Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Reference Reading

Some years ago, at another public library, I needed to hire a new reference librarian. This of course meant interviewing a number of people, some of whom were bad, some of whom were good, and some of whom were, ah, odd.

One of the last stood out.

One of my “standard” reference interview questions was simply to ask what the interviewee had been reading lately, the idea being to gage how closely the person was following the news and (broadly) developments in various fields. This person revealed that her reading consisted solely of light novels. She didn’t read the newspapers or the weekly news magazines, much less anything more specialized.

She had gone through all the work of getting her masters degree because “she wanted to work in libraries because she liked to read books.” That’s as close to her direct words as I can remember today, perhaps 15 years later.

Well, that’s nice. Unfortunately, those of us who work in public libraries seldom get to read books while we’re actually working. Sorry. We’re doing other things. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.

I’m a member of a long-established online community and one of the members started a conversation on “what people read online every day.” That led me to thinking … What do reference librarians read today? Or, perhaps, in this day of common high-speed access, What do they view or listen to as well?

I’m thinking it’s not so much the print magazines and newspapers anymore. That’s true for me as well. I’ll read the online versions of a couple local newspapers, plus parts of national newspapers, and I’ve got a range of online sites that I read almost every day (including a few blogs).

That’s considerable reading … but there’s a very large downside to it all. It’s entirely self-selected. I may be fairly well-informed in a few narrow areas but, at the same time, I’m abysmally ignorant of events in other areas.

That’s a problem for everyone, but especially for reference librarians.

One thing we librarian types should do is create a daily blog (and weekly newsletter) on “Important Events” in various fields. There would be no large articles, just brief descriptions and links to the appropriate urls.

Non librarians might be interested and subscribe but reference librarians have a real need for this sort of thing.

Perhaps someone will enlighten me if there currently is such a thing. If not, and I’m still grousing about this seven years from now, it may become a retirement project.

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