Wednesday, September 28, 2005

We're back in full swing now, and I'm spending my hours on the reference desk training student assistants and answering questions. The reference muscles are rusty, but they're coming back. It's nice to see the place active again.

I've spent the summer thinking about the privacy/confidentiality issues raised by posting patrons' questions to the blog. The process has been long and there's been a lot of doubling back and forth, looking for some kind of compromise. On the one hand, I don't want to feel I'm betraying patrons' trust. On the other hand, the blog is a legitimately useful training, communication, and PR tool for me and for other reference librarians. I don't have a clear mandate from my library, and aside from a few librarians in the RUSA Hot Topics in Reference Discussion Group at Annual, I haven't heard any negative comments. (And the comments at Annual were constructive, I hasten to add.) I've heard from several librarians and non-librarians who like reading the blog and encourage me to keep doing it.

So I think I'm going to try doing this: I'm going to continue posting questions, but I'm going to scramble them a little in terms of date and order of appearance. One concern raised by folks at Annual was that patrons' anonymity could be compromised if I post a patron's question and someone reads the blog, recalls seeing the patron in the library that day, and puts two and two together. Unlikely, but possible. So as an added measure of anonymity, I won't be posting questions immediately after my shift anymore. Instead, I'll save the draft of the post for a later date, when I'll come back, toss several days' questions into a big bowl, stir them all around, and then post them in a bulleted list as usual.

This doesn't solve the problem of releasing patrons' interests into the world, where others could pick up on them and poach them, but I don't know what I can do about that. Information is becoming so ubiquitous, and communication so permeable, that I'm not sure patrons at a public reference desk really expect that level of secrecy. Maybe they never did.

For the next week or so my reference desk hours are probably going to be taken up with student training and lots of directional questions, but I'll start building up a store of questions to post when I have enough. I'll probably also keep profiling print reference books here and there, since that's fun and helpful for me. If you have comments or suggestions about any of this, I'm always happy to hear them.


Anonymous caleb t-r said...


5:44 PM  

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