File this under ideas that I just don’t have time to work on.
Every few months I’ll see an article that I feel everyone should read—very well written, seminal, synopsis pieces. The most recent one that comes to mind is from Wired about the switch to alternative fuel. It summarizes the current problems, explores the challenges, and is overall very readable, yet weighty.
I was thinking about the New Year and how everyone has top 10 lists for this and that and it could be cool for libraries to create one page lists (not bibliographies) of “interesting items” that were published over the past year—maybe with a very short two sentence annotation.
Think about it in terms of our profession. What are ten things (books, articles, editorials, blog posts, listserv discussions, podcasts, webcast, whatever—format agnostic) that everyone should read? What is representative of 2007? Probably something about digital preservation, something about 2.0, something about shifts in organizational structure, something about outreach and promotions, something on building/space design, something about Next Gen Catalogs, etc. Maybe couple this with a few buzzwords, trends, challenges, and predictions.
Now apply that same scheme to other disciplines—what are the topical “things” for engineering, computer science, business, medicine, psychology, the arts, etc. Who won major awards in the field? What are people blogging about besides celebrities? What is the buzz in various categories? What should everyone know about?
HBR does something like this annually for innovative ideas—and it’s always a great read—so why not do something more locally? Customize it for your library community. Public libraries should do something like this because I’ve always found them to be busy throughout the holidays with people grabbing up movies, music, cook books, and pop fiction, so why not try and expand their minds with a “10 things you should be reading” list? With academics, this could be another way to reach faculty. Just drop it off in their office, send it along with books they request, email it, or leave them around the classrooms, or at the department holiday party, whatever. My library is slammed with students finishing up the semester, but they might be interested in picking up a glossy, one page, easy to read, discipline specific handout as they head out the door. Especially if it looked cool. And it would be even better if the handout included a url to the library blog or a website that linked to all the titles online, along with other items of potential interest.
The goal should be to keep it concise and to not push the library too much—this kind of thing probably works better to pique patron interest with a soft sell on our part. Keep it limited to items that are easily accessible, readable (not too scholarly/boring), and of general broad interest. For example: clean tech is quickly growing in popularity, so where’s that definitive Time Magazine or NYT article?
In summary: Instead of addressing faculty with scholarly communications, information literacy, budget cuts, or collection development needs, why not approach them with ideas? Big ideas that they will be interested in. You might just be able to get your foot in the door for future conversations, but first you have to give them a reason to care. Think about their interests instead of your own.
Ah, but Brian this is so much work. You said yourself that you don’t have time to do this, how can I fit it into my schedule?
Indeed, it would take some planning. Maybe instead of doing every discipline you can focus on one or two, or scrap the discipline idea all together and go for the broadest audience possible. This is the type of sub-committee that ACRL should have. A group of 10 librarians who can meet/work online dumping discipline specific articles into a wiki over the course of a year so that all librarians (not just ACRL members) can have access and use them for various outreach initiatives.
Oh, but this will never work at my library. We have to ask permission and get approval. Everything has to go through the upper echelons.
Wow, sorry to hear that your library is still back in the 1950’s. The library profession really needs to learn about salesmanship. If your administration keeps things on lock-down, I suggest you leverage your subject librarian role. (If you’re not a subject librarian you’re out of luck.) Look at your job description and strategic plan and it probably says something about outreach—this is a part of your responsibilities. Use projects like the 10 articles list, youtube, facebook, and tagging to interact with your community. Your job as a liaison is to sell the library to that specific group. You’re a professional and therefore you should have the freedom to accomplish this task however you see fit. The way I see it, I own Mechanical Engineering (until we hire someone) so I’m constantly trying to find new windows of opportunity. (Hmmm, that sounds like a good title for my next book) in which I can fit the library into their world. So my advice: try stuff—if you get in trouble apologize and say that you were only try be innovative and that you’ll gladly just sit and twiddle your thumbs at the reference desk instead of proactively engaging users.