2B: Reflection on Readings for Week #2

I do have to admit that with this reading the title really does tell all. In History and Functions of Reference Service, Tyckonson examines the function, evolution, and future of the reference librarian within the broader concepts of libraries, information, technology, and community. That is to say, he attempts to provide the reader with a functional understanding of what a reference librarian is (and has been) and how the reference librarian affects (and is effected by) these broad concepts. The main idea being that the reference librarian will be both relevant and needed as long as people – or users – need to not just find information, but good information. While Tyckonson does conclude that there is a very good chance reference librarians will remain relevant, he acknowledges that the form and function of the position is likely to change with the needs of those users.

It is this form and function connection to those broader concepts of libraries, information, technology, and community that fascinated me the most about this reading. Take technology for example. In a thirty year career, a reference librarians job would have changed from teaching users how to find information on microfiche (and being one of the only place to find that information!) to showing users how to conduct searches on the World Wide Web in the 90s. Their job changes not just as technology changes, but as the users needs evolve.

Despite all these advances, if a user today needed to understand microfiche, the reference librarians job would be to help them. Here we see a collision of two of the broader concepts in the book: technology and community. The ever forward march of technology pulls the reference librarians function in one direction, while an elderly community, scholarly users, or simply curious ones interested in the past pull in another. The broader topics are interconnected and their affect on a reference librarians’ function when combined can be ambiguous. In the reading, Tyckonson only seemed to examine each broader topic in isolation; he examined the evolution of technology separately from the communities affect on reference librarianship.

It would be an interesting extension to see how the weight given to each type of reference service outlined in the reading (p. 14 – 18) responds to the interconnected changes in libraries, information, technology, and community. If both technology improves and information is increasingly stored there, would the effects cause an overall larger push for an increased Bibliographic Verification and Citation function than they would alone? Would a increase in demand for literacy programs due to a community of immigrants be canceled out a decrease in demand for that same program due to higher quality language learning technology? Even further, should that technological evolution affect a program that many members of the community rely on? The Tyckonson reading questions how the function of a reference librarian will change in the future. I wonder what functions are actually needed and if they are being distorted by competing interests.

 

Side not on Microfiche: I have a background in photography (the old, non digital kind) and microfiche are amazingly cool to me. Basically, they are a collection on microphotographs that can be of just about anything from comic book pages to an entire book. The entire book bit is interesting with very old texts because you can read the entire thing, without risking damage to the book. Anyways here are a couple of pictures to save you from any additional paragraphs describing the wonder of microfiche.

Microfiche Reader Image from Indus Microfiche Readers. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2016, from http://worldmicrographics.com/indus-microfiche-readers/
Microfiche Sheet Image from 80th Infantry Division Digital Archives Project. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2016, from http://www.80thdivision.com/WebArchives/about.htm

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “2B: Reflection on Readings for Week #2

  1. “Here we see a collision of two of the broader concepts in the book: technology and community.” <– Lovely observation, and you should find this to be true throughout UMSI, not just in this book. You also say, "I wonder what functions are actually needed and if they are being distorted by competing interests." <–Me, too.

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  2. Interesting thoughts on the reference librarian facing opposing forces that pull them between past and future. I am really interested in the idea of generational lag when it comes to records management and access. It seems unrealistic to assume that the accelerating engine of digitization could fully transfer enough records to make various old media truly obsolete within our working lifetime. Even if it were, the access mechanisms for such newly digitized records would continue to be beyond some older patrons’ ken. The attendant implications for reference librarians are many, but it seems clear that in some fashion or another they will need to contend with both material and digital realities, and a wildly ranging set of user opinion and aptitude regarding those realities. This will require reference librarians to be excellent cross-generational translators and avid students of the unfolding and quickening history of technology.

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  3. “Would a increase in demand for literacy programs due to a community of immigrants be canceled out a decrease in demand for that same program due to higher quality language learning technology? Even further, should that technological evolution affect a program that many members of the community rely on?”

    This tension that you have laid out explicitly concerning the “competing interests” of newly developing technologies and the community programming that librarians provide is an incredibly interesting observation that I am sure to ponder on for some time. I feel we have talked about emerging technologies in the context of librarians working alongside these technologies for the betterment of the community. Yet, I do not think we have devoted enough time in this class to consider this: what is our competition? In order for libraries to be regarded as “essential” in our communities, we must first assess what can drive us out of business.

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  4. I love the pictures you provided!
    I like how you make connections between how the reference librarian moves forward into the future while patrons ask about things from the past. It shows that older things aren’t as obsolete as we may think they are, and that we really do need to still have skills that were relevant in the past. You made a good point about the 30 year career of a librarian having went from working with microfiche to the internet. Technology keeps evolving and librarians have shown that they keep evolving with the technology, so why is it that people still think libraries and librarians are going to disappear in the future?!

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