Sunday, July 22, 2007

Now we're getting somewhere

Sorry about the gap between postings folks, it's been a busy few weeks.

I've had some cool moments in the job over the last couple of weeks that make me feel like we're really starting to make an impact. I had two, count them, two people contact me that I had not yet met - academics in research centres where I had visited the centre but not spoken to that particular academic. On both occassions these academics were contacting me for exactly the kind of thing they should contact me for - questions about our resources. But it's a very cool thing that they did contact me, because someone, somewhere, told them that they should. And then they did. They didn't find me all on their own - we're not listed on the Library website (don't even start me on that issue) and doing a staff search wouldn't find me unless they already know my name. So they either talked to a colleague or read the Library Updates that are sent arouond - either option is great.

Then, I had a really interesting meeting with an academic. I'll try and keep this as anonymous as possible, but what you need to know about this person is that he has a PhD (from my employer), has a computer science background, and does research in an area which one would generally need pretty high information literacy skills to survive in.

What's interesting about this guy is that, until I met with him in the course of my usual duties (even having to push through the "oh, I've got nothing to say, don't bother with me" barrier), he had no idea how to use a library catalogue. He's been surviving all this time with Google. Good on Google, I say - I mean, how wonderfully user friendly is that that this guy can essentially hide this lack of knowledge by using their services. It's amazing.

He gets heaps of information, and uses it, but there was one fundamental thing he didn't get - that library catalogues don't index journals. He had spent countless hours entering article titles and authors into our catalogue, and getting no results, and being consistently pissed off with the library because of it. See, because he has a computer science background, he doesn't understand WHY we don't index journals. The way his mind has worked, it's possible and desirable, so why shouldn't it be that way?

In the end I had to tell him that while I agreed with him wholeheartedly, my job was to show him how to work with the often stunted tools that we do have. I hope I helped.

But this flows nicely into a discussion I'll be attending at work on Tuesday on the future of OPACs, or traditional library catalogues. Those attending the discussion have been assigned reading (which I've done cos I'm a dork) and I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the brightest minds in the uni library tackle this issue. And I'm hoping to use my computer scientist as an example - we can't assume that "the kids of today" will accept the limitations of our catalouges - they have access to things that are so much better, they can do almost everything without having to learn "our" way of doing things. So when they do encounter our online tools, they'll assume they work the same way as everyone elses. If they don't find what they want, they'll assume we don't have it. They will probably not ask for help, because they'll assume that the people who keep styling themselves as "information professionals" have actually kept with the times somewhat.

In other news, last week I did a day of training for my replacement at my old job, which was a very surreal experience but I was so happy to be able to help her out a bit - they picked a good one to replace me though. She's absolutely full of drive and passion. This week I'm going to the next event in the lecture series that I started 3 years ago - I arranged this lecture at the beginning of 2007, but my replacement has had to take over from me and I'm really excited for her - she's getting bookings and has a bunch of support. Wanna come? Have a look here.

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