on advice giving

David Weinberger points to Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution and the idea of “advice as process.” I’m going to keep this idea close to me as I move through another year of moderating Ask MetaFilter: “giving advice is a social activity, not merely a transfer of purported knowledge.” How much of what we do as librarians is reference and how much is advice?

a librarian’s worst nightmare?

I don’t know about you, but my worst nightmare is more along the lines of someone vomiting (or worse!) in the overnight book drop, but Slate has an article about Yahoo Answers and how librarians hate it. Of course the writer doesn’t seem to have talked to any librarians, he just likes to rail against the wisdom of crowds — with some valid points, certainly — and make fun of stupid answers on YA which is of coruse the opposite of what any decent librarian would do. There is a lively back and forth in the disucssion section which is hard to follow and hard to find but if the topic is as near and dear to your heart as it is to mine, I suggest you dig it out. I commented. [thanks alexandra]

if you come by my place of work on september 10th

I sort of like the “Slam the Boards” idea of librarians showing up on “answer sites” on September 10th and indicating that the answers they give are by librarians. It’s a neat idea. It shows librarians interacting with social communities and (hopefully) providing good quick reference. We shine when we’re giving answers, and less when we have to exert control over complicated real life situations. I would like to say, however, that if you come to my place of work, that being Ask MetaFilter, arguably one of the more awesome “answer sites” currently in existence, you’ll need to know a few things.

1. We have many great librarians already, over 50 at last count, though it may be more like 100, and these are only self-identified librarians library workers and library students.
2. You’ll have to pay $5 to join. One of our great techniques of keeping the riffraff out is out $5 lifetime membership fee. Works amazingly well.
3. You should learn the culture some, learn how to give answers, how to not tell people to JFGI (as if you would!), not to sign your posts and not to get in fights or make stupid jokes in AskMe threads.
4. Don’t toss up a bunch of bibliographic citations when a decent URL will do. You’re online, act like you’re online.

I think this idea is a neat one, but could backfire if we spazz out into every existing community and assume that because we’re librarians every bit of advice we offer is like manna from heaven. If I were planning to participate in this — and I’m not because I’ll be working — I’d spend some time between now and 10sep07 learning a bit about the places i was planning to go. Nothing says you really care like getting to know your patrons. Go. Be awesome.

naked reference

This is a two part post.

The first part is an interesting reference idea called Reference in the Raw an experiment where reference staff bring nothing to the desk, no other work, no projects, nothing. Yes, they are clothed. The idea is to be approachable and available and patron oriented. I didn’t see a follow-up post, I’d be interested to know how the experiment worked.

The second part of this post was spurred by my looking at my Google Sitemaps statistics and realizing that the Naked Librarians page over at jessamyn.com is the third hit on Google for the words naked photos (seventh if you put the words in quotes). So, with great power comes great responsibility, I guess. I decided to update the page, purge the old links using the W3C link checker and maybe go trolling around for some new…. data. If anyone has some images they would like to send my way, or preferably links to other sites, I’d appreciate it. As always, naked pictures of yourself are unwelcome in most cases, unless you are standing in front of a bookshelf.