Librarians Around The City (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)

On a recent break from work at my library, I walked down to the local cafe to get my daily summer iced tea and lemonade.  On my walk back to the library, I noticed a couple looking at a large map of Portland, ME.  They looked like they were trying to find something but couldn’t figure out where to go.  I stepped in and said, “Is there something I can help you find?  I live downtown and I’m also a librarian.  It’s part of my job to help people find what they need.”

In the end, I helped the couple find what they were looking for and we went our separate ways.  It got me thinking about roving reference and how well it could possibly work OUTSIDE of the library.  Imagine a few librarians roaming around downtown, helping people find what they were looking for, recommending great local businesses and restaurants, and handing out informational pamphlets that helped folks discover new things around the city?  An idea like this may work best in a smaller town or one that had a tourist population, but theoretically it could work anywhere as well.  Perhaps a great partnership opportunity for libraries and downtown districts could (such as this one: http://www.portlandmaine.com/) make the project even better.  It would allow two organizations to share resources and people and give a new and exciting spin to librarians connecting people to the community.

Care to chime in on the discussion at Branch?  Visit here: http://on.branch.com/UbwweJ

For more information on embedded librarians, check out these two great posts from Michael that give some history on the topic:

Two Librarians Attempt to Knock Down Walls
The Transparent Library: Dear Library Directors

-Post by Justin Hoenke, Tame the Web Contributor

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8 thoughts on “Librarians Around The City (by TTW contributor Justin Hoenke)”

  1. Our city (Helsinki, Finland) has this service. They move in groups of two people, wearing light green vests and mostly helping tourists and other visitors find places. It’s not a library service at all, it’s part of what our tourist bureau does. Sure it’s about helping people and all that, but how would you justify it being specificly librarywork?

  2. Mace: Thanks for the comment and the link. How I justify it being specificly librarywork is the we’re getting librarians out of the buildings and into the community, making our institutions more visible to everyone in the city. It the connections that these librarians could create in the community that could make a difference.

  3. We are attempting something similar here in Cranbury (NJ) where the library is proposing to have “hours” in local businesses on our main street where we would provide reference, technology, RA, etc services using the available wifi. We look at it as a win-win for us (better community exposure, outreach and touching patrons where they are) as well as for the local businesses (driving foot traffic to their establishments, expanding the overall services a business will have at its establishment with little to no overhead for them).

    Trying to launch this fall.. we’ll see how it goes

  4. I just imagine the liability if somebody gets hit by a car, into an altercation, or victimized by a criminal.

  5. I couldn’t help but laugh as I read this post. I’m so used to helping people every chance I get at work, that this trait sometimes oozes into other areas of my life. There have been times at the grocery store or mall, or even the gym, where I have had to stop myself from approaching someone to help them. Being a librarian (and all that it entails) isn’t just for the four walls of the library. Great ideas…I would love to see them implemented and I would love to be one of these “city” librarians!

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