Friday, July 27, 2007

flesh and blood librarian

On the bus today, someone had a t-shirt that read: "I don't know what I think until I see what I say." Absolutely! I gave a presentation for a job a couple of days ago, and in making it and talking about it, I realized a few things about some of the marketing materials we have here at Michigan.

I'm one of the few librarians.. hmm.. thinking about it, maybe the only.. who's not too shy to put his face up on the LCD screens we have in our main reference area. I've got a slide (see image here -- click for enlargement) that I made with Comic Life (it came with my Mac). In it, I depict myself as a superhero of sorts, rushing to the aid of frazzled researches lost in the stacks.

What I thought about as I made my presentation was its effectiveness. These slides play on screen adjacent to the reference desk. Whenever I work, I almost always notice someone look at the slide, then look at me, then the slide again. They're always a little amused that there I am, a real person, a real librarian, at the desk. A superhero in the flesh!

I also recalled something written by one of my library school professors. In research, she discovered that patrons who know any librarian by name are "far more likely to think highly of the library as an important information source..." (Durrance, 1995).

I'm thinking now, as I sit at the desk looking at me, the slide, then me again, that it's a form of introduction. They know who I am, what I do, and I'm not just some picture on an advertisement. I'm a flesh and blood librarian.

I wonder how much something like this can develop a relationship with our patrons. Do all these people walking through our reference area feel like this building is theirs? Even those that do, do they feel that the librarians here are 'their' librarians? Approaching the desk where some stranger sits is intimidating.

But what about approaching a superhero?

I've never been terribly shy when it comes to the camera. Putting that slide up was a little out of my comfort zone because no one else had their picture up there. I definitely got some playful ribbing from my colleagues when it was new. But, I think it's been worth it -- it connects the services we offer to human beings behind it. For those patrons that prefer to deal with people, not phone numbers, or e-mail addresses, or web forms, but actual flesh and blood people, this could be a nice way of making that connection.

Reference

Durrance, J.C. (1995). "Factors that influence reference success: What makes questioners willing to return?" Reference Librarian (49/50), pp. 243-65.

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