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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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