Re: A Day Made of Glass

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 15/08/2011 21:42, Todd Puccio wrote:

I would say that the : Fundamental purpose of librarianship is to help _their patrons_ (or users if you wish) find the information that they need _in accordance with the patron’s relationship to the institution_.

By which I mean that each librarian works for various institutions with specifically defined collections and patrons (perhaps with varying rights within the institution).

I librarian archivist for a private “rare humanities book library” is not responsible for helping any and all people find fried-chicken recipes. They are not even responsible for helping their own patrons find fried-chicken recipes.

Librarians are responsible for fulfilling the mission and policies of the library they work for.

Thanks for bringing up this point Todd: it is really important. You lay out the traditional task of librarianship, linking it inextricably with the local collection, and this is something that I think needs to change: a redefinition of the meaning of “the local collection”. I wrote about this in one of my “open letters” at where I discussed the idea of the non-existent “internet librarian” (page 1 and it continues). To me, it is like someone who is stocking shelves in a grocery store, and you ask them: “Where are the canned peanuts?” (or fingernail polish, or coca-cola, or whatever it is) and the person replies, “I’m sorry, that’s not my department”, then continues with their work. They ignore you and your needs, and you are left completely on your own. I worked in grocery stores for many years, and that was definitely *not* considered a satisfactory answer to give a customer! (Although it may be today, I don’t know)

Is the traditional attitude sustainable in the new environment? If something is available at a click on the web for free (e.g. a scan, a database, a “something”) does it mean that librarians have no responsibility to bring their patrons’ attention to it? Although in the past, if we referred someone to another collection, our own responsibility ended (as I discussed in my open letter), I believe it does not end once we consider the materials on the web. Yet, to include these materials is a huge undertaking, stretching all the way from selection to cataloging to catalog maintenance to reference and perhaps even conservation and outreach.

But this is part of the new responsibilities of the librarian, if we want to make a difference in this “new world”. Otherwise, we just keep doing the same old things, the same old ways….