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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Librarians as Information Specialists

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 16, 2012

Librarians are information specialists.  We deal with the collection, cataloging, storage, and dissemination of information on a daily basis.


The world of information has changed so dramatically in the past decade, which it is difficult to compare today’s flow of information to what I experienced at the beginning of my library career in the 1970s.


At that time, libraries consisted of physical materials containing information, with the beginnings of computer access to that physical material.


Today, libraries still maintain physical materials, but they are supplemented with new formats of the former hard copies of such items, as well as purchased databases of online information.


Of course, all of that is small compared to the seemingly endless flow of information made available with the use of the Internet.


Libraries still perform “collection development” in the selection of books, DVDs, books on CD, and eBooks to expand the collection to meet the needs of the public.


That process is expanded to online resources, comparing what is available on the Internet and which resources will fill the information needs of the public.


Despite the new range of eBooks and other electronic sources, the production of books printed on paper continues at record levels.


The printed book has been supplemented from exclusively publisher-produced and edited sources to a book that can be written and produced by an author that also funds the production.


In the old days of librarianship, we called them vanity publications; today they are print-on-demand and are affordable by almost anyone.


The lack of a professional editor and publisher can lead to a less-than-impressive product that lacks the promotion and sales force of traditional publishing.


As a librarian, I deal with the daily promos for these titles from mail, e-mail, and even phone calls.


My favorites are the e-mails saying that they are “surprised that our library doesn’t own” something and they wish to read it.


I always ask them for their library card number so I can let them know when we decide to buy the book in question.


Since the advent of e-mail, I have never had anyone respond, since of course, the author is really not a library user here and is only trying to sell their books.


My other pet peeve in today’s information world are online sources that want to do decide what you really want, and “help” you select the next item in your search.


These really cause a librarian to groan; a machine telling us what we meant to look for?


On my YouTube at home, I looked up a 1958 Chrysler Imperial automobile to answer a question, and found a nice 4-minute video of someone’s classic car and a tour of said vehicle.


Now, every time I sign on to YouTube, it seems to think I want to see a classic car being shown in its 1950s glory.


I know I could just ignore it, but it has become such a chuckle for me to experience Packards, Dodges, and Hudsons all being shown to fill my assumed interest.


All of these new formats of information force us, as information consumers, to evaluate, review, and decide whether the particular information being presented fits our needs.


That is where the librarian fits into the information puzzle of today.  We are trained to take an information need, and match it against available resources in all kinds of formats, and provide that to you.


We poke around through the sources available to locate your information needs.


By the way, the poor man showing his newly restored 1951 Hudson Hornet couldn’t get the car to start for the YouTube video.