February 17, 2018

Brian S. Mathews | Movers & Shakers 2007

‘NowGen’ Instinct

Brian S. Mathews considers his generation ‘NowGen’ librarians, as in ‘we have to make changes now so that libraries will become distinct instead of extinct.’

In 2001, while using LiveJournal to chat with friends, Mathews, information services librarian and distance learning services coordinator at Georgia Tech, noticed students posting research questions to their friends. He seized the opportunity to ‘cross barriers and provide assistance as a librarian.’ He’s used Facebook as well to ‘tap into groups of people who never visit the library and attempt to convert them into frequent users.’ But he warns librarians that if we venture into student territory like Second Life, or MySpace, we can’t be tourists. We can’t use these exciting new places to deliver the same tired message. Instead, we need to adapt to the culture of the country.

We can and should lure students in with library spaces designed for patrons, not librarians, Mathews says. On his blog, The Ubiquitous Librarian, he describes a campus study that analyzed spaces nonlibrary users preferred for studying, spaces that combined ‘refreshments, aesthetics, friends, comfort, cleanliness, diversions, and unpredictability.’ Library renovations were accordingly aimed at allowing sociability, playfulness, and a recharging of mental batteries. Mathews is also full of ideas for fun library events (Trivia Nights, speed dating, a night of rappelling down the Library Tower) and better ways to market them.

Mathews wants librarians to use assessment techniques focused on the users’ experience, not library inputs. When a library’s services aren’t working for its users, we need to change them, he argues. ‘We should support responsible risk-taking.’


CURRENT POSITION Information Services Librarian & Distance Learning Services Coordinator, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta

DEGREES MA, LIS, University of South Florida, 2001

FIRST LIBRARY EXPERIENCE Student Assistant in Stacks/Circ at University of Central Florida

BLOG The Ubiquitous Librarian (theubiquitouslibrarian.typepad.com)