I also keep an eye out for anything written by Jamie Larue, because, besides the fact that he’s an interesting thinker, I especially like his approach to public librarianship, which I will loosely paraphrase as “get the hell out of the building and into the community.” (Actually, in his defense, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Jamie swear…)
For nearly twenty years, Jamie has been the Director of the Douglas County [Colorado] Libraries, and in that role writes a weekly column for the local newspaper. One of his most powerful columns, from my perspective was one he wrote in 2007 titled “What is the Job of Today’s Reference Librarian?” In it, he talked about the job of today’s reference librarian, and discussed the concept of “community reference,” noting “The idea was as radical as it is obvious: people with questions may not think to ask a librarian, so the library needs to send the librarians to the people.”
This has involved reference librarians working with town planners and local business people, participating as information advisors on community projects, and creating “iGuides,” or pre-packaged collections of information that link to “things we know are of value – items in our physical collection, articles in the electronic journals we subscribe to, related websites, and many other things that might never have occurred to you.”
Although I’m not a public librarian, I believe this sort of “take the initiative” thinking has value for all LIS professionals regardless of their working environment. We can’t wait for our constituencies to come to us; they may not realize what we can do for them, what value we can add. So it’s imperative that we leave the building, both figuratively and literally, and go to where our users/clients/communities are – we have to connect with their world, rather than hoping they will be smart enough to connect with ours.
Whether you’re a librarian in a school, public, academic, or special library; an information specialist for a nonprofit or government agency; an information entrepreneur; or an info pro contributing value in some other way, you need to get your value proposition “out of the building” and into your constituencies’ mindspace. Waiting for them to come to us is no longer an option.