Friday, January 18, 2008

Skilling Up for the Next Generation

There was an interesting post on the ReadWriteWeb blog recently suggesting that Sexy Librarians of the Future Will Help You Upload Your Videos to YouTube. The article presents a future where one role of librarians is to help people improve the discoverability of their online content. You should read the whole post but here is a snippet:
'Imagine a future when you go to the library with a 5 minute video you've just made about last night's Presidential debates and that librarian says to you:
You should upload it to YouTube and tag it with these four tags - two broad and two more specific to existing communities of interest on YouTube and the topic of your video. Then you should embed that video in a blog post along with some text introducing it and linking to some of your favorite posts by other people who have also written today about the Presidential debates. Make sure to send trackbacks to those posts!...
...Would that be great, or what?'
What I find interesting about this scenario is the recognition that the findability of information is a big challenge. The networking aspect of social software - blogs, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc allows people with converging interests to become recommendation engines. These are the spaces that potential future library customers inhabit. Libraries need to not only understand these new spaces but also to ensure that we are disclosing our content in these places so that our customers can discover us.*

So, how would your staff cope with an enquiry like this? Has your library started planning for the future skill sets your reference staff will require? Does your marketing strategy include online communities? Have you considered running a Learning 2.0 program in your library? If not, why not? Would any of the arguments in these posts sway you toward training staff in new technologies?

*See my comment on Ellen's post about Planning for the Future for a more in depth explanation of what I mean about discovery and disclosure.


Ellen said...

The State Library will be rolling out a learning 2.0 program for interested NSW public library staff from mid February.

Information about this will be available on the e-mail lists.

Anonymous said...

Interesting question; at present staff tend not to provide that type of assistance partially due to the various skill sets that exist and also because these types of questions are huge time consumers. In the current context of public libraries the demand for other services and the operational models that exist would not allow the type of assistance you suggest. Ultimately a question of strategic direction.

Martin said...

It is a good point you make about strategic direction. While there may be a handful of individuals that could currently conduct a reference transaction such as the one described in my post (not me!), library services that could provide this type of service would be very few and far between.

The thing is, the information landscape is changing - who knows what type of exchanges will take place between libraries and their customers in 10 years time.

This is where the strategic planning comes in. Each library service has a different mix of customers and it is the customers who should determine where each library puts its focus. However, if we don't dedicate some time to learning about these new information spaces how can we know whether we they can benefit our customers.

This is the essence of Library 2.0 - implementing services based on an understanding of our customers. Any technology is just a vehicle, good strategic management must be the driver. Having a blog and a MySpace account does not make you Library 2.0!

I'm not a library manager, but it just so happens that I personally think that dedicating time/resources for staff to learn about new information spaces makes good strategic sense.

Anonymous said...

Yes, no arguement that library 2.0 is not a wothy candidate for staff training. As you correctly suggest it is the clients that will dictate to some degree the type of services that should be offered.

Unfortunately the pace of change necessitates (or at least from my perspective) that libraries take a gamble with some of this technology and see what works and be prepared for some initiatives to fail. There are amazing things happening around the world with library 2.0 technologies however; these tend to be undertaken by University libraries and/or large county (US) public libraries which have at their disposal well resourced IT departments. The challenge for public libraies (many of which are relatively small and not necessarily resource rich) is to deploy some of the internet technologies in a meaningful way. What use is a blog if you do not have a community of users that utilise the information? The trick is selecting tools that meet a market niche or alternatively to create the niche via effective marketing. In that respect it is always interesting to here about the success or failure of other public libraries.

Jenn said...

I really like your comment, Martin, that Library 2.0 is about implementing services based on understanding of customers.

A lot of Library 2.0 detractors say that library dabbling with Web 2.0 is ineffective because we are not engaging with customers and our attempts at innovation fall flat because they are static and one-sided.

I'm trying to collect good examples of Libraries engaging with Web 2.0 (and their customers) that I can use to demonstate how it can be done well when I find myself in these conversations.

The community I work in has a computer ownership rate 10% lower than the Sydney average, and it can be difficult to work out whether things that I find exciting would also fit in this community.

But I think that flickr will take off (when everyone has family overseas, people are always looking for new ways to connect!), Blogger now allows you to blog in Persian [!] and in the last half hour on the reference desk I have been asked by customers for help using yahoo messenger, bebo, and downloading songs from the internet onto mobile phones. So I hope that we will find ways to stay relevant!