K.G. Schneider has a great post at Free Range Librarian about Library 2.0-ishness and the cult of "them."
I have never met K.G. Schneider. She spoke at a conference I went to this year and I suppose I could have introduced myself to her. It was early, though, and I wasn't in my best form after a late night of "networking," so I didn't. I was too chicken to tell her how much of an impact she'd made on me as a librarian and a thinker so I listened to her brilliant address and that was that. I am guessing that she gets a lot of that anyway and that by now it might not have as much of an impact as it might have ages ago.
Enough of my fawning over my librarianship idols.
Toward the end of the post, Schneider writes:
"Sometimes I think none of us, including me, really want to be user-centered… unless we’re talking about a user community of one, that is, ourselves. I don’t know that I’ll add 'Please let me be more user-centered' when we say grace over dinner (given that the list of people we need to pray for gets longer every day, and I don’t like cold food), but I can see the value of reminding myself every morning what was important to me."
I am a big fan of user-centeredness, I will admit. I think we should use every trick up our sleeves, technological or not, to help connect our users to the information they seek. I sometimes wonder, though, if this is because in "real life" I don't work the front lines. I never see a user unless I pass one on my way to the restroom or to get my lunch. I staff the back room of my institution and help to make the catalog work better.
I suppose it must be different for people who work with users all the time. When you deal with the college student needing sources for his paper the day it's due, you might not be sympathetic to his cause and willing to show him how citation software can help make keeping track of sources easier. If you have to deal with that lady who comes in all the time wanting help on genealogy, you might not want to help her use the microfilm reader.
I get it. It's hard out there for a reference librarian.
But sometimes you have to remember that it's not about you.
It's my favorite mantra, really, it's not about you.
Sometimes being "user-centered" makes our lives more difficult. Sometimes being "user-centered" goes against everything we learned in library school. Sometimes being "user-centered" means blazing new trails.
Maybe if I spent time at the reference desk I'd feel differently, I don't know. But I feel like if we want to succeed at being good libraries and good librarians (like we claim we want to), we have to stop doing what works for us and start doing what works for the user.