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Library Word Pudding and Solving for X

Over at ACRLBlog, Steven Bell fressed that “library resources” got the big ignore on a list of “top 100 e-learning tools.”

My first bit of advice (which I also shared on the blog) is that when we see this happening we should skip the hand-wringing and take action. Why not pull together a dozen librarian e-learning types and bullet-vote for one tool, such as SFX? There’s room for more input, and the more folks they hear from the more likely they are to include their voices. Note also that many of the “experts” don’t really work hands-on with e-learning. It’s a very slack rope, and they seem open to input.

But it’s also hard to market something as amorphous as “library resources.” After all, nobody listed “personal computing resources” or “Web resources” — the contributors listed specific tools, such as PowerPoint and FireFox. So rather than say “We librarians are bad at marketing” (true enough as that is), stand back and observe that as a profession we don’t have that many tools we can specifically, clearly market to people.

When it comes to “library resources” (a word that rolls around my mouth as uncomfortably as a half-off cherry), exactly what can we peddle? WorldCat — an incomplete, socially backward, stiff-looking sort-of-universal catalog? SFX, which is really one company’s flavor of link resolvers? (If we called them text-retrievers, maybe they’d be easier to sell..?) “Catalogs?” Don’t think so. Not databases, either; that forces us to leap from the over-broad (databases) to the overly-specific and library-conditional (ProQuest Literature Online) … nope, nope, nope.

People want to solve for X, whether it gives them FireFox, a Mini-Cooper, or a Krispy Kreme donut. What is our X?

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4 Comments

  1. Suzy Covey wrote:

    I wonder if X isn’t the library space itself. In an era of virtual everything, we can provide a place where people can swim in that ocean with actual physical people around. Group-study and group-play areas. Food and drink? Sure! Games? You bet. Friendly and savvy help on tap. Library as cyber cafe: build it, and they will come.

    Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 9:36 pm | Permalink
  2. Louise Ratliff wrote:

    What about the Open Library? Free texts for every taste from Right to Left, from contemporary to retro. [http://demo.openlibrary.org/]
    Doesn’t everybody like “free” stuff, especially when it can help with that term paper you need to turn in tomorrow!

    Monday, August 13, 2007 at 1:04 pm | Permalink
  3. Genny wrote:

    Erm, the only — *only * — item on that list that was not an extremely specific brand-name tool was The Written Word. As in, books.

    It was rather sweet, really, as if someone had listed “the shoulders of giants.”

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007 at 11:08 pm | Permalink
  4. kgs wrote:

    Genny is correct… I think we could get away with SFX or something like that, understanding that SFX isn’t used much in the majority of our libraries (yesterday I observed how it simply got in the way of a good search by presenting boxes with dead ends…). Getting library-anything on that list would be useful, only in the sense that it’s a list trumpeted here and there.

    Wednesday, August 15, 2007 at 4:15 am | Permalink

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  1. Library Stuff » Blog Archives » More on E-Resources on Saturday, August 11, 2007 at 5:53 am

    [...] K.G. Schneider – “People want to solve for X, whether it gives them FireFox, a Mini-Cooper, or a Krispy Kreme donut. What is our X?” Posted in E-resources | Trackback | del.icio.us | Top Of Page [...]

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