Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: The Next Best Thing to Being There

Magazine article American Libraries

Internet Librarian: The Next Best Thing to Being There

Article excerpt

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of the year: A group of new students joined our school's master's program. It's always an exciting time, with quite a buzz in the air. That first-day-of-school thing really never gets old for me: the anticipation of what is to come, new people, new ideas, those new spiral notebooks ....

Our newest group is the second class in our distance-learning program. So far this experience has been very positive for both our students and our faculty. Perhaps the one thing we've learned from planning and launching this program is that distance is, well, different in regard to the nature and level of interaction among students and between students and faculty, in the style of instruction, and in the nature of course preparation. Not better nor worse, necessarily, although clearly some people thrive more than others in this environment-just different.

I'll be teaching my first distance class next year, and I've started to think about what I want to do and how I want to do it. We begin our courses with short residencies here in Seattle, followed by web-based instruction, so I'll have only a few hours with the students in person. Obviously, I want to maximize the effectiveness of that time. So what can I do best face-to-face, as opposed to any other methods of interaction or instruction?

It's a challenge. I'm thinking of exercises we could do that would require or greatly benefit from direct personal interaction, or where physical objects are involved, or using resources only available on campus. Educators face such considerations with every course and class session, naturally; but when in-person time becomes a scarce resource, it needs to be managed and used with great care.

Remote possibilities

This made me realize that libraries are facing the same question: What can we uniquely do best in person? We've worked hard over the last several years developing services that can be of value to people who aren't physically in a library building: digital reference, full-text databases, locally interesting goodies that we've digitized, other web-based library resources, the ability to request items or renew materials--lots of things we used to make people come to the library for.

Our users can now do many things on their own terms. This is beneficial to both sides, providing added convenience and access for users and greater efficiency for libraries, while freeing staff from some of the more mundane and routine tasks. …

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