Roy Tennant Rallies the Troops

My comments will be in paranthesis for your reading enjoyment.

Roy Tennant: Googlezon, Episode VI: Return of the Librarians
LITA National Forum 2005

Roy has a great sense of humor and he opens with an earthquake joke because there are huge pointy chandeliers above us. He begins by showing us a film entitled, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It.” It goes through all of the amalgamations of Google which includes some entertaining predictions on where Google is going in the future

“[Librarians] have their eyes on the long haul…”

“It is time for us to get our act together…”

“We must remake librarianship…” This is why this man is so awesome. He sees the big picture and is realistic about where we are going and what we should be doing.

Hilarity: the fire alarm goes off and we get up and start filing out of the room. Right before I reach the exit, *ping* *ping* you can now re-enter the building.” I feel like I am at work.

Roy begins again:

We have to go to where are users are instead of forcing them to always come to us. His example is Open URL in Google Scholar. Google and Yahoo use simple technologies that are open and “laying around waiting for us to use.” (The question is why are we not using them? We have the power and the knowledge. What is wrong with us as a profession? Can we really say that we are out to help users if we do not even use the technologies that will help them most?)

“Stop putting lipstick on pigs” (oh, what a perfect metaphor for so many things we do)

We should stop trying to fix systems that are systemically broken. (AMEN) OMG he said catalogs. (I think I am in love with this man, sorry Mr. Rochester.) Fixing up pigs makes us feel like we are making progress when we are actually going backwards. (Are you reading this library world?)

When we design catalogs we build them for ourselves and want the user to act like librarians when the machine should act like the librarian FOR the user. Roy shows University of Rochester as an example of a user centered library. (I want a streamlined catalog like that. Simply Beautiful.)

“Fix What’s Broken”

MARC records hem us in and the catalog does not usually give users the kind of meaningful information they are looking for and we do not have systems that pull meaningful information from them in ways that the users can understand.

“Strive for Efficiencies”

We must streamline our routines, reducing staff in materials, acquisition, and circulation.

“Foster Agility”

Committees do not get anything done (Did I mention that I love this man?) And small task forces should be doing the actual work. “Learn as we breathe. All the time without even thinking about it” We have to change.

Theme of the day: We must collaborate in new ways and we must change. Example: Talis is trying to make reader reviews from different libraries available to all. (What if it was something more meaningful than reviews?)

The questions and comments were really great. Librarians stand up and talk about their library totally scrapping their catalog to create something that works with algorithms that have multiple relevancies, NC State, talk about the problems of building interfaces for both faculty and students, and how can we justify our expertise in a changing world.

Roy repeatedly talks about how our catalogs are failing our users. He says that “our catalogs today are not much better than card catalogs on wheels.” To which I almost shout Amen but thankfully restrain myself. For once.

One librarian, who I am sure is a very nice man, makes the point that Systems does not drive services, and then goes on to paint reference librarians as the dinosaurs. I wanted to stand up and say, “Hey, some of us are very tech savvy and strain against the old school ways too, you just may never know it!” Roy tells the gentleman who is mistaken about some Reference staff that we, as tech people, have to spread the gospel.

Roy cautions one commenter not to place all the blame with the ILS companies because we are the ones who ask them to spend all of their time tweaking things on a system that does not work.


Roy, keep spreading the word and we will do our parts as well. We must, as Roy emphasized repeatedly, work together as a “Library Alliance” if we mean to survive and change effectively.

–Jane, the Roy love fest is over for now, but this man is going to take my profession places and it makes me happy and excited