Slam the Boards! Reference Librarianship on the edge
It all began with a conversation ……..
Great idea! Let’s set aside one date each month and hit those boards hard so that we really make our presence felt. Instead of trying to compete with the answer boards, let’s use them. Let’s go online and answer the questions there ….. I cannot believe how many people are asking questions on answer boards instead of coming in to the library! Surely there’s something we can do about this?
Answer Board Librarians
Reference Librarianship just went global
So, on the 10 th of September 2007 a small group of Librarians from around the globe went online to the various Answer Boards and pitted their skills against the myriad of questions they found there. For every question they answered they pointed the asker towards their local library’s resources and services.
A new kind of Reference Desk started operating amongst the jungle of Q&A sites on the world wide web
NSW Public Libraries Learning 2.0
Week 8 – Answer boards & social searching
What are these answer boards anyway?
Yahoo Answers - http://au.answers.yahoo.com/
Wiki Answers - http://wiki.answers.com/
Answerbag - http://www.answerbag.com/
Just to name a few ………….
There’s heaps more…..
The Straight Dope Message Board
Wikipedia Reference Desk
Tag lines & Marketing
Librarians- What don't they know!
Librarians ... the ultimate search engine
Have a question you don't want the whole world to see?
Librarians--Ask Us, We Answer!
Librarians--We eat questions for breakfast!
Libraries - because you need to know!
Librarians--Yep, we're here!
Librarians provide power tools to the people.
The Library is a resource, not a building.
Librarians are where you are - online!
Librarians: Make them your favourite search engines.
In Australia? http:// www.nla.gov.au /apps/libraries
Hey, Cathy J, Librarian, look what you got!
you've got a best answer and 10 extra points!
Your answer to the following question really hit
the spot and has been chosen as the best answer:
To Kill A Mockingbird Symbol for Aunt Alexandra?
Go ahead, do your victory dance. Celebrate a little. Brag a little. Then come back and answer a few more questions!
Thanks for sharing what you know and making someone's day.
The Yahoo! Answers Team
Let’s go back to answering that question ……
So what do answer boards have in common with public libraries?
“ Answer boards allow libraries to remain pertinent and to retain their niche in the knowledge market.” (Justme, April 12)
“ ..it would bring the library more into the public eye and showcase its value to the community.” (Crescent, March 30)
“ What a sense of satisfaction being able to help a total stranger that I’ll never meet!” (Crescent, March 30)
“ It’s a great way to sharpen our skills, advertise libraries and Librarians to the wider community and convince upper upper management that we are viable and relevant to today’s society.” (Ai Dou Wen, April 2)
What you thought………
“ I would like to think that yes there is a place for our library in “ slamming the boards ”. We have a great information services and technical services team, as well as some pretty well informed branch staff with years of answering questions … both the weird and the wonderful.” (Queenie, March 22)
“ It’s good to get tougher questions and test my research skills.” (Unshelved, April 8)
“ This way is more interactive and allows a range of qualified people a forum on which to answer…” (FunkyMunky, March 13)
“ People ask such bizarre questions!” (Amy, April 13)
“ Even though it may be an information seeker in California asking the question, and you may be based in Sydney, being paid by rate payers of your LGA, but if everyone around the world does a little bit here and there – just imagine what the effect would be. I think this could be very powerful.” (Chris, March 30)
“ I have used Yahoo answers previously for all sorts of problems and have always found an answer that helps.” (Goswans, March 25)
“ ..it’s taking the library message to where the questions are being asked…. By ‘slamming the boards’ librarians invite people who would never think of their local library, to consider that libraries answer questions too.” (Gerygone, April 9)
“… it’s another way of improving the reference service; a new way of communicating with users; it’s another new way of reaching out to people; it’s great for people living in remote areas.” (Al, March 18)
“ In times past we were stuck in our little libraries struggling on by ourselves, now with the internet we’re connected in ways we never have been before.” (Mickeymouse, April 13)
“ Libraries and Librarians can be quite stereotyped and this is one way of breaking that.” (Tkoufus, March 31)
“ Some people think that libraries are outmoded and out dated institutions, I think this sort of thing just reinforces the fact that not everything can be found on Google and libraries have a place in 21 st century society.” (Dewey Dancer, March 16)
“ Whether it is really a good thing for us to be doing I’m not sure. Does my council, and therefore the ratepayers, want me to answer questions from all around the world?” (Amy, April 13)
“ To a total cynic like me this seems to be a lazy person’s way of seeking information without turning pages.” (Mildred, April1)
“ Just had a look at Yahoo7 Answers & WikiAnswers. That was 20 minutes I’ll never recover. I just want to tell lots of the questioners to get a grip!” (Alex Lantana, March 29)
“ I’m afraid I’m much too chicken to try this. It sounds like a lot of hard work!” (PamL, April 4)
“ This is a good idea though I think it would only appeal to younger and more computer literate people who are happy to deal with a computer and not a real person!” (CountryGal, April 3)
“ I think this is a great service that I imagine would be widely used by a lot of remote people with access to the internet.” (Cold Winter, April 8)
“… as people accessing this site could be from anywhere around the world, it’s not really a viable way to increase the number of library users through the door of your local public library.” (Helen, April 8)
“ Yahoo Answers is quite good, but a lot of people who post answers have no clue what they are talking about. It’s ok to use as a starting point, but I don’t take the information too seriously.” (Browncoat, March 25)
There are 730 McDonalds Restaurants in Australia – 274 of these are in NSW ( http://www.mcdonalds.com.au/PDFs/CSR_Report_2007.pdf )
In 2006 there were 515 Public Library sites in NSW
NSW Public Libraries provide over 13 million items in their collections which circulate around 47 million times.
We serve a population of over 6 million people with library membership at over 3 million, and library visits over 33 million.
(Public Library Statistics 2005/06)
“ Learning 2.0 is an online program to learn more about emerging technologies on the web that are changing the way people, society and libraries access information and communicate with each other.” ( http://nswpubliclibrarieslearning2.blogspot.com/ )
“ We now have 1,039 people who have commenced the course with 733 successfully registering their learning diary blogs. 46 people have already completed all activities.” (Wk 11 update: May 1 st - http://nswpubliclibrarieslearningupdates.blogspot.com/2008/05/week-11-update.html )
“ Have you ever considered that your library is part of the knowledge market?” ( http://nswpubliclibrarieslearning21.blogspot.com/2008/03/week-8-answer-boards-and-social.html )
[Web 2.0]… allows reference services in an online media to closely approximate the more traditional services of the physical library. The time will almost certainly soon come when Web reference [will be] indistinguishable from face-to-face reference
All together, the use of … Web 2.0 technologies and applications,… will constitute a meaningful and substantive change in the history of libraries. The library's collection will change, becoming more interactive and fully accessible. The library's services will change, focusing more on the facilitation of information transfer and information literacy rather than providing controlled access to it. … Library 2.0… is user-centred; a multi-media experience; socially rich; and communally innovative.
(Jack M. Maness, Library 2.0 Theory: Web 2.0 and Its Implications for Libraries, in Webology, Volume 3, Number 2, June, 2006, http://www.webology.ir/2006/v3n2/a25.html )
Back to the beginning ……
I'd like to invite any and all interested librarians to be a little bold and have a little fun by going to online "Answer" sites, such as: Yahoo Answers ; Amazon's Askville ; The WikiPedia Reference Desk
Once there, let's answer!
I envision a day-long answer fest. Answer as many questions as you feel you can. 5...10...20...you decide. Just try to do what we do well--provide answers from authoritative resources.
... and then MARKET!
This means making it clear that this question was answered by a librarian/library professional/etc. End each answer with the mention your own library, your VR service, etc. Add the link. Mention that readers should consider their own libraries, too. Promote it to local media. Keep in mind how many people don't even realize that libraries offer reference services. Let's surprise and delight them with our quality .
I'd like hundreds of librarians to do this. Thousands? Why not?
Be clear...you'll almost certainly be helping patrons who aren't yours, but I see this as an opportunity to make the reference librarian community more visible. I'd like to see a number of us remain engaged in the answer services, on the chance that the users will have us in the backs of their minds when they have questions they don't want everyone to see. As such, I'm not expecting to see a huge "blip" in our reference/VR stats because of this. But who knows?
The point is to meet some folks where they otherwise wouldn't expect us.
(Bill Pardue, August 2007, http://answerboards.wetpaint.com/page/Slam+the+Boards%21 )
What do public libraries and answer boards have in common ?
The capacity to answer questions on a range of topics
The capacity to service the whole community not just part of it
The capacity to show the world what we can do, and how well we do it.
The next Slam the Boards is Tuesday June 10 th – why not go online and answer maybe just one question ……. You never know, it could just be Best Answer!
“ Oh the thinks you can think if only you try….” (Dr Seuss)