Years ago I read an article about management by walking around that suggested managers needed to get out of the office and into the front lines daily to observe, to listen and provide guidence when needed. Its a good idea. But what’s it got to do with genealogy?
The other day at the library we were discussing reference by walking around. Instead of the genealogy librarian or library worker sitting behind the reference desk waiting for clients to approach the Throne of Majesty, the librarian goes to the client. Its certainly not a brilliant NEW idea, but it works.
For example, I came out of my office at the library the other day, spotted two staff members at the reference desk busy at something important but not that important, and four library clients working at tables in the room, and one in the stacks. Each had already been served at the reference desk. I went to each in turn and asked, “Are you finding what you are looking for? Can I help in some way?” From this came five reference questions.
In times when library reference statistics are declining, this sort of personalized help, going to the client as she is working makes sense.
And it leads naturally to the next step, the librarian as mentor. After a couple of encounters with the same client the librarian either has an idea of the clients objectives, or is ready to listen and learn in greater depth, offer suggestions on search strategy, suggest background readings etc. In other words, build a mentoring or a tutoring relationship: one-on-one guided learning for the client.
The next step may well be learned from my friend Jason, a new “business librarian” who spends a lot of time in the business community at “business breakfasts”, Chamber of Commerce luncheons, committee workk in the business community, etc, building a network and showing the previously uninterested business community what the library can do. A recent triumph was putting together in 25 minutes a package of articles on a particular business planning concept for a sceptical new client. Jason now has another convert. I can see the day when the genealogy librarian is out in the community like Jason, building networks, making friends, delivering reference service and mentoring genealogists and being paid to do this. Is this part of programming?
What do you think? I’d be interested in your thoughts on these ideas whether you are the library client or library worker.