Friday, November 9, 2012

Bobbi Newman, writer of Librarian By Day, visited LISSO for an informal Q&A session about digital literacy and librarianship at large on November 6, 2012. Newman has worked as as a librarian in an engineering library, as a cataloguer, and as a digital media specialist.  While still only in high school, she worked as the digital media manager at her local library.

These experiences have created a desire to learn how public opinion and government policy affect libraries.  Newman recently decided to return to school to earn a second master's degree in Public Policy at Iowa State University.

Initially it was a love of books that drew her to library school, but Newman has since come to appreciate the connecting power of the internet and the importance of transliteracy, the ability to convey information across platforms.

"We have a preference for print in libraries, but why? There's a lot more to communication than print," Newman pointed out. "I don't care if you prefer print, if your patrons want digital, give them digital."

However, working in a digital-only position can be frustrating at times because users often do not understand how information systems work or appreciate the merit of new developments.  Many people "think technology happens by magic."  It can be difficult at times to explain how long it takes to code a new program or why promotion on social media is important and worth taking the time to do.

As a personal example of the benefits of networking, Newman cited Twitter as an important tool in her early librarian days.  It allowed her to connect to other students and librarians engaged in similar projects and share experiences.

"Have a network of experts you can email or call—you can't be an expert on everything," Newman counseled. "And be willing to help, even if you don't know the answer. 'I've never seen one of these [an e-readers] before, but let's figure it out together.'"

"Change is really really hard, as a person or an organization.  People who don't want to change aren't horrible people, they're just people. And their priorities are just different than ours."

The event provided a wonderful opportunity for SLIS students to hear from an engaged and active librarian in the field.  Many thanks go to Beth Kamp, LISSO secretary, who facilitated and promoted the visit.