Monday, October 27, 2008

Article Note: On "keeping up" and reference/instruction services

Citation for the article:

Mitchell, Eleanor and Sarah Barbara Watstein. "The Dimensions of Reference and Instructional Services and the Challenge of 'Keeping Up.'" Reference Services Review 36.2:117-118.

Read via Emerald.

This is basically the brief editorial that opens issue 36.2 of Reference Services Review. It had some questions that made me think a bit, and that I would likely want to explore later, thus the note now. The article raises the common concern about "keeping up" with the profession. It's something I have thought about here and there. Some of the questions from this small article may help me revisit some of what I have written and thought.

  • Some of the things that affect reference and instruction, and they are just 2.0 things either: "Economic, social and political developments and trends also affect our learning-focused organizations and specifically teaching, learning, and creative expression" (117). I don't think we ask this often enough, if at all, let alone discuss it. Part of it probably has to do with the notion of library neutrality that we aim to maintain. Yet when politics affect libraries and our work, should we not talk about it, discuss relevant issues and developments? And how such things affect our students? Well, I am thinking in an academic context being that is my experience.
  • "How do you 'keep up'? What do you read? What do you watch? Who do you listen to? What methods have you developed for keeping up? Do you scan?" (118). Questions like these could be an opportunity for me to revisit some of my previous posts on keeping up. I am sure things have changed since my old musings. For instance, I scan more online now it seems. This is due to convenience in part, but in my case now, it is also due to a severe lack of print sources. In my previous job, I used to have access to things like Atlantic Monthly in print. Here, we pretty much don't have much in the way of current popular periodicals; the assumption is they are on a database someplace for one, and two, our students and faculty don't read them anyways (or if they do, they are not doing it at our library), plus they take up space.
  • "Do you have any evidence that keeping up activity makes your departments, units, or your organization better?" (118). Personally, I think it does, and I could probably think of a few anecdotal examples. In terms of departments, I am not so sure. I have no idea to what degree others keep up here. Then again, that was a problem in the previous job too, and we actually routed professional journals there (not in a very timely fashion, but they got routed). Now I am not saying these things to "rag" on my workplaces past and present, but one has to wonder when no one talks about what they read professionally. Currently, other than the director now and then forwarding something she finds interesting, I could not honestly tell you what my other colleagues read to keep up, assuming they do.
  • "Truth or dare--in your institution, to your peers or colleagues, to your users, does it really matter if you 'keep up'?" Now this is a good question. I would have to say that, to them, it probably does not. I get funny looks once in a while when I am at the reference desk with an academic article. And yet, I think it helps me be a better librarian to keep up.
  • "Are you equally interested in current, established technologies as you are in, say, emerging technologies?" (118). I have to say I am not as interested in emerging as I am in established. This is because I tend to prefer letting other early adopters (i.e. the eager beavers) mess with them and iron some of the kinks. That, and given some of the atmosphere in the librarian sector of the blogosphere, I am not interested in being associated with over-eager librarians who jump on every shiny toy because it is a shiny new toy. I prefer to look at things, reflect, and then see if they solve a problem or meet a need before I jump in. Does not mean I do not keep up with emerging stuff; simply means I actually stop and think before I act.
  • "We believe that fundamental to our success, and to our users' satisfaction is our knowledge of not only the information seeking behavior of our students, but also our knowledge of an ever increasing array of information sources, in an ever increasing variety of formats" (118). Need I say more?
  • The article mentions listservs as one of the many resources for keeping up. Personally, I hate listservs. Not because I don't find them useful, but for a simple peeve: morons who can't trim posts. There, I said it. If you post on a listserv, and you are not smart enough to trim the post when you hit the reply button so all the previous content does not get reposted with your reply, you probably should not be using a listserv. Personally, there are few things I find annoying, but having to sort out through repetitive repostings to find the thread and replies of a discussion because some people can't be bothered to trim and keep things neat happens to be one of them. It's a big reason I keep listserv subscriptions to an absolute minimum, and I unsubscribe swiftly if I see a listserv is not serving its purpose (NewLib I am looking at you as an example).
Anyhow, some very good food for thought in this small piece that I may use to write some other posts later.

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