Computers in Libraries
Vol. 20, No. 3 • March 2000
How You Reinvent Your Jobs
by Kathy Miller

Some of you might look at this month’s theme—Reinventing Librarianship: Focus on the End-User—and think, “Hel-lo! What’s new about that? We’ve always been focusing on the end-user! What were you thinking?”

Well, here’s what we were thinking. It’s not so much that information professionals are voluntarily reinventing librarianship by focusing on the end-user. It’s more that the information providers (in other words, your vendors) started focusing more on the end-user, thereby forcing you to reinvent librarianship as they tried (intentionally or not) to do an end run around you, the librarian.

All that information that once was sacred, the well-hidden facts that only you knew how to search for, were suddenly parked behind user-friendly interfaces and put up on the Web for all to see. What’s a librarian to do? You’ve gone to college to learn how to be information mediators, and now people on both sides (vendors and users) are saying that no one needs you anymore? How dare they!

This trend is a few years old now, of course, but ever since it began the people in our industry have been looking for ways to deal with it. First, maybe, you fought it, then you tried to figure out how to work around it, or work with it. Then maybe you gave up and decided to go with the flow and do whatever work was left that your customers still couldn’t manage by themselves. But most of you realized something: Just because patrons could suddenly do searches for themselves, it didn’t mean they could do a very good job of finding answers. And bingo! You were back in business. So you could then either help patrons find the more elusive information, or you could teach them how to do better searches for themselves. See? Librarianship wasn’t dead after all!

And that’s really what this issue is all about. In addition to our trusty columnists, we have five working librarians who have shared their solutions. In one article, two corporate librarians tell how they’ve filled their “spare” time by starting an intranet, buying electronic databases, posting them for desktop use, and training the other employees to use this new system. Another librarian details four options for creating computer-based, self-paced tools that patrons can use to teach themselves. One writer offers tips for handling adult professionals who are very learned, but who may not be too savvy with PCs. Finally, our fourth feature surveys a group of librarians who’ve had to become real-life teachers (planning classes, grading students, keeping office hours) and shares their feelings about their unintentional career changes. So we’re covering “reinventing librarianship” from a number of different angles. Hopefully at least one of them will give you some ideas—or offer some strength—as you deal with your own situations.

Kathy Miller, Editor

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