Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Reference Question Roundup

Reader comments would indicate that the posts listing quirky reference questions  is a popular feature on this blog. But many reference questions are pretty routine and old-fashioned: does the library have a certain book and/or where is it? If it's checked out, can I put a hold on it? If it's not owned by BHPL, how can I get it? The answers are rarely routine or old-fashioned though because computers are involved at every turn. For example, recently, there has been increasing interest in the free downloadable e-books available from ListenNJ, because more and more people are getting e-book readers.  Downloading e- and audiobooks inevitably leads to lots of technical difficulties.

So for every advance in library computer technology like online catalogs, online books, research databases, online patron accounts, online holds and email overdue notices etc;  the convenience is always balanced out by the confusion of the new technology. As most of us have realized, the computer revolution, like the washing machine and other modern conveniences, really hasn't saved us any time or made things more efficient. There is probably lots of "scholarly" blathering on this topic, but what I picture as an illustration to this conundrum is a hamster on an exercise wheel. The more he runs, the faster he goes and, well, that's about it really. So when people ask if the internet and computers have replaced librarians, I'd have to say, no, we just can help you get off that hamster wheel or troubleshoot it for you. Maybe that does not clarify the situation. Let me put it this way, if you need help finding material, or doing research in the World Wide Waste, just ask a librarian. That's what we do. We'll separate the wheat from the chaff and, mixing metaphors madly here, get you off that wheel of doom.
Image from librarian-image.net

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Anil P said...

True. Technology is enabling, but continuous change can unsettle its potential users and confuse them.

Anne said...

well put. BHPL blog readers, take a look at Anil's post about what Bombay commuters read http://windyskies.blogspot.com/2010/06/books-travellers-read-in-mumbai-locals.html