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Cindi Trainor on The Changing Balance

:: My good friend Cindi Trainor, techie-librarian at Claremont Colleges in CA and #1 U2 fan in America, has written a timely post on what she describes as "the changing balance". She ever so cogently describes what so many of us dealing with these days. She suggests that the problem "stems from taking on too much, from not letting go of (or transforming) the traditional when implementing the cutting edge, and I haven't the slightest idea what the remedy is." I agree. Cindi continues with the following:

At this year's Computers in Libraries conference, Clifford Lynch spoke of the era of "abundance" that we are in, particularly as it applies to information. The same concept was cogently written about in Educause Review by Paul Gandel, Richard Katz, and Susan Metros, in their article titled "The 'Weariness of the Flesh': Reflections of the Mind in an Era of Abundance" [PDF]. A colleague of mine suggested today that perhaps the "information overload" that we all feel couldn't be dissipated somewhat by changing our attitudes--we're not overloaded, we just have a *lot*. I'm not so sure. The problem that she speaks of, and of which I am also a victim, stems from taking on too much, from not letting go of (or transforming) the traditional when implementing the cutting edge, and I haven't the slightest idea what the remedy is. [See my earlier post, "Confessions of a Drowning Librarian." It's comforting to know that it's a crowded sea.]

What I sat down to write about this afternoon is not the idea of abundance but of a changing balance. Twenty, even ten years ago, librarians assumed that nearly anyone showing up at a service point was in need of information that they, the librarians, had, and that the patrons needed assistance and instruction in finding. It was our jobs to teach students and others the skills they needed to ferret out important information hidden within our moldering tomes and command-driven databases. For the first time, with the "Net Generation" (which I like much better than "Millennials," ugh), users are showing up at our service points already knowing how to use a vast array of technologies that still intimidates many librarians (and library IT staff). How is this increase in our users' knowledge affecting reference transactions? I'm only postulating here, since I don't "do" reference in the traditional, desk-bound sense, but I would guess that for some users and librarians, things are different than several years ago. I'll let my colleagues and friends who actually "do" reference articulate how. This is just a ... vibe I've been getting.

I still work the info desk during term, but off-site, in the Engineering bldg. My experience so far is that the ever-increasing tech savvy of students hasn't affected the nature of the reference transaction, but the numbers of said transactions are dropping as more students make use of all the online product we push to their desktop. But I also like the observation that "we just have a *lot*", because that's the simple truth. The only thing that hasn't changed, as our work and play choices continue to grow in numbers at a geometric pace is the number of hours in the day - it's still 24, dudes. I suffer from the same problem - I don't know what to permanently offload and let lie dormant indefinitely...

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