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7 Aug 2008 / Julie

Reference Renaissance Conference Or Reference is thriving

This past Monday and Tuesday was the first ever Reference Renaissance conference at the Four Points Sheraton in Denver. It all started as an idea floated by Brenda Bailey-Hainer at the bar of the Curtis Hotel where the Collaborative Virtual Reference Symposium was going on last July.

I had the great pleasure of being Publicity Chair, a presenter, and the chair/moderator of a panel presentation. Overall, i’m highly impressed with how well everything went for it’s inaugural event. We had 508 attendees and with 6 tracks and 6 sessions, there was a lot of great stuff to choose from.

After 8/20 all the presentation slides/handouts will be available on the detailed schedule page of the conference website.

Here are the highlights from the sessions I attended:

Monday, Aug 4th

Keynote Address: Reference in the Age of Wikipedia, Or Not…
David W. Lewis, Dean of the University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

  • Google = the next bubonic plague?
  • libraries organize and protect the cultural imprint. It’s all always been “user created” but now there’s so much more!
  • The value proposition for disruptive (versus Sustaining) innovations is entirely different. An organization can’t disrupt itself, you need to remove the innovation from the organization in order to let it happen; it can’t be “crammed” into the existing values and processes of the organization, it’ll be stunted. You need to have a separate organization to do the innovation.
  • don’t invest all your resources on the first try.
  • 7 years ago, though the library was inconvenient and hard to use, students dealt with it until something more convenient came along (the internet)
  • Don’t ask customers what they want. Watch what they do.

Session 1
Getting Better All the Time! Improving Communication and Accuracy in Virtual Reference
Presenters: Marie L. Radford, Ph.D. Rutgers University and Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, OCLC, Inc., OH

  • Don’t be a machine. Create that connection. Listen. Answer the actual question asked and be aware of the sub-questions that might be there. You’re not just passing off information, you’re creating relationships.
  • there is an assumption that people use chat because they’re in a rush. Usually not. And they’re willing to wait if you set up the expectation of how long it’s going to be. Knowing it will be 1 minute, that minute goes fast. Not knowing when someone will help you, 1 minute can seem like an eternity.

Expanding Service and Enhancing Learning: Preliminary Report on a Novel Virtual Reference Collaboration
Presenters: Andrea Wright, Thomas Cooper Library, University of South Carolina and Feili Tu, Ph.D., SLIS, University of South Carolina, SC

Come Together: Melding IM with an Existing Virtual Reference Service
Presenter: Samuel R. Stormont, Abington Library, Penn State University, PA

Session 2
Everyone is One: Customer Service or Retail Reference?
Presenter: Diana D. Shonrock, Iowa State University

  • Everyone has their story, the one you remember when you’re having a bad day.
  • You don’t need to have all the answers, just be willing to help them on their journey to finding the answers
  • MySpace, Meebo, Facebook, Twitter. You don’t have to live in all these places as a librarian or as part of the library, but you DO have to be able to explain them and help people get started on them.
  • Experience Economy > the 4 E’s
    • Education
    • Aesthetics (sic)
    • Entertainment
    • Escapism (allowing the customer to take a role)
  • The 4 E’s of Leadership
    • Envision
    • Enable (the tools to make the vision a reality)
    • Empower (towards a common goal)
    • Energize
  • Ideas:
    • have art from local artists for borrowing on a rotating basis (ie, “check out” a painting for 3 mos)
    • sponsor a car show
    • give out / sell passes for local venues/events
    • Victorian Day in the Park
    • Douglas County Libraries.org won an Emmy for their PSA

Session 3
Ready, Set, Go! 90 Minutes to a Collaborative Virtual Reference Service
Presenters: Beth Cackowski, Project Coordinator, QandANJ, NJ; Laura Osterhout, Western New York Library Resources Council, NY; Vince Mariner, Statewide Coordinator, Ask Here PA, PA; Julie Strange, Operations Supervisor, Maryland AskUsNow! MD

Tues, Aug 5th

Session 4: Sculpting Services: Models for Creative Change
Neo-Reference — Looking for Real Change
Presenters: Susan Beatty, Head, Information Commons, University Library, University of Calgary, Canada and Helen Clarke, Head, Collection Services and Electronic Resources Librarian, University Library, University of Calgary, Canada

  • customers put a value on their independence. where do we fit in this model? How do we help?
  • how to you keep the discovery / serendipitous finding?
  • library as creative studio.
  • go beyond knowledge transfer to a new learner outcome (creation)
  • We’re not here to make it hard. So make it easy.

Meeting User’s Needs Through New Service Models
Presenter: Kay Cassell, Ph.D., Rutgers University, SCILS, NJ

  • people make assumptions about the kinds of questions they can ask at desks.
  • Address the customer before addressing the screen (how do you apply this to VR??)

The Medium is Not the Message: A Model of Networked Reference for the 21st Century
Presenter: Bruce Brigell, Skokie Public Library, Skokie, IL

  • Check out the book “Understanding Media: The extensions of Man” by Marshall McLuhen
  • Jill Lepore. Our own devices: Does technology drive history? New Yorker, 5/12/08, pg 122
  • Jeff Pomerantz. RUSQ 46 #1, 2006, Collaboration as the Norm in Reference work
  • it’s about the service, NOT the intake medium! Do not succumb to the limitations of the medium!
  • Local expertise network> wiki. utilize the expertise of the local.
  • why disclaim wikipedia? learning versus unauthoritative knowledge transfer.

Session 5
Libraryh3lp: Building a Next-Generation VR System
Panelists: Josh Boyer, North Carolina State University, NC; Jean Ferguson, Duke University, NC; Eric Sessoms, Nub Games, Inc.; Pam Sessoms, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC; Amy VanScoy, Ph.D. Student, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Librarian North Carolina State University, NC

  • meebo is invisible to screen readers. LibraryH3lp isn’t and can also be used on the Wii and the iphone.
  • files can be sent both ways
  • customers have an idea of “library” as a big box without sub sections. While it’s not true, we shouldn’t just say it’s not true while trying to mold them to our thinking. don’t make customers conform their perceptions of reality; make them reality.
  • can have people monitoring “zero queues” for the purposes of being available for transfer only.

Plenary Session Panel
Theory Meets Practice: Educators and Directors Talk
Presenters: R. David Lankes, Ph.D., Syracuse University; Jamie LaRue, Douglas County Libraries; Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Rutgers University School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies; Carla J. Stoffle, Dean of Libraries and Center for Photography, University of Arizona

  • “Reference is an island of order in a sea of chaos” (david lankes)
  • don’t point. help make sense of the stuff you point to.
  • be subversive change agents!
  • its not about the technology, it’s about the service and the customers’ needs
  • stimulate learning, don’t wait for someone to realize they need to learn
  • are your customers on your committees?
  • be aware of what is behind the question.
  • “we’re not ready to sunset anything,” Bill Pardue
  • it’s OUR job to figure out our professional roles.
  • communication is the most important skill
  • find some way to touch the customer. in a “study” those customers who got books weren’t blown away. those customers who got books and the librarian had lightly touched them on the arm, we’re BLOWN away by the service. It’s the acknowledgment of another human being that makes the interaction so much more pleasing. (How do you “touch” someone in VR?)
  • go find the questions no one is remembering to bring you
  • calling customers “members” makes them a part of “you” not “you” vs “them”
  • start where they are. don’t make them start where you are.
  • put upwards pressure on people to get deeper and deeper into the community.
  • trust. risk. honest discussion at all levels.
  • if you have something to contribute, speak up.

Session 6: Reworking, Reinventing, & Road Tripping
Milner Library on the Go: Taking Reference on the Road
Presenter: Sean Walton, Illinois State University, IL

  • students/tutors are assigned a librarian.

Reworking Reference: A California Project
Presenters: Rosario Garza, Metropolitan Cooperative Library System, CA and Stacey Aldrich, California State Library, CA

  • as the number of questions are going down, the cost per question is rising.
  • interview question: what about the future of libraries keeps you up at night?
  • think about data + consider trends = transformational scenarios
  • it’s about quality, not quality. People can find the easy things on their own now (thank you, Google), so we’re open for the harder, meatier questions you need a human liaison for.

Scheduling Software: check out whentowork.com… can schedule people and has opps for ppl to interact.

Check out Yale Text messaging… library.yale.edu/science/textmsg.html

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