Reference is dead?

The author of this article suggests that since Facebook is entering the online question and answer world, like Yahoo! Answers and Askville and so many others, that somehow online Q&A has matured to the point that reference is dead.  Not completely dead, but one player in a field of many.  The main takeaway from this rant is that reference service should no longer be a core component of librarianship, but instead a value add for patrons already there.

I agree to a certain extent.  Ready reference is, for all intents and purposes, dead.  Librarians do it the same way everyone else does: Google and Wikipedia.  It’s the most efficient and effective way to handle ready reference.  Other simple types of questions asked at a reference desk like directional questions or questions about services no longer require a librarian per se.  These types of questions could be handled by knowledgeable staff or volunteers or students.  You don’t need to be a librarian to have a feel for the layout or collection of a library.  What it doesn’t kill is the kind of scholarly research that usually requires a trip to the library.  I don’t think I could ask Facebook or Yahoo! for a list of abstracts from articles about the impact of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition or the evolution of quantum physics.  For this we need researchers whose job it is to research.  Reference should remain a part of the core curriculum for this reason.  Librarians are still expected to be able to answer questions, and while that is the expectation, we should live up to it.



1 Comment

Filed under Library, Tech

One response to “Reference is dead?

  1. I love the fact that I can look information up on the internet immediately, without having to leave the house (who wants to drive 30 minutes to the library to look up “how to fix an unbalanced ceiling fan” in a book, then drive 30 minutes back home to actually fix it?).

    But when it comes to serious research, as I do with my medieval re-enacting and costuming, the internet doesn’t get me very far. It may provide a jumping-off point, but the simple fact of the matter is you still can’t trust the internet for correct information, especially at the academic level (something I try to remedy by writing informative articles on Squidoo, but I’m in a minority).

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