Office Hours Extra: It’s About People Talking to Each Other

I’ve received some wonderful and challenging emails offering feedback about my column in “Office Hours” in Library Journal.

A few folks keyed in to the statement I made in the first column:

If the online world is not for you, then neither may be a career in librarianship. The most prevalent LIS jobs in the next few years will probably be ones where you’re not tied to your desk and you communicate well beyond the physical walls of the building.

It’s not just students who should participate in this online world. Librarians must find their niche as well. Five years ago the conversation went on in blogs. Now it flows vibrantly across media platforms, enabling a stronger connection with library users through marketing, outreach, and the human touch.

I keep returning to this idea to reflect further – and a few months later it still holds true  for me. I can’t imagine a librarian holding a position in a library in 2011 that would not benefit from participating even to the smallest degree in the professional communications that flow via our niche in the social networks. Kyle Jones, currently pursuing his doctorate at UW Madison, and I just completed a chapter for a forthcoming book edited by Dr. Bill Crowley on defending professionalism in librarianship. We examine the benefits and rewards of what we call the LIS professional commons – but really when the tech falls away, it’s about people talking to each other. This is and will be an invaluable virtual space for continuing development for LIS professionals.

We teach the reference interview, and cover the basics of communication in leadership classes, but a stronger emphasis on how people interact with each other, how to effectively communicate with all sorts of folks in person and electronically, and how to create and encourage strong connections between staff and users should be a primary focus of LIS curriculum in the 21st Century.  In that first column, I stated that every library job is or will be touched by technology of some form. The tech discussions of the day still center around social software and mobile connections but – again – it’s really just about people talking to each other.

Librarianship is evolving. Face-to-face interaction, something that has been one of the core skills of our profession, are being joined by the online skills that will be a part of our future. Librarians are becoming more capable professionals, developing new and multi-faceted skill-sets that will allow us to reach all of our users.

It’s no longer reasonable to think that a librarian can leave graduate school and sit at a desk all day talking with patrons. It’s also not reasonable to think that they can sit in a back room chatting on Facebook or Twitter as all they do. In a strong, well-focused LIS program, students are being taught new skills alongside foundational expertise, and they’re learning how to best balance and utilize a combination of the two.

Related posts:

3 thoughts on “Office Hours Extra: It’s About People Talking to Each Other”

  1. Instead of just focusing online, it is important to communicate beyond the physical walls in other ways as well. Get out to schools, to community events. Get active in the local Chamber of Commerce. Social networking is important, of course, but so is regular traditional networking. The people active in the Chamber, active in the business community are those who may be in a position to help libraries if it is needed. These people are good to make friends with, and they’re not all on Twitter.

  2. Absolutely. Your point is well-taken. Getting out into the community to play a significant role with leaders, funders and community members should also be explored in LIS programs. I wonder if those dreaded group projects actually pave the way for future contributions.

  3. I truly believe that group interaction on an online environment is vital for preparing students for true librarianship. My first group project involved using Skype, Second Life and blogging to develop a SWOT analysis for a library. This required visiting libraries, interviewing, networking etc. and bringing back to the group our information and formulating that information into a SWOT. Now when I work on similar projects at my library job, I am much more comfortable presenting ideas, listening to others, collaborating and participating in solutions. I hope more professors will consider group projects in preparing students for real world situations.

Comments are closed.