Academic Librarians v Bono

The Library Journal has published an article where the author, Steve Bell compares academic librarians to Bono from U2, and not necessarily in a good way (sorry, Bono fans).

In the article, Trying Too Hard For Relevance, Bell points out that it's not a librarian whose head you press in iTunes to access the artists listing, but Bono's. He also points out that Bono fills stadiums while academic librarians can often struggle to fill their information literacy training sessions. I'm pretty sure if we had the production value of a U2 show that might be a different story (give me fireworks when you find the right case any day).

Then the comparisons do seem to make a bit more sense:

"But there might be one thing that many academic librarians have in common with Bono: They are both struggling to maintain their relevance. And, in what is perhaps a common strategy to defend what’s left of that relevance, both Bono and academic librarians are willing to insert themselves into places where they’ll be just a bit more front and center, lest they might be ignored and forgotten. This is not a criticism of that strategy, but it should have academic librarians questioning whether it gets the right results, and if and when it can backfire."

Recall when, in 2014 when suddenly you received the free gift of the new U2 album on your iTunes account. Did you listen to it? Did you delete it? Do you even know the name of the album? Even Bell doesn't mention it in the article. Personally, nope, deleted and no clue. I generally like U2 songs, but I didn't even give this album a chance. It was too pushy, dumped onto my iPhone by Apple without giving me the option to say 'yes please, I'll have free stuff'. It highlighted how much power Apple has over my devices.

Do academic librarians have that much power over their library users? Think of the free stuff academic librarians give away - bookmarks and the occasional chocolate (I don't know about you, but I can't afford the fireworks permits), even discounting the power and budget issues there -  I doubt the users of an academic library would ever consider their librarians pushy on that front.

Where we can get pushy? Asking academics for class time and involvements in their units. Emailing too much. Bringing every conversation we have with them back to our services and what we can offer. If not careful, we can turn into telemarketers who you can't hang up on.

The best idea, is to promote ourselves, and our services in subtle ways. Be approachable and open, let them know how to reach you and that you can be reached. Let them know why it is even worth trying to reach you - what can you do for them. As Bell says at the end of his article:

"We may not be rock stars like Bono, but if we make our presence known in thoughtful, designerly ways, academic librarians will be relevant to college students long after Bono is doing his farewell concert."

ALLA(WA) Committee Member - Alice Hewitt. 
Librarian, Reference and Information Services, Murdoch University.


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