ALA2008: LITA President’s Program

Title: Isn’t it Great to Be in the Library (wherever that is)

Joseph Janes, presentation
Panelists: the “It’s All Good” bloggers: Crystie Hill, Alice Sneary, George Needham, and Eric Childress

First, Joseph Janes:

Showing pics of libraries – showed a pic of a reference desk from around 1906, and said we probably recognized it as a reference desk. That’s not good. We’d have a different viewpoint if we were doctors – we’d hope that a doctor would NOT want a current operating room to resemble one from 1906!

Then he said librarians have a strong sense of tradition – what should we keep, what should we get rid of?

information environment evolves

  • as it always does
  • technology
  • competitive and volatile information marketplace (publisher and consumer)
  • societal/demographic changes
  • political, legal, cognitive domains

Highly dynamic environment!

What does it mean to be in the library?

  • physically, this is easy – you’re in the library when you cross the threshold and enter the building
  • except… branches, bookmobiles (are you “in the library” in a bookmobile?)


  • follow the same line of reasoning
  • in the library when they cross the digital threshold, hit the web site, search, ask chat reference Q, downloading an audiobook, etc.
  • in the library anywhere, anytime, any way in which people interact with information organized, provided, supported by their own community via their library staff

by implication, the library

  • is the place
  • as well as the stuff
  • and the support
  • and the interaction
  • and the values

all this implies:

an extended notion of library, librarianship, etc
there’s lots of potential with both ideas

somewhere and everywhere – you need a physical presence (you need the puppet closet) when you have physical objects, you need a physical place

but you have to be everywhere – be where your clients are when they want to use you

presences and identities are tied to environments – you can be in multiple presences at the same time. In each, you can have information needs.

be where they are

  • wherever they are (physically and virtually)
  • and whatever they want to do, or be
  • we must be available, positioned, and ready to support, assist, etc – on their terms
  • visible presences
  • in all the various places they are
  • not unlike building new branches or bookmobile routes

Plan services for these people in new digital communities!

We have to be better online

  • we do a great job in person
  • online, we have to be better
  • customers get frustrated fast online – and will go away just as fast

basic human urges

  • communicate, be heard
  • to learn
  • to organize, make sense of the world,
  • search for and make meaning
  • etc
  • We help in those areas

How do we get there?
Move beyond the building


Discussion Panel (interesting snippets):

what matters is why people use these tools – not how a library can use the tools

A priest – is ALWAYS a priest – at church, on the plane, at the cookout. In the same way, a librarian needs to be a librarian in all these emerging digital outposts.

What will make the difference is the experience around the stuff – not the stuff itself. If other places provide a better experience than the library, our customers will go there instead of the library.

We are doing the work right – but are we doing the right work?