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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

National Library Week 2014: Librarians Adapting to Challenging Opportunities

Here's a question for all geeks, nerds and wanna be comical librarians: How many librarians does it take to screw in a light bulb? The answer will be revealed at the end of this post. No peeking...
Today we celebrate the nobel profession of librarianship. Granted this blog is partial to libraries and librarians. After all, Librarian at Large should promote the profession. To not do so would be a bit like a real life Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde phenomenon. Now is the best time to be a librarian, the world is changing and every profession known to man is adapting to the alarming rapid pace of technological advances. Even Taxi drivers have to keep up with customers demand for new services and competition. Who would have thought there could be an app (Urber is one of the more popular ones out there) that takes the hassle out of getting a taxi in a large metropolitan city like New York? It is pure genius! Yet Taxi companies who have not thought of creating an app for their service are scrabbling to compete. It's a competitive world out there and everyone is looking for the "niche" to survive. Today's librarian has to find their "niche" to survive as well. Computers and gadgets are not foreign to the library landscape. It's hard to imagine a library with out computers to a librarian who is stuck in the 1980s. It's the 21st Century and going mobile is where it's at. Today s librarian should be looking for ways to adapt to serve the patron on the go. First too come to mind is quite obvious, a library app. If you are fortunate enough to work in a library that is keeping up with the trends, your library may already have an app or at least have one in the works. Consider what an app could do for your patrons. Alert them through push notification that a book they have been waiting for has come in. It can also download an e-newsletter to keep patrons informed of new programs, or when the library closed due to weather. Could librarians take it a step further? How about story time through an app? Could it be possible to offer Homework help at the touch of a screen and FaceTime with a librarian for more detailed questions? It wouldn't be too hard to have a patron's library card available on the library's app. Gone will be the days when the patron's will say "I forgot my library card at home!" In today's techie world all things seem to be possible. This is the perfect time to explore the possibilities. To return to the idea of a library without computers, it's a wonderful idea, isn't it? Libraries could be open places where patrons come in with their own tablets, sign in on the wi-fi connection and find a comfy spot to begin their task at hand. Printer/scanner combinations could replace the copiers, printers and faxes. For a fee, patrons can do all three of these actives with a library card that has a balance to cover the service costs. Could we take it a bit further to envision larger spaces for meeting rooms and programs. Would books still be in the picture? Some say no, while others say yes. This is where techie and old world have got to find a happy medium. There should be room for access to both. There are just some joys that should never be forgotten, like holding a real book and turning real pages. As with any transition, librarians are the ones who smooth the way with grace, patients and teaching patrons to adapt to the technology to keep up with the information gateways. Teens have grown up in this techie world and none of the new gadgets intimidates or frightens them. To them it is second nature to pic up a gadget and learn it's use within a couple of minutes. There may be a day when society comes full circle and rejects anything new, flashy, and modern. A young patron mused that it would be funny if everyone began to live and think like the Amish. Getting back to our roots, so to speak. For librarians getting back to our roots would be the card catalogs (in some librarians' home it is a monumental tribute to past) and due date cards check out system. Very ancient, but the ida of going old school for a day or weekend is not a bad idea. It could illuminate to patrons and staff alike, how far librarians have gone to keep up with technology. Which in many cases no small accomplishment due to budget cuts. it can also inspire new ideas on how to creatively use technology for the patron's advantage. If anyone would know how to do this, it would be a librarian. After all this is the only profession where it's okay to admit that we don't have all the answers but we know where to begin looking for them. The answer to the riddle: 645.5. Don't try to hold back the giggles. It's really okay to laugh out loud in the library.
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