Joe Janes – Second Day IL2007 Keynote

Joe Janes
Reference 2.0:Ain’t What it Used to Be… and it never will again

[My comments in brackets.]
[He is doing this without slides! Coolio.]

Mr. Janes self identifies as a Lackluster Enhancer [from Rainie’s talk yesterday].

First article we know of that talks about reference is from 1876. The primary motivation for helping people is that there is too much information and people find it difficult to find it because the subject headings do not help. We, librarians, should step in and help people. [Seems like nothing much has changed. It makes me wonder if we ever learn as a profession or a species.]

Reference manifests itself in different ways and different settings.

Now there is a lot of stuff and people can find it or they can find something. There are lots of ways to get help. Traditional reference is not going to work. [Mr. Janes is exceptionally humorous, but he is right. Traditional reference is not going to serve the needs of our users.]

Someday we will come to the time when everything is digital. We have an evermore digital world. Horizontal searching and federated searching is where everything is going. There are a lot of ways to find everything. We are increasingly looking for wholes and parts of things in digital form.

How do we insert reference services there?

Quoting a 1930’s article about the reference interview: “They will choke and die before they tell you what they want.” [This gets huge laughs. We all know exactly what this librarian is talking about.]

We can take on Wikipedia. If you are griping about Wikipedia and you are not editing it, you have no right. [Amen. If I hear one more professor or librarian harp about the information on wikis I am going to poke a pen in my ear. It is like voting. If you do not vote, you have no right to complain about the state of this country.] Blogs, wikis, podcasts, we have to be doing that. [Yes, we do and how many of us are not?]

We have to explore our areas of strength and the niches where what we do is unique. [What is the library long tail?] We have the skills to respond to people’s needs and the help that people need. There are people that need us in the digital realm too but they do not know where to look for us.

It is easy to look at those [the digital visitors] and then look at all the people we will not be helping, but look at all the people we are not helping now. We will never be able to answer all the questions Google answers everyday. This is the question of levels of service and we were always taught to do that.

People living online is just the idea that people want to be heard. Every book, movie, song, poem can be reduced to “I was here.” A handprint on a cave wall is, “I was here. I had a life. I mattered. I want to be heard.” Now it happens on facebook. It is the same thing. [To me, this is the most powerful thing Mr.Janes said. Where is your cave and what is your handprint?]

There is no end product to Wikipedia or LibraryThing. There is no finish; the point is the participation and figuring out how to make them better and bigger. The process is the outcome. If this is the environment that half to a third of our communities are living in, we have to be there too. We have to be heard and seen.

The exciting thing about librarians in Second Life is not reference, it is creating. You have to create everything. You have to create your life! Everything is about creation. If we could get librarianship back into the idea of creation, that would be wonderful. What if there had been a librarian around when the http protocol was built?

We have to be more easily found. Without throwing out the idea of being a librarian. Get out of the freakin’ library and stay in the library. What you really gotta be is somewhere and everywhere as every library should be. You have to be somewhere. You have to provide the 3rd space, the physical space and you have to be everywhere else as well. It is the concept of the library leaking out of the building.

It is easier to use the library from home. You do not have to get dressed.

If you do not know how many people are using your webpage and downloading stuff from your databases, you can not ask more money to support it. That is an open scandal.

You have to be in and out of the library at the same time. You have to be here and everywhere. The communities online are helping each other and they are asking us questions at the reference desk less.

We were made for better things then standing behind a reference desk waiting for people to ask us dippy questions. [like where is the *insert noun here* or I need three articles on gun control.]

For now, print is our secret weapon. But as the years go by, print becomes less worthwhile. The role of print will decrease and reference collections will go into the general collection. Grieve and move on. [I think I may be in love with this man, sorry Mr. Rochester.]

“Method over material” quote about reference in 1909 [In the digital wars going on in our buildings, this idea has been lost.]

We have to help people tend the networked communities. Individually and collectively, we should be on the networks. Slam the Boards project is awesome. Be a role model about how to make things more useful.

Market. Tell people what you do. Tell them you save them time and money.

It is unrealistic and illusory to think that the old days are going to come back. The service we provide to people in our physical buildings is phenomenal. Whatever services we provide people online have to be better. When they visit you online, they can be gone in a heartbeat. It has to be better online than in person.

[Wow. I am cleaning these notes sitting in the San Jose airport waiting for my flight. The words are just as strong now as they were two days ago. I wish that every librarian could have been in the room to hear this. After I post this on my blog, I am going to share this with my department.]

–Jane, posting this before going to work today