June 17, 2009
Who are we anyway?
I wanted to give this a catchy title that wouldn’t make me sound like I am repeating the age old question of “what is the future of librarianship” or “what skills should a librarian have” or “what is the role of the librarian.” It is a difficult question that probably turns as much on the personality of the organization where you work, as well as yourself. There are two things that seem clear to me. First, service is paramount to maintain positive visibility wherever we work. Second, librarians need to stay current with technology in order to deliver that service. What is unclear, especially at an academic institution, is what level of support do we offer patrons, specifically faculty, who do not keep up to date with computer literacy but need to do so in order to access the information we are trying to deliver to them? Who fills the gap?
Case in point: At my institution, there used to be a routing list for the paper BNA Labor Relations Reporter updates. To take advantage of a good deal, we discontinued our paper subscriptions in favor of the BNA All database. Now, the updates to the BNA Reporter are delivered through an RSS feed that can land in three places: the patron’s Outlook RSS folder, the patron’s institutional portal page, or the patron’s personal RSS reader (Google reader, Feed Deamon, etc.). We used to show our patron’s how to use catalogs and indexes to access these services. Do we now show them how to use RSS, or tags, or any other aspect of Web 2.0 technology that they might be unfamiliar with? How do we make sure they can access library materials if we do not? What if they are at home and cannot access library materials because the proxy server will not pass them through to the item? Is this the librarian’s responsibility to fix this? The IT department? How about the Educational Technologist, if you have one, whatever it is. (TIP: To learn more about what an Educational Technologist might or might not be, tune into the 9 am CALICon09 program Educational Technologist – What is it? on Saturday, June 20th. Live web cast available, http://www.cali.org). What does IT support have to do with being a librarian?
The literature is somewhat sketchy about the role of librarians and support of faculty technology education.
In Faculty Development for the 21st Century, 44 Educause Review 46 (May/June 2009) http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume44/FacultyDevelopmentforthe21stCe/171776 the authors discuss the need to support faculty in keeping up with an increasingly technological workplace and developing ways to further integrate technology into their scholarship and teaching. The article goes on to describe the ways various sized schools provide this type of support, vaguely indicating that it is often the Library, or IT, who is in charge of faculty development. When did our role as librarians morph into IT support? Or, when did IT support morph into librarianship?
In Chapter 1 of the 2009 LITA Guide, Core Technology Competencies for Librarians and Library Staff, , author Susan M. Thompson reviews the history of library technology beginning with the application of IBM technology to circulation systems in the 1950s. Thompson suggests that we started taking on the role of IT support in the 1980s. During this time, libraries moved into second generation ILS systems giving our patrons the power to search library catalogs electronically and on their own – but first, someone had to show them how to do that. In this book, technology competencies are broadly defined to include everything from how to search a catalog to how to fix a printer. Other chapters in this monograph seem to indicate technology literacy is part of library outreach, but the actual support is provided by technicians in the library rather than a librarian.
The AALL Core Competencies on information technology currently include:
1. Assists and educates clients and colleagues in the use of the library's information systems
2. Resolves library hardware, software, local area network, website and Internet connectivity problems
These two items touch upon educating patrons about technology, but seem to focus on the library ILS, and not the obligation of keeping our clientele up to date with their computer literacy skills. There was a great discussion on the Core Competencies on the ALLSIS list serv this spring, but teaching faculty or other patrons how to be computer literate was not part of the discussion from what I recall. (VS)
Do we do it because we can? Or do we do it because we think this is part of the new librarian? I welcome comments.
June 17, 2009 | Permalink
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Heya, where are you finding the RSS feeds for BNA? I just checked our subscription and can't find any.
Posted by: Dan | Jun 18, 2009 10:38:33 AM