Global Neighbourhoods asks "what should I tell the librarians?" for an upcoming talk on social media to a group of librarians.
First lets talk about the audience. Librarians are the most over educated, in a good way, people who are typically underpaid worse than teachers. A challenging masters frequently relegates them to book guardians at a local library doling out fines. And baby sitting kids whose parents view the library as a day care.
Librarians are museum curators trying to decide if their mission is to protect the exhibits or share the exhibits (note most museum curators go for "protect and hide" hence the no-photography rules at so many American museums. But I digress.)
I say this from the perspective of someone with two librarians in my family. Neither of them work as librarians any more.
What I have found about librarians is they have a natural desire to help. To share knowledge more than just information. One phone call can save hours of google searches looking for just the right search phrase. Just as going to a conference made me understand how important Goffman was when no amount of google searches would have generated pop-up box saying "no really, you need to read this one!"
So what to tell the librarians. Tell them that:
1) Librarians are Teachers – The biggest digital divide is more cultural than economic in the US at least. Having access to a free blogging platform in no way teaches the ethos and culture of the blogosphere. So they should view part of their jobs as teaching the public about social software tools. These tools are vehicles that bridge the digital divide (three of the last four people we hired were bloggers. We ask every applicant and recruit bloggers. So a librarian-teacher could help kids in the neighborhood get real jobs IF they understand social media.
2) Specialize – with the explosion of available information you can’t just be an "academic librarian" or a "community librarian". You need to specialize.
3) Virtualize – given limited budgets, they should be not only using social software tools themselves to connect to other librarians, but helping the public do the same. Form a super-librarian-group on facebook that enables them to connect people with the right librarian.