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Changing Perceptions of Reference and Librarians

September 8, 2008

I thought the topic of change was particularly relevant as we try to re-envision and re-imagine the library as place. There are so many resources out there now about all the changes occurring in libraries. From reference to space design, web 2.0 to library 2.0 and online teaching to learning commons, there doesn’t seem to be an area where the library is not in a liminal state as we adapt to new learning environments.

So I want to share two great resources today that have to do with change in the library. And, hopefully, these resources stimulate conversation, thought and a desire for those involved in the library world to become active participants in this change.

Ithaka Report

If you have not read the Ithaka Report, you must read it. Results of the 2006 survey of librarian and faculty perceptions of the library’s future and place in research are reported in the Ithaka Report. While I am a little suspicious that the survey’s response rate was not reported (I’ve not checked the raw data links yet), this is an eye-opening read and a confirmation of what many have feared–that the faculty see the library as becoming less and less relevant and necessary with the increase of digital resources (such as databases, full-text journals, online data sets, etc.). Responses vary by discipline and while no one sees the library completely going away, there is a definite decrease in status of the library as a major information player. However, this is a wake-up call for re-imagining what we can do to become not only relevant but essential to faculty and the rest of our community.

“Evolution to Revolution to Chaos? Reference in Transition”

Stephen Abram’s article Evolution to Revolution to Chaos? Reference in Transition is a must read article. He puts forth a baker’s dozen of possible future library reference situations. The diversity of possible futures is interesting and thought-provoking. How can we best serve our library patrons? How does reference change in a world of mobile devices, social networking sites, and IM? Should we be providing reference in all of these platforms? How do we integrate others into our library–both the physical space and the digital domain of the library? And how do we know what we are doing is best practice?

What do we want the library to be? We have the opportunity to be agents of change–let’s not waste that opportunity. As always, comments are appreciated. Let’s get the dialog going today so that we can meet our community’s needs now and into the future.

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