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The Future of Paper Reference Materials

Jan - 24 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

In one of my classes we were asked to read The Chain of Demand by Barbara Quint. Then we were asked:

What did you think of the Colin Powell article? Do you think that most people soon will, as Colin Powell already has, end their reliance on paper-based reference tools? Why or why not?

My response:

First impression – Gotta ring that guy’s neck!!!!

Second impression – hmmmm – okay – I guess.

The author makes a good point – it is better to have one product to meet all needs – but how do we make it clear that while Google provides easy and cheap answers there is still a chance that the information you’re getting is very very wrong. I like this quote: “People need the best and truest information. But it’s not the job of the masses to find it themselves. It’s the job of the information professional to put it into the people’s hands and, if necessary, to push it into their faces.” – but how do we do that?

The fact of the matter is that people are ending their reliance on paper-reference products. I grew up with a set of encyclopedia’s on the shelf – I see nothing of the sort in any households with kids in them today (at least not among my friends and family). While I do have 2 dictionaries – they are only opened when playing scrabble – when I’m writing a paper I go to my trusty www.m-w.com and find what I’m looking for. Why? Because of the very reasons stated in the article – it’s easy!! America is a country of people addicted to “easy”.

So back to my question – how do we get out there and make the argument for librarians? How do we explain that while it may not be as easy to ask us – it’s going to save you a lot of heartache in the end? And how do we make our services easier to use – because if we don’t – we’re going to lose the battle!

My additions here for you all:

What would make things easier in libraries? For starters – my old pet-peeve – fix the catalog. Make it more user/search friendly – why would I use an OPAC over Amazon to find a book? For seconds – make reference services accessible online – IM/VR/Chat – whatever method you want – but make it available. I can tell you that I use the Drexel IM Reference all of the time, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to the librarians at Drexel at all (basically because I never go to campus – but you get the point).

I was listening to the Talking w/ Talis podcast this week and one of the librarians (sorry can’t remember names) Thomas Brevik talked about an innovation he’s pushing for at his library. He wants touch screens added to the end of each isle with related searches already built in. So if you’re looking at the isle with books on Library Science you just have to touch the screen at the end of the isle and it will search related databases & digital libraries to provide additional resources.

Easy?? You betcha! Innovate – very. I was actually surprised that there wasn’t more excitement about the idea from the other librarians on the call – I was practically jumping out of my seat with ideas on how to use technology like that.

Just some thoughts from my classes this week.

[update] added librarian name [/update]

9 Responses so far.

  1. Paul Miller says:

    Nicole, the librarian in question was Thomas Brevik.

  2. Nicole says:

    Thanks – I have updated the post.

  3. Paul Miller says:

    Nicole, the librarian in question was Thomas Brevik.

  4. Nicole says:

    Thanks – I have updated the post.

  5. Sarah says:

    Ooh, I like! haven’t gotten around to listening to the podcast yet–naughty me :-) As far as making the argument–we have to be easier, true enough, but we also have to A: demonstrate our added value and B: publicize it to the masses. This touches on something I’m thinking about lately re: the 2.0 technologies–making that leap from inventing cool products to providing useful services–and making those services known.

  6. Sarah says:

    Ooh, I like! haven’t gotten around to listening to the podcast yet–naughty me :-) As far as making the argument–we have to be easier, true enough, but we also have to A: demonstrate our added value and B: publicize it to the masses. This touches on something I’m thinking about lately re: the 2.0 technologies–making that leap from inventing cool products to providing useful services–and making those services known.

  7. [...] The Future of Paper Reference Materials by Sarah on January 24, 2007 [...]

  8. Books im readingWeblog says:

    [...] “>The Future of Paper Reference Materials Best article for past timeIn one of my classes we were asked to read The Chain of Demand by Barbara Quint. Then we were asked: What did you think of the Colin Powell article Do you think that most people soon will, as Colin Powell already has, end their reliance on paperbased reference tools Why or why not My response: F…I thought about it for a long time. I think it’s great.Link to original article [...]

  9. [...] Which brings us back to my most recent topic of ranting. A lot of us are trying to come up with ways to keep up with the times – new technology, new spaces, etc etc. What we need to keep in mind while looking in to making all of these changes is how we’re going to make finding the right information easy – because in the end that’s what people seem to care about (well, most people). [...]


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