). Couldn’t count the times I’ve heard it over the span of my career. Judging by the questions I’m asked 25 years in? I’ll have a job until I decide to retire.

    I’m still thinking the Taiga and Darien folk are those who went to liberry skool without ever having worked in a Library.

  10. I am No. 6 says:

    Since these are “provocative statements” are they even really the views of the Taiga group or just something that they wrote to provoke reactions?

    Why you would publish something to get the response “that is a bonehead idea” is beyond my tiny comprehension. But then again, I am not an AUL, so clearly many important things are beyond my comprehension.

    And why was point 3 struck? Because it is already come to pass? If it was struck, why leave it in? Pretentious? Preposterous.

  11. MacTavish says:

    Gotta love AL. Lancing the boil of pomposity on the butt of librarianship.

  12. Dances With Books says:

    Just like the Darien statement folk, this was another full of hot air set of statements. I do know a thing or two about the big research libraries; I was not always in Backwater Rural Branch (BRB)University, and even I could tell these people probably do no research (or if they did any, have not done it in eons).

    Again, my thanks to you for taking these pompous windbags head on. Someone has to say that the emperor has no clothes.

  13. Mr. Kat says:

    If anything is going to change libraries, it’s going to be a lack of money, not the rise of Twopointopia.

    What if it is both ideas? Twopointopia already destroyed the encyclopedia market [wikipedia is better] and now most reference questions are asked and answered online.

    If anything, the funding issue will finally push the decisionmakers towards the twopointoh model…oh the horror.

    I agree with the “Upgrade or Die” slogan. In short, if you do not retool your knowledge on a consistant basis, you lose your ability to stay current in your field – no matter what field you are in. It’s like a secretary who never learned MSOffice but they can do everything with a typewriter, a rolodex and a filecabinet. Times change, and if the person does not stay educated, they become antiquated.

    The problem, however, is how does a Buggywhip maker uppgrade when the society starts using Automobiles instead of horses?

    We’re in the midst of the beginning of hard economic times; this could very well be the catalsyt that finally send librarians and the librarian field over the edge…

  14. QIO says:

    I love the way academic librarians think that the sun shines out their arse and that we are all enlightened out here in the real world.

    **sigh**

    Grow up or just go to another useless committee meeting and leave us all alone.

  15. Vegans For Meat says:

    “What if it is both ideas? Twopointopia already destroyed the encyclopedia market [wikipedia is better] and now most reference questions are asked and answered online.”

    Wikipedia is better in some respects, but it still is at the mercy of educators who do not accept it as an authoritative resource and thus disallow its use in official research, such as papers. So, in this sense, traditional Encyclopedias still have some advantages over Wikipedia.

  16. XPV says:

    When did encyclopedias become accepted by educators? Back in the day, if we used an encyclopedia as a source, we had our hands rapped HARD with a ruler.

    If standards have slipped this far, lets just toss in the towel and give the country to the Chinese.

  17. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    “… now most reference questions are asked and answered online.” Not in our library, Mr. Kat. Our students prefer the personal approach, and I’d guess the actual to online ratio here is something like 100 to 1 easily. The student satisfaction inventory gives us high marks for being hands-on, approachable, and knowledgeable. This is a small private university that prides itself on community. Although we offer electronic reference service, our students aren’t particularly interested.

  18. another.effing.librarian says:

    low professional self-esteem — yep. the classic librarian is arnold horshack: “OH! OH! I KNOW! I KNOW! PICK ME! PICK ME! I KNEW IT FIRST!” so eager to be quickest and smartest, and so desperate to impress someone, that s/he’ll give it away for free. Except when s/he won’t give it away at all because ‘you should know how to find that yourself’. and *which* things are the librarian’s job, and which are up to the patron? NOBODY FREAKING KNOWS. totally psychotic. no f-ing wonder ‘they’ don’t like to pay us. librarians would probably still show up for work even if they didn’t get paid at all.

    and to someone above — no, i didn’t get a+’s in all of my easy library school classes. i ‘did well’; and was bored out of my mind. it was all i could do to drag my skanky carcass to *class*. the suckups got a+’s and felt really really smart. i resented & resisted anything that smelled like busywork. which was most of it.

  19. Original Library Cynic says:

    “I see two things in my library system: (1) librarian committees can’t make a decision or changes unless it is perfect or pleases everyone, therefore a lot of things do not get done. For instance, the library’s website is known for being poor but since the committee can’t make changes the work is put on hold.” Sounds familiar. There’s always a “good reason” NOT to do it, too. Yawn….

  20. Mr. Kat says:

    NotMarianTheLibrarian commented:“… now most reference questions are asked and answered online.” Not in our library, Mr. Kat. Our students prefer the personal approach, and I’d guess the actual to online ratio here is something like 100 to 1 easily. The student satisfaction inventory gives us high marks for being hands-on, approachable, and knowledgeable. This is a small private university that prides itself on community. Although we offer electronic reference service, our students aren’t particularly interested.

    So you are in a small part of the world where there isn’t Google??? Or are your people really this full of themselves? Shining light indeed!!!

    Let me give you an example of Ready reference that is nolonger asked in a library. I want to go out to eat tonight and I don’t know where a good restauratn is; I don’t go to the library, I go to google. I got Tar on my pants roofing today; did I ask a librarians how to remove it? No, I went online to Google. When I needed to hook up the battery in my Ancient car, did I go to the library? No, I looked it up on Google.If I want a boog on Roman hostiry in the middle period, do I start by searching the library catalog on Rome? no, I go to Wikipedia, I find the seciton on the middle period of the Roman Empire, and then I check the references for that section and I go get those books. If I’m really bright, I use the same information that was cited in the Wikipedia page, except I dig out the actual quote and use that instead of the paraphrase.

    So you see, there is very good reason some places are rolling up their reference desks.

  21. Vegans For Meat says:

    Mr. Kat, being someone who works many hours weekly on a reference desk, I wouldn’t go as far as to say they are “rolling up their reference desks.” Perhaps, we don’t get some of the questions you mentioned—although, in fact, we do—we still are very busy answering questions via phone, email, from other state county libraries, and in person. True, at some point this may all change, but presently, I don’t see it.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s me and Baltimore is wholly alien, but somehow I don’t think so.

  22. Picard says:

    I, I, I. As one reads Mr Kat’s latest. It’s evident he doesn’t use the reference desk, therefore we should roll it up. Or it could be he and his ilk that don’t use it, to be gracious. Those whom he associates with. Nope the reason the Reference desks being rolled up – is or are because someone who wants to do so has the power to do so, regardless of patron or staff wishes. It’s a budgetary decision that makes some folks look like ”

  23. Mr. Kat says:

    You are quite right; I don’t use the reference desk and have never used the reference desk. I have never been allowed to have someone else do my research for my own work, so I got used to doing research around my freshman year of high school.

    When I got to the research level within the university I was within a department and a discipline that is very good at doing research in preparation for new experiments. They are quite handy at using the database funcitons because in some cases they purchased access to database services on their own; it was only after the fact that the library finally purchased the necessary access.

    These departments could very well hire their own librarians, and in a sense, many do; they hire grad students and undergraduates to do the legwork getting articles.

    At this level the library has a function: deliver copies of the articles being requested.

    Here’s my question to those who provide reference service: what questions are you getting? Help my understand why this “reference desk” is really still so important!

  24. Dr. Pepper says:

    This is purely anecdotal info, but our reference desks aren’t really research reference desks but rather more facilities and IT help. The most common question is “where is the bathroom”, the second most common question is “Why is this thing not printing?” The ratio of real reference to non-reference questions seems to be 1:5

  25. Vegans For Meat says:

    “Here’s my question to those who provide reference service: what questions are you getting? Help my understand why this “reference desk” is really still so important!”

    First, I think every library is probably different depending on its clientele. I can only speak for my library when answering this question. To begin, if you are a self-starter, own a computer, and are well versed in research methods then you will probably not be one of those who use the reference desk very often. However, it’s those [in the public, as I'm a public librarian in an urban library] who do not have good educations, are not privy to methods of research, and do not have computers or do not know how a computer works, who use the reference desk. We also get a lot of students from colleges that, sadly, have very low admission requirements and poor resources [i.e., a horrible library collection and no database subscriptions] who also come into the library for help. Again, this may be unique to my library. I’m not sure I’d want to work in a bestseller public library, to be honest.

  26. PicardIsRight says:

    Mr. Kat, I have no idea where you’re working – public, academic or corporate. If your posts on this blog are indicative of your approachability, there’s no wonder your reference desk is moribund. Most people aren’t turned on by haughtiness and “sage on the stage” nonsense. I don’t work at an Ivy League or Big State University. I work at one of those institutions that educate first generation college students, poor students, veterans looking for a small educational community. Our users know how to use Google but it doesn’t work so well in an academic setting, when Wikipedia and Mr. Kat’s All-Knowing Page don’t suffice for “scholarly” research. Our students are asking us how to use our databases, what makes an article a research article, what does empirical mean, how to cite, etc. We also get the printer, photocopier, bathroom questions. And acting as though you really do care garners a lot of real reference questions. But we’ve got a couple “reference” librarians here who think their time wasted on the desk. They happen to be a**es and the students know it.

  27. WOU says:

    Questions we can’t answer at the desk we slip into the back room and text KGB. What a lifesaver!

  28. Mr. Kat says:

    Now we have an anecdotal Spectrum we can work with!!!

    My personal experience is akin to Vegan for Meat’s suggestion: “if you are a self-starter, own a computer, and are well versed in research methods then you will probably not be one of those who use the reference desk very often.” I should add that I am also a first generation college graduate and my family income level is pretty disgustingly low. So I do not buy into the “uneducated bumpkin theory” necessitating a reference desk either.

    My experience in the academic setting is akin to Dr. Pepper’s observation: “our reference desks aren’t really research reference desks but rather more facilities and IT help.” The questions are not Reference Requests requiring a deep knowledge of subject material; they require a person handy with the computer interface handling either hardware or software problems. I ask you: why do we need $20.00-25.00 an hour LIBRARIANS in this position?

    By this token a reference desk in the academic level is not necessary because at this point in higher education, these qualities should be assumed as base proficiency

    Let us be honest: the reason the reference desk exists in this day and age is to encourage and enable lazy students and patrons to continue being lazy students and patrons.

    The first and most prevalent set of questions appears to deal with using the computers. Some parts do indeed require higher-level service, such as a jammed printer or an empty toner cartridge. And I can accept that on occasion the instruction sheet with clearly printed instructions on how to use the printer and the photocopier sometimes don’t work out as planned, as sometimes the machine isn’t in the mood to cooperate. Akin to an old programming motto: Garbage in, Garbage out. This calls for a professional to bring out the big stick and kick the old dinosaur back into submission!!

    But from here my original hypothesis reemerges as the underlining reality. For instance, using a database is really not that difficult. There are FAQs and short tutorial guides on nearly every single database site in existence providing information on how to use the resource – it’s amazing how much more proficient you can be on a database if you only take the time to READ the supporting material!! And this is true with using Google or any other electronic resource or even basic homework assignments! But alas, our society does not wish to read instructions; they want to be told how to do it, or even better, have someone else do it for them so they can go home.

    He second set of questions deals with facility navigation. Our reference desk exists so people don’t have to read the signs on the walls, the huge maps on the walls, or even remember how to mentally construct spatial awareness as they use the general space [aha, I don’t need a bathroom now, but I see that they are located right next to the elevator – I will remember that for future reference.] Meanwhile, there are maps of the library building in quite a number of places; and the restroom signs are almost as prevalent as the “Exit” signs. Perhaps we need to revise the restroom signs and put up blue-lighted signs that say ‘Restroom” and put them up with a big lighted blue arrow pointing in the direction of the restroom or the next restroom sign. Nobody ever seems to ask where the Exit is, so I guess those little red-lighted signs really do work!

    We finally arrive at the last set of questions provided by our anecdotal survey: technical questions. Now this is just me, the first generation college student from a family that makes less money in a year than many may in two or three months; I have been proficient at writing citations since my Junior year of high school because my class spent the entire year writing papers with textual citations that required both the in-text citation as well as the resource citation in a separate section at the end of the paper. The Senior English class has a research paper component as well, in which every student on campus had to write a 10 to 20 page research paper using library resources and any other resources they wished to use in order to pass Senior English. My brother had a really lucky program because he went to a traditional school where he had to do this same exercise to pass 8th grade English.

    I realize standards are steeply declining in our educational system. However, if a professor has the students working on these projects, it is only following that the professor provides framework on how to cite the references, what constitutes real research articles and what an empirical study is; at least, that was MY academic experience. If I had any questions about these topics, I only had to return to the handouts or the lecture notes provided in class. But then I do starkly remember many students never writing so much as a single thing down, so it may pass that extra assistance is necessary. Regardless, at this point departmental workshops and the professors themselves already offer these technical services by drop-in appointment for the former and office hours for the latter.

    So far we have computer support questions, facilities layout management and technical questions. This seems to me to be a far cry from the set of questions and the large Z section of Bibliographies and reference materials we went over in Reference Service class. Picard, you say courtesy nets real reference questions, but you didn’t provide what these real reference questions might be.

    In short, if there is a reference Desk, I don’t see any need to put $20-$25 per hour librarians on it. Indeed, If I was an enterprising Director, I would make work on the reference desk service mandatory for all my $8.00-$10.00 hour clerks, advertising the position as one with “Real Customer Service Experience.” That’s experience that can go on a real resume!!

    Otherwise the desks are merely perpetuating laziness and most seem quite proud of this service.

  29. Mrs. Doubtfire says:

    Here are some questions that I received today at the refdesk:

    I am looking for forecasted economic factors for Japan that were made from 1980-2000(professor). Can you help me find the number of motorists that use the state turnpike annually? (engineering undergrad). Can you tell me where to find the business databases? (business undergrad). How can I get to the full text of a review written about my published book ?(professor). How do I find types of soil found in a specific section of our host city (geology undergrad)? How do I find types of observational networks used in weather forecasting in Central America? (earth sci undergrad)? All questions received in the same hour.

  30. Miss Firedoubt says:

    These questions sound much along the line what we get in my library, i.e. general questions: find all the Newbery speeches from their inception, find a very specific and obscure medical resource to help me with my research, show me how to use a specific resource within my library databases (online chat question since this student is at a different library and this is virtual reference). My public library friends do a great deal with reader’s advisory for parents helping their kids, and handle questions that range from historical research to consumer reports. I’ve watched some of them at work and they are pretty busy on the reference desk, just as we are at my community college. I don’t think my community is all that unusual.

  31. Mr. Kat says:

    At last some good reference desk questions. Lets compare notes on our relative solutions!

    1. I am looking for forecasted economic factors for Japan that were made from 1980-2000(professor). It looks like back issues of a resource like Economist or any of the economics journals in general would be the best first stop; use a database to search for country forecast profiles. Economist.com has a “Country Forecast” publication by the Economist Intelligence Unit, though that is quite expensive and only goes back to 1996 on their web page. Use the Economics Journals database??

    2. Can you help me find the number of motorists that use the state turnpike annually? (engineering undergrad). This one turned out to be so easy I died laughing…you start by going to your state agency of transportation website such as Montana Department of Transportation and then find the section on the website dedicated to traffic statistics. Each state I looked at called it something a little different, but it was there each time…and quite thorough!

    3. Can you tell me where to find the business databases? (business undergrad). A Technical Question; let me guess: the Undergrad never took the time to sit down and first explore the library website and read the FAQ/instructions on how to use the databases? I continue to be stunned by the NOOBs who refuse to read instructions before asking questions…

    4. How can I get to the full text of a review written about my published book ? (professor). A second technical question; either the library did not have full access to the article on the database he was using, and thus he needed to order the article via ILL, or he needed to login to access premium content? Or the last option, this professor was not comfortable navigating the database interface and couldn’t find the option to open/save the full article.

    5. How do I find types of soil found in a specific section of our host city (geology undergrad)?
    This is a pretty good question but I fail to see why this person asked the reference desk person. I used a Google search for “City Soil types publications” and the second result is the University of Kentucky Department of Agriculture web page providing details and links to the USDA NRCS Web Soil Survey, an interactive site that provides soil profile maps for essentially the entire United States minus a few sparsely inhabited areas. It took a little patience to work with the WSS interface, but after fifteen minutes I produced a very nice, very detailed soil map for an area that I chose. Note: I found routes to this site by about four independent searches that each took me to different sites with links leading back to this website. All roads lead to Rome?

    6. How do I find types of observational networks used in weather forecasting in Central America? (earth sci undergrad)? This was a tougher question! But I found a great place to start researching the individual weather agencies in Central America at the Meteorological Development Cooperation provided by the Finnish Meteorological Institute in the Projects section. The section provides a profile for each individual country along with progress that has been made in each country within the last decade.

    So in all, we have three good research questions [2,5,6] but each question could be answered in less then five minutes with a Google search and a little patience. We have three questions relating to technical issues, in short, two on locating electronic resources on the library web page and one on how to use those resources.

    Now tell me just where in all of this we need a 20-25 per hour [40k-45k per year] librarian answering these questions? And why do we need an MLS to do this work? My search skills are a result of my undergraduate education, because I certainly did not learn them in my Reference Resources class in library school!!

  32. Mrs. Doubfire says:

    Well Mr. Kat,

    Basing your views on your own educational experience and your own personal experiences does not add any power to your arguments. Just because you were able to learn how to navigate resources in your K-12 education does not mean others did.

    Do we really need librarians to staff the ref desk to answer these questions? I am not sure. I know at some places graduate students man the ref desk. On the other hand, seeing a librarian that came to your class for instruction and now is openly avail at the ref desk helps build relationships. Most of the ref questions I get are from people who have tried some things on their own and have run into road blocks. And since they have seen me around, they feel comfortable in asking me.

  33. Vegans For Meat says:

    Mr. Kat, along with Ms Doubtfire, I don’t think the fact that you can find the information necessarily correlates with your argument that everyone should know where to find the information. Librarians are trained to help others learn where to find information. I’m assuming you weren’t born with information seeking skills, but were taught. The same holds true for others who need assistance in learning where to find information. Where they get this knowledge from is unimportant, whether from a librarian or an engaged professor. The fact remains that training is necessary for many people. And asl long as there is a demand for this knowledge there will probably be librarians in one form or another.

  34. Mr. Kat says:

    See, here it is again, the reminder that we aren’t born with information seeking skills. I’ve often asked myself just what the difference between me and the noobs is – and by noobs I mean those who ask the really dumb questions. Some people insist there are no dumb questions; I disagree because a large net of questions can be answered by simply reading the instructions.

    For instance, I started playing an MMORPG a couple weeks ago because someone said I should try it out. The first thing I did was read the instructions on the screen in the box that included the little “play game” button. I noticed there was an online forum attached to the game so I looked at that as well and discovered in that place an FAQ with literally every piece of information about the game in plain sight. In this particular game there were no less then a couple thousand people on the network at anyone time and the chat box was constantly filled with simple questions that were primarily answered on that window and in the rest of the game interface as every screen is prefaced with an information help sheet.

    But people don’t WANT to read instructions; they WANT someone else to tell them the answer for them.

    I found this answer in all places by mentoring a fifth grader and a first grader. The fifth grader is phenomenal; when he asks a question, it is clear he has read the instructions and he needs clarification of a wording or he simply doesn’t know how to do the problem yet. Show him the operation once [fractions, long division, etc] and he has the operation down form that point forth. And he has been like this since he was a very small toddler. Nobody really taught him information literacy; he figured it out for himself.

    The first grader is in stark contrast to this fifth grader. She looks at her homework for one second and then yells out “I NEED HELP!!!” despite the fact that she can read the words if she puts in the effort and if she read the words she would know how to do her homework. The truth is, she doesn’t want to put in the effort; she wants someone else to read it for her and even better yet she wants someone to just give her the answers. And as long as people give her the answers she will not learn information literacy because she doesn’t have to.

    As the old saying goes, teach a man to fish and he can feed himself for the rest of his life. Give a man a fish and put him on welfare for the rest of his life. I don’t think our problem is teaching others where or how to look to find information. Our challenge is teaching our patrons TO LOOK for information and in particular to read the instructions!

    Most of my professors were the “teach a man to fish” type. Take a guess which type of students ended up working in their labs!

    I’m convinced though. There will always be a need for reference librarians because a large majority of people are either too dumb to look for the information themselves or too smart to do what they know someone else will do for them if they only ask! But then I suppose this makes libaries part of the welfare network; no wonder most library workers almost qualify for food stamps and funding remains so low!

  35. Harry and the Hendersons says:

    Ok, Mr. Kat,

    If we can teach research skills early on (and they stick) then I do see a lack of need for the ref desk. However, it is really the teachers and professors who are needed to help make the skills stick with assignments or projects that require the use of research skills. Questions for Mr. Kat: do you see the need for computer classes in K-12 education? Couldn’t students just learn it on their own?

  36. Mr. Kat says:

    Computer classes in K-12 are the best place for them. Get them early, get them quick; have a lesson on how to do a google search IN 3RD GRADE!

    The biggest challenge approachig the near future is the digital divide becasue more assignements will be requestedin typed format. Penmanship is going to disappear as I recognize they finally gave up with me and put me on a computer. All problems solved!

    One really great class I took in highschool was a computer tech course that was essentially the microsoft office tutorial books for word, excell, powerpoint and access. My competency with microsoft products since does show versus those who have not gone through such courses.

    I learned Interent Explorer entirely on my own because it is that simple to use. This includes things like changing the settings so the computer will accept cookies or block certian levels of content. Now when I was a kid everybody raved about Yahoo search or MSN search or Momma Search. I don’t know why, but the second I knew about google, it was the only search engine I used from that point onwards. I really liked the blank clean homepage with one little textbox because search really is that simple!

    It really isn’t the teachers who are failing at teaching these skills. These skills are best impressed between 3 and 6, and it is often the parents who are not fulfilling their role while helping their kids with homework. Either the parent has no patience, and thus simply gives the kids all the answers, or feels too much sympathy for the child or watching the child agonize over the problems. And third, of course, the parent simply “doesn’t ever have time” to help their kids with homework by simply being present and offering encouragement to try again or to re-read the instructions one more time.

    Research skills really aren’t soley contained by academia, although academia makes a lot of use of them. Really good execises for teaching research skills include giving the kids the pile of food ads and asking them to find the best sales price on milk or apples or peaches or asking htem why only some fruit is on sale and others aren’t. I suppose a fair amount of my learning came to me because I was actively watching my parents go about their daily routine which included things like going through the food ads. I should also mention I picked up the newspaper and started reading it around first grade; my favorite section was a column on the Editorial page by a person who was a terrific writer; he died while I was in junior high or so. And quite incidentally enough, all the advice columnists had died before I finished my second year of college as well.

    Somehow my parents made my intellectually curious about the world where a welfare state could never satiate may appetite for knowledge. But I recognize that for many people, they do not want to think becasue it is simply too hard to do such things.

    Thus, as long as there is Welfare, there will be Reference Desks in libraries! Let us be honest with each other about welfare: there are times when some poepl genuinely need assistance. The vast majority, however, are simply accustomed to being enabled by their help to live out a lazy lifestyle.

    I probably will never be a very good general referenc librarian, but I have excelled in corporate and academic research. My next stop however is with a company with unmatched benefits and unmatched pay and unmatched security compared to All other potential employers in the arena. Lets just say I got tired of getting paid too little for work that fell too far below my true capabilities!

  37. Untethered says:

    So will you be leaving this blog along with your super long posts? Every think of just creating your own blog?

  38. Mr. Kat says:

    Nope. And nope. And yep. And nope.

  39. Mr. Kat says:

    Looks like another imposter. As stated in other posts, I did have a blog but discontinued it. AL provides a forum with feedback from a variety of opinions. The library world still intrigues me.

  40. Mr. Kat says:

    Imposter!! You have returned I see!!

    I tired so hard to make a reply in the short and concise manner loved by our society of lazy blog readers, but alas you disagree with my terse language. So let me explain this to you in a more elaborate manner!

    I have been shown to be wrong on my original assertion. does that mean I will leave? Nope.

    And if I am still here, then my long posts will also not be going away. Hence the second Nope.

    Now as for the Yep, I have indeed thought about creating my own blog. After a couple months of diliberation I have decided that in the subject of library science cyberscape is already far overpopulated as it is with librarians blogging on to their own drums. So I save all of us a lot of time and energy by containing the discussion to this space and feel that is the most productive manner in handling this whole blogging situation.

    Afterall, here I have learned why we still need reference desks. Alas, it is due to the welfare nature of our national socialist party. But we still need them, and thus there will still be a place left to employ librarians – for the time being. So why on earth would I leave if there is not still room to grow – for all of us? So in reference to the last Nope, I precluded that Untethered had left the unstated rhetorical question, “why don’t you go blog about libraries.”

    I do have blogs on subjects other than library science. Arizona Kaolin, for example, is mine. I had to put that work somewhere, so I put it up. I don’t know if I will add more to that blog as at this point my interests have rotated into another field of interest. Perhaps someday in the future I will, if I write something that should see more light then the light of day on my laptop.

    Imposter, your behavior on the other hand, however, is counterproductive. Apologize and move on.

  41. Mr. Kat says:

    Imposter!! You have returned I see!!

    I tired so hard to make a reply in the short and concise manner loved by our society of lazy blog readers, but alas you disagree with my terse language. So let me explain this to you in a more elaborate manner!

    I have been shown to be wrong on my original assertion. does that mean I will leave? Nope.

    And if I am still here, then my long posts will also not be going away. Hence the second Nope.

    Now as for the Yep, I have indeed thought about creating my own blog. After a couple months of diliberation I have decided that in the subject of library science cyberscape is already far overpopulated as it is with librarians blogging on to their own drums. So I save all of us a lot of time and energy by containing the discussion to this space and feel that is the most productive manner in handling this whole blogging situation.

    Afterall, here I have learned why we still need reference desks. Alas, it is due to the welfare nature of our national socialist party. But we still need them, and thus there will still be a place left to employ librarians – for the time being. So why on earth would I leave if there is not still room to grow – for all of us? So in reference to the last Nope, I precluded that Untethered had left the unstated rhetorical question, “why don’t you go blog about libraries.”

    I do have blogs on subjects other than library science. Arizona Kaolin, for example, is mine. I had to put that work somewhere, so I put it up. I don’t know if I will add more to that blog as at this point my interests have rotated into another field of interest. Perhaps someday in the future I will, if I write something that should see more light then the light of day on my laptop.

    Imposter, your behavior on the other hand, however, is counterproductive. Apologize and move on.

  42. Mr. Kat says:

    You should apologize for monopolizing this blog. Get your own (about library stuff). To be honest, I am sure it would actually be read a lot. Or better yet, just ask library journal for your own. Get a life. Or go ask a question how to at the ref desk.

  43. Mr. Kat says:

    If I had a monopoly on this blog then nobody but me would be able to speak. But this is not the case. I have no more and no less control over this blog than any other commentor here. LJ could delete any content they wish at any time, and AL could pull the plug or restrict comments entirely to just her own [and truely monopolize the discussion. Furthermore, if either AL or LJ has a problem with my posting freqency, they are both entirely free to ask me to stop or slow down; they have my personal contacts already.

    Now your comments are quite contrary to the very nature of blog commentary altogether [twopointophia, I suppose], because the entire world of twopointohpia is founded upon the idea of people ranting on the Internet as a lifestyle.

    If the world did indeed get a life, blogging itself would fundamentally cease. Your point of view fails to see that such blog commenting very well IS a part of a life and it suits me just fine!!

    I observed throughout my academic career a large crowd heavily invested in apathetic silence. This is to say, a large number of students who were content to go to class and say nothing because by doing so the professor could get through the material faster. The quicker the material was finished, the sooner they could go home. In this day and age I find apathetic silence unacceptable, particularly in a venue where discussion is vital to the development of wisdom. If you don’t want to be here, you are free to be somewhere else; or read my comments, you are free to not read them!

    There aren’t any monopolies here int eh comentary section!!