DIY Libraries

By , April 26, 2010 6:34 pm

by Kristine Lloyd

We librarians love to joke about the patrons who think that “everything is on Google.” Those silly, misguided patrons who act like they don’t need us. But maybe it’s the other way around, maybe we are the ones who need them. We need our patrons to ask us complicated questions and send us bird-dogging for answers. We need them to be a little bit overwhelmed at the sheer volume of information so we can navigate them through the deluge.

But what about the people who say they don’t want us, who, in fact, would prefer to go it alone. In 2009, King County opened an unstaffed branch in Redmond. After surveying the community, 95% of the respondents said they’d rather pick up their holds at a nearby unstaffed library than drive to a more distant full-service library. In California, Library-A-Go-Go kiosks, similar to ATM machines, are automated to allow patrons to browse and select books and DVDs on their own.

Let’s face it, these days, most of us like the Do-It-Yourself autonomy that comes with self-checkout lines, online shopping and on-demand DVDs. We want to do things for ourselves, and that includes finding the right piece of information or researching resort deals for your next tropical getaway. Even though we’ve been called information gatekeepers, the floodgates are open and the metaphor now seems presumptuous.

Can we survive in this world where the roller coaster of DIY culture means that patron needs shift in sharp curves and we must swiftly respond to those needs? Absolutely. Does it sometimes mean weaning ourselves off of our TMI compulsion? Perhaps. We can help our patrons navigate the deluge, but how often are we the source of the deluge? When people hear that I’m a librarian, they tend to confess one of two things: that librarians are mean, or that librarians do not know when to stop giving them information. If we don’t address these perception issues, start looking for an automated library near you.

One Response to “DIY Libraries”

  1. Jan Lawrence says:

    This has sometimes surprised me — in a service field — that we are sometimes not sensitive to what is useful and desired by our customers.. even when they are not forthcoming with feedback. I don’t know if this is good or not, but one of the clearest ah ha (sorry, Oprah) moments I had in library school, was learning about Ranganathan’s laws of library science –

    But I remember one of them being presented as library users will use whatever information is available to them at the moment they need the information. That really struck me at the time.

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