All sorts of things have been happening in libraryland. For example, a piece from the Library Journal not even written by me has been making the rounds lately. It’s on revamping reference.
I thought reference was dead. At least that’s what I’ve been hearing for years from various librarians. Perhaps it hasn’t been dead, but just asleep.
It certainly seems dead at the Annoyed Librarian Flea Libary, where I work. I think the paper forms librarians use to track reference transactions are the same ones they’ve had at the desk for years because no one ever needs to make tick marks on them. They’ve yellowed gracefully with age, which is more than I can say for some of the librarians.
My library is one of the many that practices the Scowling Dragon approach to reference, which guarantees no one will approach the desk. It might not be better for the library patron, but it’s sure better for the librarians. There’s nothing worse than having your Tetris game interrupted by a someone asking reference questions.
(Someone sent me a photo of a librarian at a university reference desk playing a videogame, but I didn’t have the heart to post it for everyone to see.)
The column argues for models like roving reference, where reference librarians leave their desks and go bother people instead of sitting at the desk waiting for people to bother them. That’s certainly a novel approach, but why reference librarians would ever want to leave their desks is beyond me. It’s just so much work!
But we could talk about how reference is dead, dying, reviving, or roving for hours. I’m more curious about what excites librarians. The author spoke with librarians using iphones and ipads for reference.
He got a report “that they’re answering different types of questions away from the reference desk and that ‘librarians have mind-blowing reference transactions weekly,’ as when one…librarian was able to engage a patron deeply by putting her in charge of navigating library resources through an iPhone.” Apparently this librarian hasn’t been told that library patrons are all customers now. Good for her.
This is the quote I’ve been seeing around. Weekly mind-blowing reference transactions! There’s something to be said for that. I guess my mind is blown by different things, since I think this transaction consisted of handing the patron the iPhone and letting her poke around the library website with it. Useful, handy, a good service to provide? Okay. Mind-blowing? I’m not so sure.
But what would mind-blowing reference look like? Let’s hope it wouldn’t look like those Russian roulette scenes from The Deer Hunter.
We can be pretty sure it wouldn’t, since that would make librarianship an unattractive profession, except to psychos and sociopaths. We know it’s not an unattractive profession, because despite the grumbling people still want to join it. That they’re all literature majors with no other hope of finding employment is just a coincidence.
It’s probably because, according to a reputable career website I’ve never heard of, Librarian is the 29th best job in the country this year.
Apparently it’s much better to be a librarian than a surgeon or a carpet installer, but not as good as being an accountant or a parole officer. I have complete faith in the list, because I’ve often considered chucking my career as a librarian to chase my dream of becoming a parole officer.
Perhaps I’ll ponder that dream as I sip my martini this evening. Right now, I think I’ll go chat with the reference librarian on duty. I’m sure she’s not busy. Perhaps we can have a mind-blowing gossip transaction.