A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

The Internet has turned you into a librarian

LandscapeThe stereotypical librarian is a bespectacled lady who goes around shushing everyone. Having completed the University of Maryland Master of Information Management program through which I took classes with Master of Library Science students, not only have I learned that librarians are typically anything but quiet but thanks to the Internet more people – maybe even you – provide library services.  Librarianship is not just for the bespectacled!

Here are some social media trends that allow the Internet to turn you into a librarian:

1. Classifying data

“Tagging” is a cool way of saying “classifying.”  Whether you use Delicious to save links with descriptive tags, place blog posts into categories (just like this post is categorized!), add a hashtag to your tweets, or tag a flickr image/Youtube video/last.fm song, you’re classifying data so that it is easier for others to find.

2. Answering questions

One of a librarian’s main duties is to help people find information.  There are sites specifically designed for this – like Yahoo! Answers.  However, there are other methods for answering questions online.  I frequently see friends ask questions via Facebook and Twitter, and they get answers through those sites.  Maybe you have answered someone’s question…

3. Recommending information sources

Google recently rolled out its +1 button.  This was partially in response to the like and recommend Facebook buttons and Tweet buttons that provide easy ways to share links through those networks.  Let’s not forget digg, Reddit, LinkedIn, “e-mail this” functions, etc.  Further, there are many sites that allow one to rate a page by using intuitive scales like presenting five stars.  How often do you recommend information to other people?

4. Reviewing/Spotlighting books, music, television, and videos

Newt Gingrich was an active book reviewer on Amazon; he had his own a virtual “Newt’s Picks” section.  How often do you see a “Staff Picks” section in a library?  Like Amazon, many social networking sites allow people to list their favorite books, movies, music, and television show on profile shows.  Through these sites, you can set up your own section of your favorites – just like Newt.

5. Providing instruction

While the stereotypical bespectacled librarian merely checks out/in and shelves books (when he or she isn’t shushing someone), many modern librarians are also instructors.  Back in 2009 in the New York Times explained how many librarians teach. Likewise, many people have created web videos that teach how to play a musical instrument, tie a bow tie, make Chinese food, etc.  Then there are bloggers and people who contribute to sites like About.com or HowStuffWorks.com.  What have you taught online?

6. Reading stories aloud

One of my favorite things to do in elementary school was to go to the library to listen to a story.  However, one no longer has to actually go visit someone else to listen to them read a story.  There are sites like Librivox where people read literature in the public domain for others to download and listen.  Although many of these people are volunteers, some are quiet good.  Who doesn’t like to listen to a good story?

This is not an exhaustive list – especially since librarianships is much broader than the stereotype suggestions.  Feel free to comment on how the Internet brings out the inner librarian in you.

Update: Read my post "Librarians offer plenty in a social media world" for my thoughts about what credentialed librarians have to offer considering that social media have allowed many of us to participate in librarianship.