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3 Apr 2007 / Julie

thoughts about VR

While sick the other week I had some thoughts about VR just before I had drifted off into antibiotic induced sleep. Still scattered – and less of an epiphany than originally thought- here we go:

Thought #1: Old News
Even though my service had 43611 session requests from Maryland customers and 28372 sessions picked up by Maryland librarians, evey time I mention AUN (which I always mention to outofstaters is “the Maryland version of InsertYourStatesVRServiceHere”) no one seems to know what i’m talking about! It’s discouraging, really. We go to conferences and rave about how awesome we are in front of other librarians and library service providers but no one outside library world knows what the heck we’re doing.

The people who know about library services are the people who use libraries. If people don’t use the library, the library is the last thing that comes to a persons mind when they need a book, a cd, a movie, information, or a place to bring their kids, or get some quiet time. VR is a library service. That apparently no one knows about.

Libraries need to think like businesses and market themselves as such. As individual libraries, systems, and as an industry. Without our customers, we will cease to exist. I promise.

I call upon the library powers that be to step it up a few notches and change the image in the minds of the public of libraries and librarians- to reimagine ourselves and brand ourselves into the hearts and minds of the American public. I want to be able to stop 10 people on the street one day and have 9 of them at least KNOW where their library is and what it provides (though preferably I’d like for them to USE us too).

Thought #2: Widescale VR
I’m wondering if VR could use an overhaul. More people know about Yahoo! Answers and Google Answers (even though it’s been retired) than they do about their local or state virtual reference service- or even about VR as a concept.

Regardless, we are getting a lot of use (though it could be more). The people who use us, however, don’t understand how the current VR system works (and that’s our fault)- that some of us are connected through a cooperative (like the 24/7 Reference Cooperative) and even though customers come in through a specific library or state’s service. My assumption is that if people knew we were this awesome (though potentially moreso) system of links and whatnot, we might have a better chance of getting people on the bandwagon.

My thoughts are still rather scattered, as you can tell, but I imagine VRS being this incredible thing where the software is wonderous and fluid, every library is connected, excellent service is given so everyone gets an answer or a path to follow and people use us as much as they use Google (whos market share is rising).

More thoughts as they come…

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