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Isn’t it great to be in the depository?

I saw the LITA’s President’s program at ALA on Sunday, June 29, 2008. The program was called “Isn’t it great to be in the library? Wherever that is.” The presenters were Joe Janes and the bloggers from OCLC’s It’s all good blog.

While it was aimed at libraries in general, I think it has special relevance for document depositories of all levels of government.

Joe Janes answered the question, “What does it mean to be in a library?” as follows, “Anywhere, anytime, any way, which people interact with information organized and/or provided that is supported by their own community via their library staff.” Notice that this is a definition that takes in physical as well as virtual transactions. Janes suggested that a library in the 21st Century is both somewhere and everywhere. In terms of how to serve our patrons, Janes asserted, “We must be available, positioned, and ready to support our patrons, to assist and participate with them — on their terms.”

This seems like good advice for depositories, whether federal, state, or international. We need to remain physical places to accommodate the 80 million plus Americans who are not online and may not be joining the net anytime soon. But we also need to be available for the hundreds of millions of Americans who ARE online. Our libraries, our resources and our expertise must be easily discoverable on the web for our local and remote users. How can we do this?

  • Like James Jacobs has suggested, we can blog our answers to interesting reference questions. Especially if the answers are not findable on the public internet.
  • If you are a Federal Depository Library coordinator, stop reading this post right now and e-mail John Shuler about how your library can participate in Government Information Online, the nationwide govdoc chat reference service that now has about two dozen partners, including my library. It’s easy to participate and will only get easier as more libraries join. The service is already been used. I’ve personally helped people locate documents on the 1960s New Left, found HUD info specific to Native Americans and point veterans towards educational benefits.
  • Join Rebecca Blakeley and the Washington State Library in establishing LibraryThing accounts.
  • Join the Alaska State Library in establishing Open WorldCat lists that come with RSS feeds.
  • Join the growing number of libraries offering RSS feeds for new fed docs.
  • Survey your users and see where they like to find information online. Then try to be in at least one of those places.

You don’t have to do everything. No one can do everything, but please try to do just one thing this coming month to expand your online visibility. If you live in a community where most people aren’t online, you’re excused.

Have other ideas? Did something work especially well for you? Let us know in a comment.

CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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