Monday, June 06, 2005

Ask a librarian to help with a creative project

Came across this article "Apple brings "The Studio" to more retail stores" (31 May 05), and this made me sit up:
The Studio helps customers with creative projects, rather than technical questions. "It's a place where our team of Creatives -- filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and designers -- work one-on-one with you to make your creative projects a reality. Whether you're making a movie, a photo album, a song, or a logo, we can help you make it amazing."

I'm not a Mac user, less so an evangelist (not that there's any thing wrong in that). I took notice of the article because it articulated what I've been trying to tell my public librarian colleagues -- that in today's context, public librarians should act as (for want of a better term) "creative information consultants" to users rather than just "information technicians".

To me, using Google and even online databases are technical skills. Once you learn the basics, you don't need a librarian to help anymore, because you have access to those tools. Even navigating within the library has been made intuitive.

Basically, as a "technician", we're being made redundant.

But as "information consultants", we do more than provide answers or show users how to go about obtaining information. The information gathering part is just one aspect. There's also the thinking and planning. As consultants, we also leverage on personal networks to provide answers to the user.

I'm suggesting that librarians work one-on-one with users to make their "projects" or tasks better than they can do alone (within reasonable timeframes). And not just school projects. It could be "projects" like "Buying a Digital Camera" or "Renovating my apartment".

The technical part for those "projects" would be to cite magazines and books on the above subjects. The creative consultation part is really to offer suggestions, ask other people on the behalf of the enquirer (even via blogs and forums).

The idea is for public librarians to really make a difference in the user's entire information value-chain. And if I may even paraphrase: "To help you make it amazing."

OK, I know my views might not sit well with librarians. So fire away. :)

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  1. I like that a lot--I'm still a student and,likely, destined for an academic library, but I like the idea of librarian as creative consultant.

    I've been messing around a bit on, since the spring semester ended, and I'm finding it a lot of fun to track down websites and books for other people--about skateboarding or container gardening or whatever project they are thinking about. One of the reasons I thought I would make a good librarian is that I find that exploration the most fun part of my own projects.

  2. Anonymous11:27 am

    As a library staff, library student and a library user, sometime I’d much prefer the reference librarian to ‘leave me alone’ from her 2 cents (or 2 millions $) worth, but then again, if the patron is enquiring something I am truly passionate about, I know I would go all the way to hard-sell my “suggestions”, ha. (whosoever)

  3. Anonymous12:08 pm

    This is an aspect that got me interested in librarianship in the first place. At the desk I find myself being genuinely interested in whatever queries or projects patrons bring to me, even though I myself may not be professionally trained in that subject.
    Unfortunately, I find that most patrons cannot (or prefer not to) find the time to carefully consider and explore their options for resources. It's the 'just give me the right answer now' syndrome.
    (now at

  4. Hi Joy, it's possible that we could look into a volunteer group who just want to help answer or track down elusive answers. Will that make librarians redundant? I think it makes up think of more creative things to do. If you're reading this, feel free to email me. We might be able to work out something in the near future (and I mean, within next 6 to 12 mths). Thanks.

  5. The work of librarians in general has evolved. Think of librarians as information architects for print. As computers move into meta-information, librarians need to be one step ahead, perhaps discerning which categories of meta-information are relevant and which are redundant etc.


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