So, now that I’ve typed my notes up, what did I learn at news:rewired that I can apply to my day-to-day job, specifically relating to my library work?
The conference began and ended on the same basic note – George Brock, Kevin Marsh and Greg Hadfield may have used different terminology but they all argued that journalism needs to embrace the changes wrought by new media; that journalists themselves need to develop new techniques to deal with the digital age; but that they also shouldn’t lose sight of some of the more traditional journalistic techniques.
This argument also applies to the library sector – new technology and the web (particularly web 2.0 and beyond) has wrought dramatic changes to libraries and to librarians themselves. Media librarians in particular are something of a dying breed. Like Greg Hadfield’s newspapers, if libraries don’t change they will die.
I’ve seen this firsthand at work – the department has reduced by 50% in two years, and the type of work and the way we do that work is changing all the time. A year ago we moved to a new mailing system – Lotus Notes to Google. Since then we have harnessed Google for numerous jobs – hosting events calendars instead of on the intranet, storing joint projects in spreadsheets so that we can all access it and work on it simultaneously, creating and maintaining spreadsheets of data that feed into web interactives and the Datastore. It has been a big adjustment but one that has allowed us to keep pace with the rest of the paper and, hopefully, to become indispensible to more people.
We’re also using new media tools to do old fashioned jobs – finding and editing archived articles using the digital archive, for example, to be printed every day on the leader page of the paper. Prior to the digital archive this would have been a fulltime job; the digital archive has enabled us to fit it in with our normal work and still produce quality newspaper content. Google calendars enable us to keep track of it easily.
I’ve even started writing for the Datablog, something more akin to journalism than librarianship. Each article ties in with a dataset that I have sourced and formatted (again using Google docs); although it involves writing and using online tools, it is just another way of disseminating information.
That is the key – although we are using new media tools and methods, working for different people and in different ways, the core elements of the job remain the same. That is why I still call myself a librarian (something I had to defend at news:rewired!). My core skills – taking data or information, filtering it, organising it and presenting it in a usable way – are still at the centre of what I do, I just use different tools to do them. Using a different title won’t change what I do, if anything it will confuse the issue.
It’s why I still think there is a vital role to be played by media librarians – in the age of information overload, and despite the ease of Google searching, you still need someone who is professionally trained to seek out pertinent information and deliver it, quickly, efficiently and in an easily usable way. We just have to be proactive enough to prove that; otherwise we will die out before they realise they need us.