I just finished reading Debra Bacon-Ziegler’s AfterWord column entitled “How Soon is Now? Today’s Trends, Tomorrow’s Libraries” in the January/February 2005 issue of ForeWord. In the essay, she discusses her thoughts after a recent Michigan Library Association Annual Conference where the keynote speaker (Marshall Keys) addressed some of the current tech trends and their relevance to libraries. In her reflection, Bacon-Ziegler brings up a few points that I wish to examine in this forum.
Bacon-Ziegler mentions blogs and blogging, but rather than jumping on the “every library/librarian should have a blog” bandwagon, she asks the question, “Should librarians be mining blogs for current popular interests as they develop their collections?” Such a refreshing viewpoint! Yes, librarians should be monitoring blogs to get a sense of current popular interests, but keep in mind that according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, only 7% of American Internet users have created a blog. Not just any old blog will do if the intent is to monitor current popular interests. Librarians would be better served by monitoring topical group blogs that have reputations for being knowledgeable in their specialties.
Another trend that Bacon-Ziegler touches on is information overload. She brings up an excellent point about the difference between your local public library and your local big box bookstore. The bookstore arranges cookbooks under a big sign that says “Cooking” or something of that nature, with shelf labels for the different types of cooking traditions. The library arranges cookbooks in the 600s, and they are grouped by content, but the only indicators of this are the call number stuck on the spines. Bacon-Ziegler asks, “Why then, I wonder, do we cling to this complex, arbitrary classification system?” I would not want to get rid of the system entirely, for it does have its uses, but perhaps public libraries should consider putting up bookstore-like signs over the sections. Call numbers are very handy for finding specific items, but signs are much more useful for general browsing.
The author addresses other trends in the essay, but these are the two that made me think radical thoughts and step outside of the traditional librarian box, if only for the few minutes I spent pondering over this blog entry.