Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Librarians In A Pre & Post-Internet World

A lot has changed for information professionals (i.e., librarians) since the advent of the Internet, but as NPR recently reported, there is a lot that hasn't changed.

"Before Google there was — that paragon of accuracy and calm — the librarian." And New York Public Library (NYPL) has a record of many of the questions that were asked before there was Google. NYPL "recently came upon a box of questions posed to the library from the 1940s to the '80s — a time capsule from an era when humans consulted other humans for answers to their daily questions and conundrums." The questions range from research to etiquette to Biblical and beyond.

And although the public has a great resource in Google, NYPL "Librarian Rosa Caballero-Li says that today, more than 100 questions still come into the NYPL's Reference and Research Services desk every 24 hours."

And in what may be a surprise to some, "she says there's a [a lot] of overlap between the questions from the archive and the questions she fields in 2014." Caballero-Li said that this is becausae "[l]ibrarians are 'information specialists' and can help point patrons to resources that aren't available online. Also, sometimes there's just something about speaking to a human being."

It's been my own experience that librarians are still very much in demand even with more information available at the public's fingertips. This is because it can be overwhelming to parse through the vast amount of information online, and it causes many people to have information anxiety. Librarians are seen as a reputable source for, generally, instant information.

And as Caballero-Li noted the 'librarian's mantra' is that "[e]verything is a teachable moment. We don't embarrass people; we try to answer any questions they have with honesty and we try to refer them to appropriate resources that they might find useful."

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