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Popular Culture is not something that ever really age. What was cool once, becomes cool again. One only have to look into the Pokemon Go trend, and see that 20+ years ago, another generation loved it just as much as today’s youngsters. Popular Culture is sometimes seen as a passing trend, and yes, in many instances it is but for Libraries, it is also a wonderful opportunity to engage with kids and teens.

The tribe that stole the data - creative commons
The tribe that stole the data - creative commons

In my house live two teenagers, and quite frequently, they are ‘bored’. Not that there isn’t anything for them to do around the house but the most popular activity they love to engage in, also involves using up most of the household data allowance halfway through the month! Yes, I’m talking about YouTube, or more specifically, them watching people playing games on YouTube. If you don’t have teens, or tweens, you’re probably arching an eyebrow now and thinking ‘what the??’. I know I did.

It is not all a complete waste of time though. Surprisingly they learn to improve their own gameplay through watching, and even find friends online with similar interests. Think pen pals from years gone by, another popular pastime in our culture of yesteryears. Of course nowadays us parents have to be very alert and tech-savvy to make sure our young stay as safe as possible, one cannot just burn the mail as apparently my Mum did with some of my pen pal letters back in the 80’s!  Never mind, I’m not completely scarred for life, and neither will our kids be by the rules we have to enforce where it comes to technology.

ACMA reports that since 2011, there have been a 69% increase in teens accessing the Internet online, and the most popular Internet destination for watching online content is YouTube. ACMA further reports that 64% access the Internet from educational institutions, but only a mere 26% use the library Internet. So, does this mean that libraries are not reaching teens? I am sad to say that my two definitely do not find our local library welcoming at all, as it mostly caters for the First Five Forever crowd.

However, more libraries are implementing programs to cater for teenagers, and are making an effort to engage with them through Popular Culture. By offering school holiday activities, after school clubs, coding workshops and writing groups, teens and tweens increasingly have the opportunity to rather go and use the free Internet at the library. And hopefully grab a book or two to read at home for when they have used up all their monthly data allowance halfway through the month!

The role of Librarians is constantly changing – and that is a great thing! Of course, we are still viewed by a great many as cardigan wearing, hair in a bun, sensible shoes little ol’ ladies that file books all day, and yell ‘shush’ now and again.

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Librarians are on the forefront of supporting researchers in finding information and often a key role of Librarians now is to provide instruction, often to researchers, on research data management practices.  In applying for grants, researchers have come to rely on the expert knowledge of Librarians on for example metadata, storage, licensing and open access repositories.

As research data is created in various formats and different times within a research project, Librarians can assist with information on storage solutions and best practices for data management.  Duffield, Morgan and Hall presented a paper recently at the 2016 Alia National Conference and said that although research data management is still not considered an essential service provided within libraries, trends are changing to recognize the knowledgebase Librarians provide in regards to research data management.

A survey by David Fearon found that respondents considered research data management to be a necessary service they expect to be provided by libraries, but that in truth they only received help with referencing and liaison but no technical assistance.  The outcome of this survey could potentially indicate a trend towards the expectancy that Librarians should not only be knowledgeable in the theoretical management of research data, but also the manual workings of the technological equipment used in research data management.

Librarians are already managing the storage of digital resources but explicit knowledge of technology are traditionally still the bread and butter of the IT department.  This is where it becomes clear that the role of Librarians is changing, and especially in regards to research data management. The trend towards Librarians needing to know some computer coding language are increasing, and of course, we are ready to accept this challenge! Sensible shoes, cardigans and all.

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In a world where technology changes (almost) faster than Donald Trump’s political statements, it is becoming increasingly important that Librarians ensure they are on the foreground of new developments.

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With an international focus on Information and Digital literacy, there is quite often confusion amongst the general public as to what exactly it entails, and it is here where the tech savvy librarian’s skills especially are needed to ensure that the digital divide does not widen in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and societies.

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There are librarians who would rather not embrace this new challenge, and see information technology as altogether separate from the traditional role of librarianship. A study by Debra Riley-Huff and Julie Rholes found that a large percentage of librarians are deterred from launching job applications if the description states a requirement for information technology skills. However, the resistance towards embracing technology might be born from a fear of the unknown, together with an uncomfortable uncertainty in relation to how it would affect on the job performance.

Teaching Information Literacy skills is second nature to librarians, but teaching people how to find information is now mostly done via internet-connected devices, and this is where the technological skills of librarians often get tested. What seem like a simple query on one type of device, can be completely different on another as software platforms might not be compatible. The tech savvy librarian would be able to use this teachable moment to assist and add to the Digital literacy skills of a community member.

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Image - Creative Commons

Christine Bruce states that “making information and information technology skills available to the world is not enough”. Everyone should be able to have access to the same technologies as their peers, and schools should teach children digital skills to ensure that they are not left behind.  One can then argue that it is the job of teachers to ensure students are tech savvy, but in reality, very few teachers have the time or the support to gain expertise in this area. Not to say that librarians have an abundance of time to learn new technologies! However, the very nature of this profession is one of life-long learning, and personally I have never come across a librarian that are not curious about learning something new 😉

Image - Creative Commons
Image - Creative Commons

Teacher librarians thus do find that their roles are changing, and as ACARA continues to incorporate technology into the curriculum, the emphasis are on the need for tech savvy library staff.  In public libraries, programs for Seniors, and Coding Clubs for kids are becoming the norm. This is all opportunities for librarians to become more tech savvy, and especially play a very important role in ensuring that the communities they serve, will not fall victim to the long term social implications caused by a digitally divided nation.

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Now that I got your attention, I can say it is not what you think .. and also, shame on you for whatever you were thinking!

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Unless of course you were thinking that it is the name of a primary school reading program, aimed at inspiring reluctant readers...

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Accelerated Reader by Renaissance Learning, is a program designed to allow kids to read the books they love and then complete an online quiz to test their comprehension of the story. On completion of the AR Quiz, teachers and students receive immediate feedback on the student's progress. Parents also have the option to log into the program to track their child's progress. At my kids' school library, there are few things as exciting as reaching your target word count in order to receive a prize, and personalised certificate from the teacher librarian. Reaching that much coveted one million word count mark towards entering the Millionaire's Club and subsequent book prizes, and access to specially set aside new books, is enough to encourage even the most reluctant kid to read!

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Another part of the Accelerated Reader program, is the Star Reading Quiz. This allow teachers to gauge a student's general reading readiness, phonemic awareness, comprehension, structural analysis and vocabulary within the space of ten minutes. Armed with this data, teachers can then adjust the student's reading level and target word count as needed. Overall, in my opinion, is it a valuable program that motivates kids to read, however, data gathered from quizzes must not be the only measurement for a child's reading level, as it can be quite variable between different books and interests.

Stephen Krashen said in his review of the Accelerated Reader program that any child that has access to books, and especially good quality books, will have a reading readiness advantage and  therefore testing children through programs might not necessary have an added benefit other than the fun factor of being rewarded.

Reading Rockets, another early literacy reading program, claims that Accelerated Reader cannot be seen as a reading program, but then of course, it would say that to promote their own program! However, they do quote the National Reading Panel that were "unable to find a positive relationship between programs and instruction that encourage large amounts of independent reading and improvements in reading achievement, including fluency". One can in my opinion read that as a reflection on all programs, including Reading Rockets too.

At the end of the day, with all the positive and negative reviews in regards to reading programs, it doesn't really matter which program is used, as long as children have the opportunity to access books, and even if they are not rewarded with stickers or prizes, hopefully they will learn to love reading, and that in itself are a wonderful thing!

QUT’s Ask a Librarian service are in my opinion one of the most comprehensive information services for university students, regardless of where they are up to in their learning journey! No, I haven’t been paid to say that 😉  Yes, I am just bias 🙂

While the term ‘reference’ for some might mean APA or Harvard, the service associated with it, is anything but simple. Reference Librarians are experts at directing one to sources of information, and will answer questions promptly and factually correct. Anthony Verdesca quotes RUSA (2008) beautifully when he described the service as “information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate, and/or use information resources to help others to meet particular information needs”.

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QUT’s Ask a Librarian service offers help desks at the various campus locations, as well as help via phone and email when needed.  Being an online student, I have found the ‘chat’ feature excellent. By providing my name, email address and question up front; the Librarian on the other end was able to formulate an idea of my needs before commencing the chat session.  While previous experiences with this same format (think notorious telecommunications provider), has made me sceptical about its effectiveness, I was helped within minutes, and provided with multiple options, and even suggestions for alternative search phrases.

After utilising the Ask a Librarian service, I have briefly wondered if the future of Librarians meant being replaced by ‘Siri’ like-systems? Being a parent to teenagers that wastes a lot of time posing ridiculous questions to their mobile ‘Siri’ enabled devices, I can only imagine the questions asked by some new undergraduates from a virtual Librarian!

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Image courtesy of my teenagers

Liz Burke explains that virtual libraries should not be confused with digital libraries, and stresses that the services provided by Librarians will not become obsolete. In fact, the role of the Librarian will continue to evolve, and although the services provided are essentially changing due to the technological advancements of our time, Librarians will still be respected as the ‘gate keepers to knowledge’.  Only now, we will also be able to access their expert knowledge on all reference materials, in digital format, and do so virtually.

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Siri image - provided by previously mentioned teenagers 😉