Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The answer is in your face!


Something is still wrong with reference services and how serious or passively we take our jobs. ...The jobs of Public libraries are roughly the same as it ever was over twenty years ago. In May 1984, William Miller published a comprehensive critique of reference service entitled “What's Wrong with Reference: Coping with Success and Failure at the Reference Desk” (American Libraries). Some 24 years later, I wish I could say things have improved, but, in
fact, they have gotten even worse. David Isaccson, Library Journal.

My feelings are the same..
Cataloging materials may never change in the traditional respects, and I realize that this could kill the collection, however the author speaks truly to the spirit of libraries, that more is not better. We can't ignore quality over the collection and having a quantity of materials means quality of service. That means that the reference desk is fully aware of the way library books, videos and audiocassettes are purchased and placed on the shelves, and the longer it is put off the longer our expertise is wasted for vanity sake. Poke around for a while and notice the obvious fact that shelf ready books add dubious collections in a library, thereby duplicating collections into nonsensical libraries. Libraries exist by their unique locale, history and communities they serve. No library should resemble another's collection.

If the public outlook on libraries continues to be as negative as the author Mr. Miller states, I think that all library professionals are going to buy into a self-service library. My case especially is how we are pointing out those self-fullfilling acquistion folks in libraries who do not acknowledge libaries as places where people visit, rather than a library as a containment for books.

Another case in point, serving the public by referral to the community outside of the library, can save an unnecessary trip. So, in order to answer the public's questions, one must be able to reinterpret and reframe a question in order to reveal the facts. Librarians are good at this point of questioning the question, and are very good at passing the information on to the user, sometimes reluctantly. It is very crucial that we teach in our profession, how to give up the secret, so to speak. It is also crucial to be honest about how the answers are ultimately refined by subject specialists, ie lawyers or medical professionals, and not by the generalists in the library.