A 15-year-old boy comes into the library and asks for basketball books. After some careful questioning by the librarian, it is determined that he really wants a book that will “make him a better basketball player” (i.e. show him how to make certain kinds of shots). After checking the catalog and the shelf, it is determined that the library has no such books or DVD’s.
- tells the boy they have no books like that but there’s a biography on LeBron James that he might enjoy
- says sorry, maybe he can try the bookstore
- takes him to the computer and shows him how to locate YouTube videos and websites that get the boy the exact information he needs, and then suggests the LeBron James biography, in case he’s interested
Which solution would you choose?
Which solution will leave the boy feeling good about the library (and the librarian) and perhaps bring him back the next time he needs information?
Which solution will help empower the boy to become an informed and skilled user of information and perhaps encourage him to become a “reader for life”?
I recently role-played this scenario during a workshop I was presenting on “Inspiring Boys to Read for Life” and when it was suggested that perhaps the librarian could show the patron some YouTube videos or websites that would get the boy the information he needed, one librarian’s response was, “but I feel like that’s our competition”.
This made me realize that there is still a gap between what some library workers (and much of the public) see as their coveted and traditional role (get the patron a book or DVD) and the newer role of empowering the patron/student to locate and use the information he/she needs, no matter what type of source it comes from.
We are living in a digital world. YouTube is not competition for libraries. It is another wonderful, FREE source of information that libraries can help patrons learn to navigate and use to their advantage. Reading is reading whether it is from a book or on a website. Information comes in all shapes and sizes – from all directions, from many formats and sources – and as information professionals we must be willing to learn about, use, and share with our customers ALL the sources of information available that meet their needs.
So the question is this: In the current budget-constrained, short-staffed world of libraries, how do we best empower librarians and library staff members with the willingness and the skills to embrace their changing roles to better meet the needs of their patrons?
What is your library, school system, or consortia doing to help?