Karen G. Schneider has a post on a subject that I have been seeing a lot of and thinking of recently: IM Reference and IM in libraries. I have been thinking about it because my library’s new web developer, and my technology partner in crime, asked me last week why we do not have IM. It is blocked on the staff computers and we do not do chat reference. I sighed heavily and told her that was a conversation best had over drinks, but I also told her to ask someone else at the library to see their reaction. I usually get laughter and a “that’s just a fad, waste of money, waste of time, or all new librarians think that is important but you will soon learn to be pessimists like us” explanation.
This reaction upsets me on two levels.
First, the laughter and the pessimism. New ideas that help our patrons are funny and easily dismissed? Because I am young and an optimist, librarianship will eventually suck out my will to be a good person who helps others? While public service can wear down the love for humanity at times, the day I start to dread helping people find what they need is the day I find another job. If you are unhappy, do something else for Pete’s sake. Stop making the rest of us look like jerks.
Second, the idea that VR or IM is just a fad. A fad? I think this idea stems from the idiotic way libraries started doing VR and IM. Namely, they went out and spent thousands of dollars on programs and interfaces that required our patrons to use special software when there is software that works already out there. For free. It is the age old problem of libraries trying to make things more difficult than they really need to be.
Yes, VR failed in the beginning because we went about it the wrong way. Let’s be smart about how we implement things and not reinvent the wheel every time we get in the car.
As a profession, we need to get over the idea that IM is bad, that it is going to go away, and that it is not useful. This is about reaching our users in the formats they are already using. It is about using technology smartly and efficiently. It is about getting our heads out of the sand and looking around at how our users are actually using our technology and our spaces and adapting. It is about us adapting to them, not forcing them to adhere to rules and policies that no longer make sense.
Ok, I sense more soap box coming. I’ll save the policies thing for another day.
–Jane, has Google Talk on her computer “illegally”