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What does Reference
look like in your library?
https://www.vala.org.au/vala2018-proceedings
http://www.ilovelibraries.org/librariestransform/
https://www.slideshare.net/PublicLibraryServices/readers-advisory-futures-by-duncan-smith
https://nyupress.org/books/9781479837243/
http://libraries.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au
https://coffsharbour.spydus.com
http://www.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au
http://libraries.coffsharbour.nsw.gov.au
http://www.varitty.com/post_printable-dewey-decimal-system-posters-for-free_211132/
Some reading:
Algorithms of oppression / Safiya Umoja Noble https://nyupress.org/books/9781479837243/
ALIA’s New Generation Advisory Committee https://www.alia.org.au/NGAC & follow the #AusLibChat on twitter https://twitter.com/search?q=%23auslibchat&src=typd
Critical librarianship: in real life & on the twitters http://critlib.org - follow the #critlib twitter chat at https://twitter.com/search?q=%23critlib&src=typd
The future of RA / Duncan Smith https://www.slideshare.net/PublicLibraryServices/readers-advisory-futures-by-duncan-smith
Libraries Transform / American Library Association http://www.ilovelibraries.org/librariestransform/
Never neutral: critical librarianship and technology / Meredith Farkas https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2017/01/03/never-neutral-critlib-technology/
@TurbittNDuck https://twitter.com/TurbittNDuck the library podcast, sharing stories from libraries and beyond #turbittnduck
VALA2018: libraries, technology & the future https://www.vala.org.au/vala2018-proceedings
Why library leaders should care about critical librarianship / Sarah Clark http://betterlibraryleaders.com/2016/05/19/why-library-leaders-should-care-about-critical-librarianship/

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What does reference look like at your library? - #risg2018

Editor's Notes

  1. Thank you everyone for coming along to this seminar toda. This talk came about from a series of discussions. Library staff continue to query what reference is, what is the role of a reference librarian, what constitutes a healthy reference collection, how the face of information and reference services continues to change as library services evolve (& Councils merge) and as technologies emerge to challenge traditional methodologies and service models.
  2. This talk has been heavily influenced by the recent VALA conference in February this year; by the American Libraries Association’s “Libraries Transform” campaign;
  3. by a talk from Duncan Smith from NoveList at the Readers Advisory seminar back in March; and quite heavily by this book - “Algorithms of oppression: how search engines reinforce racism” by Safiya Umoja Noble. If you take nothing away from today, take this book. Go read it. And then sit back and take a good hard look at how you do reference services in your library, at how you catalogue, at how you define your services and your collections. These things taken together caused me to ask more closely: what does reference look like at my library? What do I do to empower and engage? What do I do (or don’t do) that disenfranchises and prohibits?
  4. When you walk in the door of my library, how do you know which way to turn?
  5. Where can you find someone to ask? Do they look approachable or are there barriers in the way? Are you made to feel welcome?
  6. What about when you visit online via PC, tablet, or phone……. ???
  7. Have you used your library website on a phone recently? [ask for show of hands, how’d that go for you?] I’m spending a lot of time lately “fixing” our website so that it is usable and friendly on a mobile phone; finding all the things I missed or ignored when we last redid the library website (over 1 year ago). When our library website was redone it was the first time we could say with any certainty that our website was mobile responsive, …. BUT…… The approach we were advised to take at the time (mostly from a time poor point of view) was to start from the PC version and build the website down to the mobile view. In hindsight, no. We really should have taken the initiative and done the complete opposite. Had we built from the mobile version up and done this correctly I would not now be spending as much time as I am fixing the jolly thing.
  8. It’s one thing to know your website sucks, it’s something else entirely to experience for yourself just how sucky it truly is. If this is not a good experience for me, with all the knowledge that I bring to this website and where I know stuff sits, then what sort of experience is it for someone else? Could my mum navigate my library website successfully? On her PC? Probably On her phone? Not a chance
  9. What does reference look like in my library? When you use the OPAC? Are our subject headings relevant and open? Do we use simple search terms or complicated jargon to describe library stock? Is every detail that’s visible in bibliographic records obvious and useful? Does it put people off? Are we making the most use of the capabilities and capacity of our LMS? What are other libraries doing with their OPAC & LMS that we could steal and implement for my library? What are other libraries doing with their OPACs and LMS that you could steal and implement in your library?
  10. Is your OPAC useful and easy to navigate on your phone? Do you need a library degree to do this, or is the logic behind its design really obvious? Can you get to all the things, or are they hidden or obscured?
  11. Do you care? When you’re in the library & want to access the library’s virtual collections? Is this easy to do? As we continue to make more and more of our collections available online, do we also make it easy for people to access and use these resources when they are in the library? Or do we take the approach of : “you can access these from home” and see that as the cure all? Push them out the door and suggest they go and explore out online collections somewhere else? Or do we hold out a chair and say “here, let me help you get online and get started”.....?
  12. If all that so many of our members have, is access to our public PCs, do we make it easy for them to also access our virtual collections and resources? Or do we limit their time? Do we disregard our subscription agreements? Do we think about any of this stuff when we decide who can use our public PCs and what they can access? Are we thinking about our members and visitors in terms of what we can enable or what we can restrict?
  13. And once people do get online how easy is it for them to navigate to your digital collections? Or are they hidden under layers of jargon and library-speak? If you regularly use your sitemap to navigate to particular pages on your website because you find it hard yourself to find the page you’re looking for, image how your library members feel?
  14. Can you find these collections on your phone? Have you tried? Do you know where to look?
  15. Question your website design Question your OPACs Question how search really works within your OPACs - if your OPAC provides predictive text what is that prediction based on? You need to know how it works and if it doesn’t work how you think it should then get it changed. Hassle your LMS provider until you end up with the product that is most useful to your library. Question how your LMS displays information about your collections Question your library’s practices and procedures - aside from outsourcing as an Acquisitions / collection development tool (with definite financial considerations), have you stopped to consider when and where quality control applies in this scenario? Do you need to worry about it at all? Why? Why not? Question your vendors - as libraries we like to give our stuff away. Vendors sell their stuff, they have a vested interest in their product which we, libraries, often ignore. We cannot do this.
  16. How are your information and reference collections displayed? How accessible are they? How findable are they?
  17. Do your collections truly reflect your communities? Who are your users - members and visitors? Do you know, or do you think you know? Who is our community? How do we provide the service they both need and deserve? What does reference look like in your library?
  18. If you’re sitting here today realising that yeah, your library is pretty crap at these things too then I ask you - what are you doing about it? What are you going to do about it? I appreciate that a number of libraries are restricted in what they can achieve for their library website because it is part of a larger council website. Have you thought about talking to the person in your Council who is responsible for the library part of the website and seeing what you can tweak? Have you waved the library banner to say “yeah, we have needs for our website which are just as important as the rates section”??
  19. [pause] Reading “Algorithms of oppression: how search engines reinforce racism” got me thinking about the dewey decimal system popular throughout public libraries across the globe as well as the Library of Congress Subject Headings and their ongoing implementation and usage in public libraries. For someone who at no point classifies herself as a cataloguer I tend to spend an awful amount of time in my library’s cataloguing module and thinking about ways to improve the information we make available to our members.
  20. I am annoyed by Dewey on a regular basis. It’s exclusive, racist, misogynistic, and no longer relevant. I am sure I am not alone in this opinion. I am concerned also with our reliance on the Library of Congress Subject Headings without querying if the terms being used are relevant and useful for our Australian society. Local cataloguing rules are a fabulous thing which ought to be used more widely in Australian libraries and also shared with each other I am not saying that these fundamental library components are completely without use. I do however question their ongoing relevance in our Australian society and I remind you that they come from the historical viewpoint of the privileged white American male. Where is their allowance for the sheer global scope of ethnicity, culture, religion, sexuality, geography - where the bulk of each decimal allocation is focussed on anglo-saxon, christian, America with little or negligible consideration of any alternative. Yes, over the years additions and changes have been made but, have we done enough? Libraries like to organise things. We do like to catalogue things so we know where to find them. But in strictly following the guidelines of Dewey and LCSH I question at what cost this is to our client base? How many of our members, how much of our community, do we put offside before they even walk through the door because of the way we describe these things within our collections, this controlled vocabulary that we are using? If Libraries aim to be the collective memory of their communities then the very language that our catalogues use should reflect our communities, these ones here, in Australia. Are we being flexible enough in their implementation and usage in our catalogues?
  21. Do you catalogue for your library members and visitors or for an outdated set of norms that reinforce a swathe of social, cultural, and gender biases? If search is a source of reality, then what does it mean in practical terms to search for concepts about gender, ethnicity, culture, sexuality - only to find that information lacking, misrepresentative, and biased? In. Your. OPAC.
  22. So again I ask you, what does reference look like in your library? For me, this is an evolving conversation which takes much of its impetus from the ideas of critical librarianship.
  23. When any one of us starts to really look into the way we present reference and information services in our libraries and question the status quo we are taking steps towards developing a library service that is truly responsive to the needs of our communities and truly reflective of those self-same communities; which further embeds us within the value stream of our communities.
  24. Libraries are not neutral.
  25. So often we focus our library energies on our services and our collections - in terms of things we do that we can count, or resources we buy that we can also count. There is much more to providing information and reference services in our libraries than these alone - we are more than our programs, we are more than our collections. But it is up to us, as NSW public library reference and information staff, to argue for improved local cataloguing rules, for the implementation of localised LMS parameters which include languages, subject headings, and norms specific to the Australian experience. Libraries are not neutral, and while we continue to advocate for our communities we can never be regarded as neutral.
  26. Thank you all for your time this morning. If nothing else, I hope that I have prompted you to take a good hard look at what reference looks like in your library To look at how you are providing all aspects of Reference and Information Services in your libraries and why you are doing it. Thank you.