FA14 LIBR 200-19 TASH BLOG #3

Library Staff and Workplace Information

Public libraries are information resources and it seems odd to talk about the information seeking behaviors of staff, many of who are information professionals or paraprofessionals trained in the art of information organization and retrieval. After all Jason Sokoloff has written, “Librarians continue to implore, however, that information literacy is an essential skill in the workplace” (2012, 7). Shouldn’t then the library workplace have information at the fingertips?   Unfortunately many times the needed job related information is truly hard to find, outdated, unattainable or non-existent.

The information needs of library staff are broad. Staff needs to know the operational procedures, policies, and job descriptions in order to understand their position in the workplace. Understanding and working with the library systems requires operating instructions and training.  The knowledge of immediate and future schedules of programs and services, and the details surrounding those programs and services, is often urgent and is always continuous.  Staff needs to be informed of the situations and events that occur within the course of the workday. Information received via training is necessary to effectively work with and communicate with other staff and with the community.   Keeping abreast of library and technology trends and industry standards is important in keeping the library relevant to its community.

Library staff seeks answers to their informational needs from a variety of sources. There are manuals of policy and procedure, library board packets, emails, SharePoint announcements, SharePoint databases, reference transaction software packages and reports, departmental meetings and minutes, committee meetings and minutes, the library website, everyday staff interactions and word of mouth, there is even “the newspaper”. “The newspaper has it before we do,” to quote one CSA.  I have to agree, unfortunate but true.

Often manuals of workplace policies and departmental procedures sit on the shelf real or virtual gathering dust. Going through the departmental procedures and training manuals made evident the irrelevant information that lingers in these types of documents, citing databases, equipment and technology as well as staff who have long been absent. Board packets are long exhaustive works that have little to offer but historical information, as the information with more direct impact is alternately supplied through email.   Emails, too frequently contain information that is time sensitive and irrelevant by the time some staff read them.  SharePoint announcements and databases share, share, share and often never get to the point, failing to create a vibrant discussion, an informational reservoir or determine a resolution. Many SharePoint additions are left hanging on an indent like APA format references.

So what is a librarian to do? (Please include all library staff in the definition of librarian, as often, our adoring public makes no distinction.) Most often verbal communication is the information seeking behavior in the library workplace. That verbal communication happens in the first person, through the grapevine, via the telephone and through text messaging. In other words it happens at the water cooler, or maybe something more contemporary, at the Kerig.   If there is information-seeking behavior literature out there called the water cooler for this information community (public library staff) please show me the way.   All the information avenues are valuable. What is important is the contents the timeliness and the accessibility.

CSA personal communication 9-24-2014

Sokoloff, J., (2012) Information literacy in the workplace: Employer expectations, Journal of Buisness & Finance Librarianship, 17(1), 7. doi10.1080/08963568.2011.603989


3 responses to “FA14 LIBR 200-19 TASH BLOG #3”

  1. jonese848 says :

    While I agree that there are a variety of skills required for librarians to properly deliver information to the public, I think you are selling these librarians short. Even if they lack the information on hand, what is important is there ability to both find and deliver that information to the patrons that need assistance. This is in fact, not as difficult as it seems as the tools used to find information in the library are incredibly easy to use and easy to understand.

    Librarians are better equipped and trained than you give them credit for, at least at the library that I work with. Though there are difficulties for the older staff as they may not be as up to date on current technologies, but in the last few years, it has never been more easy for librarians to both find and deliver information to the public.

    • avemariahailmaryamen says :

      In no place did I sell the librarians short. I sold short workplace information availability.

      Library staff are not being served well when information pertinent to job function is inhibited by the lack of information being shared (we should not have to go to today’s newspaper to find out what is going on in our workplace), the irrelevance of the information (outdated manuals and policies), and the inaccessibility of information, in that the information is there, but can not be found expediently. The fact highly skilled knowledgeable information professionals have trouble finding workplace information is the focus and the irony I wished to convey. Not that they lacked the skills to find the information, but that they had skills and couldn’t quickly and easily find it because of the way it is distributed or not, or because of the way it was organized or not.

  2. Professor tash says :

    Library staff are a real service to their community and thus their information seeking needs must be considered. thank you for this undertaking.

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