Three tools for building better bridges

Katie Birch

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The theme for our upcoming Resource Sharing Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, is “Bridging Communities.” I think that’s a great way to describe the work that resource sharing librarians do in an inspiring way—we create paths to get people to the information they need, often crossing obstacles and boundaries that are otherwise impassable. In many cases, we build those bridges using unique information literacy talents that librarians bring to the table.

Technology, data, and people

As we reviewed the conference topics with the Program Committee, we thought about the different types of solutions that resource sharing librarians bring to the table. What became clear is that different situations will call for different tools in order to get from where you are to where your community needs you to be.

  • Access to the right technology. Early in the computer revolution, there was legitimate concern about the “digital divide.” At first, that meant having access to computers at all and, later, to the internet. Libraries often helped bridge those divides for users—and still do. Today, though, more people than ever have access to computers (or smartphones) and the web. But they may not understand what information is available to them, how to find it, and how to get their hands on it. We have more ways than ever before to help our users connect with the knowledge they need to move forward. Getting the right technology in place is important for both our users and for us as librarians. A few of the topics we’ll hear about in this area include managing copyright in an ILL setting, using resource sharing services with special collections, and document delivery for graduate students.
  • Data that informs change. We’re really excited about how many presentations were submitted that reference how data is being used to inform change. The common thread being that change management can be designed directly into data collection programs. Several elements of the IDS Project will be discussed along those lines. We’ll also hear from your colleagues about data tools that optimize workflows, data visualization, the validity of ILL statistics, and variations in reporting metrics.
  • The personal touch. In some cases, even the right technology and data need a bit of friendly help. In many cases, we find that resource sharing librarians make a real impact by providing a personal touch for users’ most complex challenges. We learn to listen carefully, ask probing questions, and really try to understand how to help. Along these lines, we’ll hear presentations about providing services for patrons with disabilities, helping patrons identify available resources, and tips for difficult requests.

I’m also thrilled that our keynote speaker will address this last concept.

Celeste Headlee is the author of the book, We Need To Talk – How to Have Conversations That Matter. She is the Executive Producer and host of On Second Thought at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta and is a former anchor of NPR shows, including Tell Me More, Talk of the Nation, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Her TEDx Talk, “10 ways to have a better conversation,” was listed as one of the most watched TED Talks in 2016 by CNBC.

Celeste will help us think about how, in an age of short bursts of text and video, we can concentrate on having real, meaningful conversations that help move our personal and professional lives forward. That’s a skill that resource sharing librarians rely on and one that we can all develop more fully.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at the conference in March and listening to your ideas. Our experiences are the resource we can share with each other to get better at building better bridges.