Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Use the Media, Don't Be the Media

I haven't blogged here for awhile, time to do something about that!

Thanks to the lovely Tae, who suggested I blog on the topic of "cybrarians" and then in further discussion said:
I find the library no longer "feels" like a library - every librarian seems to be chained to their computer.
It's a valid point. In our current times of media change, are we forgetting what libraries are truly about? Are we so focused on embracing the fabulous new that we're forgetting the valuable old?

Now you know I'm an IT librarian, and that I'm also a passionate user of new media. Web2.0 and digital media are my career. However this doesn't mean that I feel that it's the ONLY way to obtain information. I recently wrote another blog post elsewhere on why I became a librarian, and that is solely due to a love of books and libraries (and lovely librarians). A love I've never lost.

Information comes to us in a myriad of forms these days. From the age old print media of books, magazines and newspapers, to 20th Century methods like radio and television, through to the new millennia media of the internet. As librarians, I believe it's our job to provide access to this information, raise literacy levels and encourage a love of reading regardless of the media.

Every library user is different. Each library user responds differently to various media. If they respond positively to online information and digital reading, then so be it. The same for print or audio/visual. One is not better than the others. However, that doesn't mean we can't give some encouragement to library users to expand their knowledge and skills to media they are not yet using. One of the great joys of being a librarian is that moment where you open up a whole new world of reading, literacy and information to someone with a good recommendation or a new set of skills.

I do understand the lure of the new, the sexy, the innovative, the gadget, the clever. Oh how I understand, I am an iPhone owner after all. But my hope is that we also know how to keep the tried and true, the reliable, the quality we've developed over time. I don't want to see us throw away great practices and traditional formats simply because something "snazzier" has come along to dazzle us with it's shiny newness.

However, that doesn't mean that we should just turn our backs on anything new, write it off as a fad, or "young people's time wasters" or full of nonsense. Every form of media is simply a tool, and if you know how to use it, indeed learn how to use it if it is new to you, it will allow you use the information contained within.

Basically what I'm getting at is that any time we lock ourselves into a label as librarians, be it traditional, or "cybrarian", we are at the risk of becoming one trick ponies. We're more valuable than that, and once we have our eyes open to the new while practicing the best of the old, we become invaluable.

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