Published Dec 1, 2011 in the Newsletter Issue: Librarian 2.0 and Beyond -- December 2011
As a librarian within the Information Services department, I serve as liaison to the Economics and Public Policy departments and schools. In some ways my duties remain the same as those of my predecessors: outreach and assisting students and staff. But a librarian today needs to be familiar with all the different ways to communicate with users and keep up to date with information and emerging technologies.
Though I am not a coder, I believe that because librarians deal with information, there is no getting away from the use of information technology. I currently run many of the library's social media channels, including Facebook and Twitter, and I lead a team offering chat support to users via LibraryH3lp. In fact many students I encounter prefer to communicate with me and garner library news via Facebook and chat. I have had to learn how to conduct reference interviews and information literacy sessions across such diverse channels.
Despite launching our chat service as a pilot program in August 2010, queries to chat immediately constituted 30-40 percent of transactions sent to our main e-mail help account. The library Facebook page we launched in February 2011 received 1,000 "likes" in one month, and by August 2011, views of Facebook posts made up 15 percent of all our library page views. We are now experimenting with using Web conferencing software such as WebEx to conduct classes. A recent WebEx class on using EndNote attracted more than 240 sign-ups. Librarians at my institution are also trained to use SpringShare's LibGuides and LibAnswers platforms to create guides and FAQs to provide digital extensions of ourselves.
Besides serving individual users, I have also served on various committees, including LibQUAL+, library portal redesign, and Web Scale Discovery teams, which involves looking at things on a higher level, studying user behavior, and adapting new technologies on a library-wide level to keep pace with new user habits and behavior. Some of the skills I have needed to develop include usability testing, Web analytics, and Web 2.0 skills such as the use of RSS and social media. I anticipate that knowledge of data curation, open access repositories and cited reference will become increasingly important.
Despite launching our chat service as a pilot program in August 2010, queries to chat immediately constituted 30-40 percent of transactions sent to our main e-mail help account.
With the rising usage of smartphones and tablet PCs, another big growth area is mobile technology. My institution recently launched a mobile website and a mobile catalog, but these are just first steps. We expect to do more in the future with technologies such as quick response (QR) codes, near field communication (NFC) transactions and even augmented reality.
Keeping up with all these diverse areas is not easy, of course, and leaves less time available for previously existing services. It helps that we are constantly reconsidering the way we do things, altering or even abandoning practices and services. Sharing among staff via e-mails, internal blogs and wikis helps us learn together without reinventing the wheel.