Internet Librarian 2007
Opening Keynote, 10/30/2007
Joe Janes, iSchool at University of Washington
- Samuel Green's 1876 "Personal Relations with Readers" introduced reference as we know it
- Special libraries were really the first to do reference; academic libraries came in relatively late in the game (~1910)
- Reference manifests itself in different ways in different settings
- We live in a world where people can find information independently, and can find help doing so in many different places, though reference was developed when there was less information that was harder to find
- What does this mean for reference?
- It's worth assuming that everything will be in digital form
- The ultimate goal of Google books is to have "all the books"
- We're in an ever-more digital world
- New and different ways of searching (i.e., the channel surfing method of finding information - I'm not channel surfing, I'm watching all the channels)
- In our asymptotically digital world, we have ways of getting at information at all different levels, from entire words to individual phrases
- Horizontal/federated searching make for a totally new environment of access
- we're increasingly focused on parts
- James Wire's reference textbook (1940s?) -- "They will choke and die in front of you before they tell you what they want."
How do we insert reference into this world?
- Don't complain about Wikipedia - change it
- Public libraries can seek information needs in their community like questions asked on public blogs or online forums
- We are made for depth, accuracy and authority
- Google gets 100s of millions of hits a day -- we can't handle that
- We need to focus on providing service to people who want our services
- Levels of service
- High-end tech users are "individually communal"
- If many of our users are living in this Web 2.0/participatory web world, we need to be there too, and we need to be there actively making our mark
- People like Second Life because you get to create things
- If we can help people make their creative works more usable, we're doing them a service
- We need to play to our strengths and get out of the library
- we need to be somewhere and everywhere (physical and virtual space)
- the concept of the library has to leak out of the building
- we know our gate counts, our reference stats, but rarely do we consider our web traffice
- we've probably double our usage in the last five years via the web, but we're not getting more $$
- We see a segmentation of our populations
- for those "diving deep" - we do reference and research
- for quick, transitory needs (like IM questions) - our mantra should be "move them forward" - point them to resources, give search tips, get them to the next step
- for high-tech users - help them find the network
- for non-users - leave them alone -- market yourself as a time and money saver, but don't chase users
What we do online has to be better than what we do in person
- When people are there, they've already made the commitment
- When they're online, they can be gone in a heartbeat
This was a great keynote. I liked Janes' points on web services (not just websites) and how important they are for us. I also appreciated the absence of any doomsday "Reference is dying" assertions.