Two things to post in the aftermath of my virtual reference experience with Boston Public Library. First, Luke the Librarian, who does a lot of VR himself has written a long thoughtful post on what people should know about virtual reference, and what VR practitioners can still learn. Second, I got this follow-up email from the Social Sciences librarian at BPL with some more information both about the resources that were suggested to me as well as some information about the author of a book that was recommended, I guess he’s going to be in the area soon. Very cool, don’t you think? Marta Pardee-King is a class act. Note at the end of the transcript, someone there reads my blog too.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but this sort of ongoing patron-relationship model is one of the things that the flesh-and-blood librarian model has over the VR model. I had a fine interaction with the woman I worked with, but she’s paid to interact with me, and many other patrons, on a case by case basis ONLY. There is no possibility of having a longer-term patron/librarian relationship and every VR situation is a new case. The VR librarian never gets to know you, never learns your habits, doesn’t have an investment in your continued patronage and in fact wouldn’t have a way to continue a librarian relationship with you if they wanted to. This is a shame. Having an option for 24/7 readyref types of interactions is definitely a way of increasing the library’s presence. Making sure that answering reference questions doesn’t become simply a matter of expedience and profit-motive is equally important. Thanks again to BPL and the woman who tried to help me with my harder-than-I-thought-it-was question. I had not intended to turn this into an object lesson, I was just trying to help my friend impress his mother-in-law.
I tried to go swimming at the pool this weekend and went through a long comedy of errors trying to figure out when the pool and/or the school that I swim at was open on Easter Sunday. The Vermont Technical College’s library, which I love incidentally, has a script running on their home page telling you when the library is open that day. This is great except when it’s innacurate. The library didn’t open at 3 on Easter. I don’t think it opened at all. The phone message at the pool said that they would open at 1, but they were closed (even though the schedule on the door said they would be open) and the phone message read the hours but then said “except for official holidays” which it suggested you call the registrar’s office for. I wound up swimming later in the day, this wasn’t such a big deal. I did get an email back from the pool coordinator (good!) which told me that the schedule on the door was correct. I had seen the schedule, and related to her that it wasn’t correct (bad!). I thought, as I often do in these situations, that this is how some people view their libraries.
However, this is a post about IM. One of the channels I tried to figure out what was up with the pool was to IM my friend Stan who goes to school at VTC to see if he knew. Through a mysterious set of circumstances, I had two Stans on my IM list (probably some aggressive renaming on my part) and I had an interesting IM conversation with a person who wasn’t Stan but who was clearly an IM reference whiz. Even though she lived hours away she gave me the best information of any of the sources I tried. Turns out she’s a librarian I knew but didn’t recognize the IM. Once I Googled her IM handle and read her blog it also turns out that we had been listening to the same Buzzcocks song earlier in the day.
This is all just a lead up to tell you to go look at Michael Stephen’s IM Reference post where he answers some questions posted by another librarian and shares some stats and links to more stats. My library, which I am crazy about, just started being available via IM and I’ll be interested to know how this works out for them.
Get your Reference is Cool button from Salem Press. If you’d like, send them some visual verification.
Salem Press is inviting you to submit evidence that reference books, the people who use them, reference librarians and teachers are “cool.” We are using the expression ‘cool’ to mean ‘excellent’ or ‘first-class’ not the sense of the word that implies merely ‘acceptable’ or ‘satisfactory.’ It is permissible, but not required, that the person, action, thing or event be relaxed – cool. But not chilly, please.
I know you know about del.icio.us. However, you may not know about Pasta. Every now and again I have something I would like to link to here but it lacks a web component. Sometimes it’s an email, sometimes it’s an IM, sometimes it’s a press release. Pasta allows you to post up to 100k worth of text and auto-bookmark it on del.icio.us for you. As an example, here’s an IM I had with a random web stranger asking about library schools.