Cartoon Reference

26 10 2009

Libraries provide reference services through a variety of communication methods. There’s your standard face to face and phone. Electronically, email and chat have become more common with a variety of chat services with options for co-browsing and other fancy things. Some libraries are tweeting; others are on Second Life.

But I just saw Anthony Bourdain’s Alternate Universe (his new animated web series) and found myself wishing I could provide reference service online as a cartoon version of myself. The amount of time and energy it would take to animate myself (and my lack of artistic ability) make it highly unlikely this could happen.

At the root of this (aside from just how cool it could be) is the desire to have an online presence that is accessible to patrons. Librarians seem impersonal and “scary” to those who don’t know us. There’s a library anxiety and worry of judgement. Cartoons, pictures, details about interests and all of that kind of jazz personalize people. When I met Lisa Lillien (Hungry Girl) at a book signing, she seemed familiar and accessible because her cartoon was identical to her.

Common interests provide an entry point for patrons to feel more comfortable. It’s basic common sense that we all know and feel. As a resident advisor in college, we had to write a little intro about ourselves in the hall newsletter. I didn’t think anyone would read it, let alone remember details from it, so I wrote that I love cheesy ’80s music. On move in day, students came up to me all day long to let me know that they too shared my love for cheesy ’80s music. And that helped them to feel comfortable coming to me with their questions all year long.

That small detail made the difference to the students in my hall and can make the difference with patrons. Patrons have questions, some they don’t even realize they have or that they don’t think librarians can answer or that they think are too dumb to ask anyone. Having a personal connection can increase their comfort level and keep them asking rather than getting frustrated. Cartoon versions of ourselves might not be an option but being a little more animated and playful in our service delivery methods certainly are.


You can check books out from there?

21 10 2009

Since Glee is on tonight, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss my favorite moment from Glee so far (especially since I didn’t have a blog when it aired).  The library moment came when Finn, the football player-singer, is talking to his teacher, Mr. Shuester, about how he needs a football scholarship and that dance could loosen up the team.  Finn shows the teacher a book and says:

Check this out. I got this at the school library. Did you know you can just borrow books from there? All of ’em, except for the encyclopedias.

After seeing this episode, I immediately tweeted this quote.  It’s fantastic because: it’s a shout out to libraries on a popular television show and it’s accurate about what students can get from their libraries.

Of course, it’s not comprehensively everything that libraries offer.  There is a tension between letting students know everything their library has to offer and point of need instruction.  How can libraries be student centered, but still let students know what the materials and services offered, without overwhelming them?  Some students want to know as much as they can up front while others only want what they need when they need it.  Libraries need to provide both – have the information for those who want it and let the others know what they can contact us for and how.

What do you think though – as students, as librarians, as general upstanding citizens – has your library struck that balance?  Do you want more or less information from your library?  Do you know the materials and services they offer?  Do they provide the right services and materials?

I highly recommend the show so I’ve embedded it here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Glee: Preggers