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.