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

Reference Question of the Week – 10/31/10

   November 6th, 2010

Do you ever wonder how I spend my Saturday nights? Why, advocating library services, of course - here's a Twitter conversation that occurred last weekend about 10pm (read from the bottom up):

Twitter conversation

The two points I'd like to make about this are:

  1. Libraries provide free and legal access to things patrons might otherwise "improvise" access* to. But that is only marginally helpful because...
  2. ...the target audience for many library services don't always (or ever) think of the library as a source. So how do we promote ourselves to bring patron and service together? That is frustrating.

I felt pretty good after this exchange, and the patron was happy to not violate copyright to get the content he wanted. Until now I've been pretty passive about this, but perhaps it's time to more deliberate about engaging in "social reference."

Incidentally: I saw his tweet because I have a Twitter search rss feed for the word "library" in any tweet within 10 miles of Chelmsford. That picks up people outside of town, but we get a lot of non-residents in my library, so it all evens out. Besides, on the internet, all reference is local.


*I get daily traffic to my website from Google searches such as "overdrive media hacks," so people are definitely looking to improvise.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

6 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 10/31/10”

  1. Lichen Says:

    Lookit you all sassy sass about copyright law. Love it!

  2. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Lichen: yeah – I’ll rail against idiotic DRM until I’m blue in the face, but intellectual freedom goes both ways.

  3. Stephanie Willen Brown Says:

    The other problem is that ebook products are inordinately hard to use. A friend of mine recently asked about downloading books to her ipod, remembering that I’d told her she could borrow audio books from the library. When I started the email to her about how to use Overdrive, it got very complex very quickly — so many different icons, different platforms, software to be downloaded before she could get the actual audio … it was exhausting for me to contemplate. I emailed her the link to Overdrive (through her library) AND to her library’s help links. I’m confident that she could handle the tech complexities, as could your patron, but so many of our patrons could not.

    Dear ebook vendors: please make your products easier to use. With thanks from librarians AND patrons. 🙂

  4. Cari Says:

    I like the Twitter RSS feed idea! I’ll have to try that. I’m not sure if I follow you, since I’m hardly ever on Twitter, but I’ll check.

    A similar situation happened to me with Facebook, and the thing that disturbed me was that the person who posted it was one of our former pages.

  5. Stephanie Willen Brown Says:

    this cartoon is what I’m talking about:
    http://bradcolbow.com/archive/view/the_brads_why_drm_doesnt_work/?p=205. Step 19 is what really worries me.

  6. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Stephanie: I know… I was lucky that this patron could do so much on his own – I just needed to give him the link and he figured the rest out. For everyone else, we really need some kind of search-download-play model that is designed ebook use, not ebook guarding. Sadly, I think we’ll be able to keep our shoes on through airport security before we’ll have convenient library ebooks.