Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Educating librarians session, or false advertising at CIL?

Reading various library bloggers report on CIL sessions, as well as other conferences, gives me a good way to get some exposure to various ideas, a chance to learn a thing or two, and get a sense of what is being talked about out there. Some sessions seem good; others seem to leave a lot to be desired. I think this session reported by Meredith Farkas, of Information Wants To Be Free, may be an example of the later. She reported on a session about Educating Librarians, but it seems the title was misleading to say the least. I got the impression the session may not have been very relevant from the notes. I would have thought that a session on "educating librarians" would mean educating future librarians or possibly continuing education for practitioners. Both are important topics, but librarians of all people should be able to use the right label for the right job.

Ms. Farkas makes notes on the "keeping up" presentation by Jeanne Holba Puacz. Based on the list of suggestions to address the question--"how can we keep up with technology when time and money are at a premium?"-- I don't think that I missed much. The list, while it has one or two useful ideas, does raise some questions overall. Here is where I had questions (italics from Ms. Farkas' post):
  • "1. Go back to school. Take college and graduate-level classes in library science, computer science, management, etc. Lots of Many Universities and state library associations offer trainings that usually cost less money." This may not be too feasible if there are no solid graduate programs nearby to take those graduate-level classes. In my case, there is no library school anywhere near my location, so I can pretty much forget about taking other LIS graduate courses anytime soon. As for other topics at the graduate level, I'd have to go to another campus in our system for that. So, in terms of time, this is not practical, and I thought this was to make it easy for us. And yes, some people may say that there are online courses. However, distance education can often be prohibitive in terms of cost. Thus, I question how the presenter sees this as a good option when time and money are tight.
  • "2. See what life’s like on the other side. If you teach a topic to someone else, you will be forced to learn it well." I was not sure what this meant. I do agree that teaching others does help you learn something better yourself, but I can't teach something if I don't know it, inventive as I can get at times. So, what is this "other side" then?
  • "5. Howdy partner. If a patron is asking you about a new technology you don’t know much about, partner up and look up things together. Don’t just say, 'I don’t know.'" Hey, sometimes you do have to say "I don't know." It seems librarians have this horrible fear of having to maybe once admit this. I would rather admit I do not know than to take a patron on a three hour tour to try to learn something on the fly. It does not mean you can't look it up and do the best you can but don't pretend you know when you don't. Besides, the patron may not be willing or have the time to partner up. Sometimes the patron just wants the answer. At any rate, this seems well-intentioned but a bit questionable.
  • "6. Conference call. Go to conferences. The formal presentations are useful, but the networking is also great. Talk to conference speakers you admire and to vendors whose technology you’re interested in. If you can’t go, read the blogs that are covering the conference." This saves you on time and money? Conferences can be notoriously expensive, and the lack of institutional support for librarians to travel is often a given. Readers who may be sceptical on this point can run a search for posts on this topic in Technorati or their favorite blog search tool. Why did the presenter make this suggestion is beyond me. At least she mentioned blog coverage, but that suggestion could have gone with her other one about using RSS, etc. This stuck me as either a bit naive or a bit overly optimistic.
So it does seem that I did not miss much, at least as far as that session goes. On the upside, some of the ideas here, such as #7 (on playing with technology) and #9 (on filtering what you do find to keep up) may be prompts along with #8 (on using RSS and other alert services) for a decent in-house session for our faculty. I'll have to give that some thought. I do feel a bit sorry for Ms. Farkas who subjected herself to this, but I thank her for the coverage. Very often conference blogging seems to only cover the "good stuff." Now and then we need to see the "not so good" too. If nothing else, so as to see what can be improved.

No comments: