Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Keeping the Angry Birds at Bay: The Art of Delicate Librarianship

Many people have their own opinion about the way governance should work in their country. Given the U.S.' current divided political climate it can be very difficult to find anyone that doesn't have strong opinions on either side. Librarians, of course, have their own opinions and ideas, as well. However, expressing them, on the job, is not always acceptable. Sure we get together and sign petitions and picket and email like angry birds when our budgets are threatened, and thereby our jobs. However, outside of budgetary concerns, we're really supposed to be kind of mum when interacting with our patrons on political issues. So, when an interesting political movement comes along, of which many people have questions and are looking for resources, we have to provide suitable information while trying to be, or at least appearing to be, neutral. No matter what side of the spectrum we lean, this can be a challenge. 

So this came up recently for a couple of us, and I love the result. We've started doing some really general resource guides, (I hate using the term LibGuide because only librarians know what that means and we're not making these things for each other -or at least we shouldn't be most of the time). As a sort of off-shoot of the marketing committee we've decided to try to post resource guides on our web page about newsworthy and/or hot button topics. Professors are often discussing these events in their classrooms and so providing a tool like this is a great marketing tool, as well as instructional and research tool.

Amanda Youngbar, my partner in crime on this endeavor, made a few suggestions and we both got really excited about creating one for the Occupy Wall Street movement. Seeing as how this group has stirred up a lot of debate we wanted to be fair to the group, those genuinely interested in understanding the movement, as well as those opposed. After looking at a number of guides already available, we also realized that with something like a "movement" there is an ebb and flow to the news information available. So we felt challenged to try to provide resources that continually aggregated information on OWS, as opposed to just a news article here and one from there, that would be outdated in a week. Unfortunately we were unable to pin-point a site from the opposition that continually aggregated news pieces, so the guide might seem a tad unbalanced. That said, we added a disclaimer at the top, introducing the guide and asking those that examine the links, to do so with a grain of salt.

And so blossomed our immediately popular Occupy Wall Street Resource Guide. I must admit, that this might be the first time I've been a part of putting a resource guide like this together, to which even I return repeatedly for the information. It was really nice to participate in something of a somewhat delicate nature that seemed to come out so well. The popularity of the guide soared from the moment we started publicizing it. I hope it continues to provide the information people are looking for on this topic and I think we provided a nice template for addressing hot button issues in the future. Cheers, Amanda!

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