Monday, 1 August 2011

Librarians doing it wrong

Girl in the Moon's blog ( ) highlighted a post from Social justice librarian recently about a bad experience in an academic library.  See also

As a researcher who has trained and worked in an academic library, I have to agree with the perception that sometimes the antiquated system just does not work.  Many of the articles I need are not available on our databases as it's geared up for undergrads.  Sometimes the frustration is off-putting when dealing with library systems, because past experience has shown that whatever query you're about to undertake might not result in the required item being obtained.

I don't really understand the comments on these articles where the researcher is being criticised for not immediately speaking to a member of the library staff.  Wherever you go these days, you are being urged to use automated systems.  So it's the consumer's fault when they don't work?  Having found that the automated system you're using can't give you the answer you're looking for, you then have to spend twice as long joining a queue to speak to someone - I can completely understand that there are reasons that this might not happen: lack of time being a main one.  Plus you've already lost confidence in the service you're trying to access by that time.  We can't criticise users for complaining about not speaking to staff when the front line service is online or automated - it's like putting your bank details into a cash machine and then having to go inside and get a member of staff of to give you your cash.

I really try and advocate libraries - in life generally and in academia.  Many of my academic colleagues have, shall we say, a negative view of the library because it can't deliver in more ways than one.  It's a colossal effort to advocate libraries when I have experienced shortcomings myself as an academic researcher.

It's not going to do anyone any favours criticising the users for the way they are using, and being encouraged to use, the academic libraries.

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