Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ask a Librarian


Call a library information line?  Seriously? Believe it or not, that resource still exists and is used regularly.  When I read an article in my local paper about the demand for this service, I had a flashback to my days working my way through college as a part-time administrative assistant. If I couldn’t find an answer in my trusty Secretarial Handbook, I called the library. In those days before the fax machine, I even recall walking a few blocks to the library on my lunch hour to pick up a copy of the information I needed. And you’re thinking, “How old is this person who didn’t have a fax machine?” Hey, I was happy to have an electric typewriter and liquid paper.

Back then, the only way to contact the librarians was in person, by phone or snail mail. Now they also get questions via email, fax and online chat. The Virtual Reference Pod at the Atlanta library is comprised of four workstations. The reference librarians find answers the high-tech way but also have card catalogues and file folders filled with answers they’ve gathered over the years to questions like, “What are the names of Santa’s Reindeer.” That made me wonder how often they get asked for the names of the Seven Dwarfs.

You might ask why folks just don’t google the answer for themselves.  The answer seems obvious if you’ve ever searched for information online for what seems like hours. There’s just too much information out there, and not all of it accurate. Yes, the worldwide Web can be overwhelming for old and young alike.  Even college students contact the “Pod” for help, and who’s more tech-savvy than that demographic? Well, actually, the answer to that may be grammar school students.  These days, it does seem as though the younger you are, the more you know about technology.

So, despite predictions years ago that libraries were going the way of the dinosaurs, they are still alive and well.  As a banker, this scenario reminds me of the same prediction for brick and mortar banks.  Many folks use online and mobile banking and ATMs, but just as many still walk in the front door of the building. It’s all about options, and now that I know I have the option to do an online chat with a reference librarian, I may have to give it a try.