Today was the Reference Symposium at the University of Minnesota, and may I just say, inviting a bunch of librarians to a conference and then making them pay for wireless access is SO 1.0! (One of my coworkers paid for the temporary log-in and the rest of us mooched off of hers. So I’m writing this in EndNote, and I’ll be copying it into my blog when I get back to work this evening.)
First up was the indefatigable Stephen Abram. [Update: he links to his PowerPoint here.] As usual, he had a lot to say, was witty, and only a little bit crude (he was being very careful). :) But he kind of started out on the wrong foot with me and it took me a while to get back into the flow. See, basically the first thing he said is that he knows some people need to write in order to learn, but he wanted us just to listen and know that his powerpoint would be up online soon (I’ll link to it when it is). Well, there I was sitting in the third row SMACK dab in front of him with my computer open trying to get online so I could blog… and he was assuming that I was “just” taking notes. Hmmm. Assuming that note-taking is just a memory device is very 1.0, but he’s a smart guy and he’ll learn…
Anyway, he talked about a lot of the things we’ve been thinking and blogging about lately, Second Life Library 2.0, Web 2.0 services, and of course…Millennials. (I’m beginning to think that it’s not a “real” library conference if at least half the sessions spend minutes on end cataloging how different Millennials are from the rest of us. This is not helpful!) But a couple of things really stood out to me. First, we as a profession are unclear and uncomfortable with our epistemological position on barriers. Second, collective intelligence really is the future (steak knives, here we come!). And third, brain scans and eyeball tracking research on different demographic groups is COOL and much more useful than complaining about those techy kids these days. (I’ll only cover the first highlight here.)
So what’s up with boundaries? Stephen began his talk by criticizing traditional reference desks, comparing them to pharmaceutical counters. Unlike at a pharmacy, we shouldn’t be thinking about how to be imposing and authoritative. “Do we really want to be like those people who are pushing drugs?” he asks? So barriers are bad… I got it. But then, a couple hours later, he begged us to please use anything other than Google when helping patrons because “we need to look like we know something different.” So… barriers are good? I’m sure I’m missing something, and I wanted to ask him to clarify this, but he went so far over his time that he used up ALL of the next presentation’s time as well, so there wasn’t time for questions. So, if you read this, Stephen, what’s the connection?
I also appreciated that he couched his discussion of Library 2.0 in terms of Ranganathan’s principle that states that the library is a growing organism and always has been. I firmly believe that L2 isn’t fundamentally different from what we’re doing and have been doing.