Friday, March 26, 2010

RE: [NGC4LIB] Observations of a Librarian on Ebook Readers

Posting to NGC4LIB
replying to:
https://listserv.nd.edu/cgi-bin/wa?A2=ind1003&L=NGC4LIB&D=1&T=0&O=D&P=96802

Bernhard Eversberg wrote:

<snip>
So, oblivion doesn't appear to be round the next corner for libraries, but of course they are no longer the only show in town for people seeking information, and neither, or less and less so, do they contain all the most relevant information on most questions people have.
</snip>

While I agree with what you say, and I would love to see the new library and it's great that it's being used so well, it sort of misses my point. To be fair, perhaps I also did not completely answer Laval's very correct assertion: "And let's be very clear : it's *their* points of view that really matter."

The focus of many of my posts is that librarian skills are vitally needed in today's climate. Laval replies (I believe, but correct me if I'm wrong) that while this may be true, what is important is whether *our patrons* believe that our skills are vitally needed. We can pontificate as much as we like, but it will make no difference if the patrons decide to ignore us and our work.

So, how do people view us? OCLC's study still makes the most sense to me: "College Students' Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources" (conclusions at) http://www.oclc.org/reports/pdfs/studentperceptions_conclusion.pdf

Some of their findings were that students link librarians with physical books, and students think the library is a nice place to do their homework and to study. These are my experiences as well. I also want to mention something else: "How a College Library is Used" from Maxim: http://www.maxim.com/humor/stupid-fun/84085/how-a-college-library-is-used.html which may be even more true!

And I keep pointing out: what will happen when the Google-Publisher agreement is eventually approved? The decision could even come today or next week! But those millions of books will be made available eventually and if not now probably in the next few years. While students may still want a comfortable place to study (and sleep!), based on my posting about the faculty member finding it too uncomfortable to get an article he desperately needed, I think people will become lazier and lazier, so that even for those who are already sitting in the library, if they can access the books they want immediately on their computers, they will still find it too much trouble to stand up and get the physical copy.

How many of those students we see working in those pictures of that fabulous library you mentioned, if they were looking at a scanned copy of a book they needed on their laptop, would decide to stand up, go into the stacks, hunt around and find the book, etc., or in European libraries, would they order it from a desk and wait? Or would they just use what they had? I'm pretty sure I know what I would do. What if they could do that from home? Or from an Internet Café? Or from anywhere?

What does this mean for us? We have to change in fundamental ways if we want to become a part of their universe and they do not bypass us completely. I think that in the long run, there is little hope that the physical collections can remain very relevant to people, and this makes me sad, but I am concerned about the librarians themselves. It does not follow that librarians' skills also become irrelevant. And we will have to market ourselves somehow so that people realize that they do need us. That may be the most difficult task of all.

Unfortunately, the current library answer that we need to build a tool so that people can "find-identify-select-obtain --> works-expressions-manifestations-items by their authors-titles-subjects" seems to be totally irrelevant to any solution and is certainly not aimed at providing our users what they want. Even if RDA were completely finished today, all the librarians were trained perfectly and the systems installed and functioning, I can't imagine how it would change anything for our patrons at all.

We need to find solutions that people want. Otherwise we are building improved typewriters when people are using word processors and laser printers.

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