or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


An Evening of Radical Reference

   November 23rd, 2010 Brian Herzog

Radical Reference logoI'm often embarrassingly late to hear about things, and I think this is another example. Last Friday I went to a presentation by Boston Radical Reference Collective librarians held at sprout & co in Somerville, MA, sponsored by Artists in Context.

I had no idea what to expect. I thought I had heard of Radical Reference before, but I wasn't sure.

Turns out, this event was great. The Radical Reference librarians explained that, among other things, they are a group of librarians trying to do real grassroots community outreach. Instead of holding a program in a library and hoping people come, they contact different organizations in the community and visit them with a specifically-tailored presentation to suit their needs.

But best of all, this isn't affiliated with any particular library - it's just volunteer activist librarians who feel outreach and information literacy is important.

Friday night the presentation covered online research tools available for the artist community. The Radical Reference librarians had created and showed off a subject guide, but most of the evening was back-and-forth discussion. There were about forty people there total, and many in the audience were random librarians like me. Artists would ask questions or state a particular need, and after the presenters provided information, the rest of us would chime in with additional resources from our experiences.

After the presentation, there was time for mingling and trying to match those of us with research interests and skills with the artists who needed some insight. It was really great, I think, for everyone - artists, the groups involved, and even I had a good time (which is rare for me in a room full of strangers). I'm definitely going to look into Radical Reference to see how else I can get involved - their website has both a volunteer interest form and a list of local collectives.

Also, for what it's worth: I'm heading to Ohio for Thanksgiving with my family, and so won't be posting again until next week. Happy holidays.



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