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.
4) Ask the virtual expert – Demand relevant improvements in social
software applications. For example – on facebook I can’t ask a question
of an expert stranger without first making them a friend. This doesn’t
model typical human interaction. I go to the library. I ask my
question. They answer. They embellish (ie also check xyz). I get my
knowledge. I leave. We don’t have to be "friends" to do this. So social
software must have some expert mechanism that doesn’t degrade into
evil-expert-editors-who-roll-everything-back like on wikipedia. Someone
approachable. Librarians are approachable if the software would allow
5) Enable "3rd Place" for more than just kids – yes read
to the kids. But have coffee for the high schoolers on a week night.
And have a wine dinner catered for a book club on a Friday (away from
the kids of course). But you CAN reach out to more than just the
limited groups. I read constantly but why would I read where I can’t
relax easily with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine on the weekends?
Doesn’t make sense. Reading is too important to me.
non-librarians as knowledge matter experts – a librarian should be in
the know on people almost as much as books and periodicals. Knowing WHO
to ask is huge and technorati is pretty lame when it comes to
highlighting knowledge matter experts. So is google. Nobody does this
actually. Librarians could. Social software can help. If Chron.com has community bloggers, can’t a librarian have community librarians?
This does require a knowledge of sociology and psychology. Chunking theory and negotiation skills may both be needed to present information in a non-threatening manner and to convince a young man to read a particularly influential book.
7) Training – train on skills necessary in the modern wired social software world
– Time Management
– email etiquette (can I get a decent subject line. PLEASE?)
– Leadership (give first, pay it forward, common sense, clarity of speech)
line: Librarians are the guardians of knowledge who as curators have an
obligation to spread it. They relish their role because they didn’t go
into the profession to get rich. Social software is an enabler that
will help them interact with their publics. With a few online and
offline changes, the role of librarian in society becomes more sacred
and wonderful than ever before. Librarians rock!
THANKS SANDRA for posting the original GN link on Facebook which got me thinking!