Reference librarians reach out




A librarian sits at the reference desk. Patrons come to the desk, ask questions, and receive answers. That’s the way it’s supposed to work. I have personally served at busy times with people streaming past the desk in both directions, but not stopping to ask questions. That doesn’t ┬ánecessarily mean that none of those people had questions, either. Here’s a story I found on a librarians’ email list: One student at an academic librarian sat at a table asking friends for help as they walked by. He used his cell phone to call friends in other parts of the library. … Continue reading






Movies, technology, and libraries




I’m dating myself again, but I remember when home movies used 8 mm film. Movies available for sale were 16 mm. The latter were mostly made for educational purposes, so only English classes ever had feature films. I doubt if anyone thought of renting one for home use. Then came the VHS/Beta wars. Soon enough it didn’t matter that VHS had won, because everyone flocked to DVDs. They’ll be gone soon enough, too. So will Blu-ray. It’s not a problem for libraries–at least, not yet New technology and business Audio cassettes made it possible for the general public to buy … Continue reading






Library robots




Libraries have always been at the forefront of adopting new technology, but their innovations usually have something to do with organizing and retrieving information. The online library catalog is a good example. Now some libraries are borrowing technology from manufacturing: robots that shelve and retrieve physical books. It may come as a surprise to some people that printed books are still such a big deal to academic libraries. After all, much of formerly huge reference collections has been replaced by online databases. Long runs of many important journals and other periodicals are likewise available as full text online. Ebooks have … Continue reading






Libraries, ebooks, and the freedom to read




Libraries have long championed its patrons’ right to privacy. The American Library Association first adopted a document known as the Library Bill of Rights in 1939. Basically, it states that whatever anyone chooses to read is no one else’s business, and there is no good reason for the government or any other entity to interfere. Much more recently, librarians eagerly pursued means of lending ebooks to their patrons, only to find unexpected incompatibilities between doing so and freedom to read. Libraries and privacy Every once in a while, some spectacular criminal act will have people suggesting that maybe the police … Continue reading






New technology in libraries




I suppose all professional organizations have regular large, national or international meetings where members gather to learn about the latest developments. Normally they feature an exhibit hall where various vendors display their wares. In recent decades these exhibits always include plenty of fancy new computer technology. Libraries have always been on the forefront of information technology. We think of information technology as requiring the use of computers to store and manipulate data about data, or metadata. In fact, a library catalog entry is and has always been metadata, long before computers existed. When experts at the Library of Congress devised … Continue reading