Librarians: Wednesday’s Question

Also, in addressing the discourse of “Public Service,” Dr. Lankes illustrates the Reference Librarian as an active facilitator of the patron’s general knowledge and not simply an agent that “[provides] the member with a pointer” (pp. 155).  Specifically, he make the claim, “you must facilitate the knowledge from access, to knowledge, to environment, to motivation.”  The passage goes on to make some very interesting and provocative claims about user tracking; however, what I’m interested in is the role of the librarian as motivator.  (See also pp. 26-27 for a brief overview of Lankes’ more broad treatment of motivation).

If part of librarianship and knowledge facilitation is motivation, how must we rethink the relationship that the librarian has with his/her patron?  Does the motivation begin with user-initiated transactions and behave like a cycle or are librarians responsible for preemptive motivation (be it user-specific or broad)?  Can motivation (perhaps in excess) problematize the relationship between the librarian and the user?

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  • Kathleen McClure

    I think motivation is a hugely important and hugely overlooked aspect of librarianship. Librarians are not so different from teachers and must likewise address the need to impart motivation to seek knowledge and learn. For many of us, our current desire to learn and academic success can be traced to a formative experience with a good or inspiring teacher. We are probably all familiar with what qualities make a good teacher and also what makes a not-so-good teacher. Having a bad experience when attempting to find knowledge or navigate information can be very discouraging to a beginner. It can halt the search for knowledge before it even really begins. I agree that providing access to information intrinsically includes access to motivation, for the same reason we organize information and try to make it easier to find and use. Librarians need to be aware of their role as motivators and the importance of that role in what they do!

  • Daina Bouquin

    I’m not so sure I see the librarian as being responsible for the motivation of an individual. I do, however, see the need for the librarian to provide access to motivational tools. That is to say, I don’t believe that the librarian should simply act to provide, “a pointer,” but that to somehow divine what it is a patron should be motivated to do or maintain interest in is pretty far fetched. From my own experience, I have always been a difficult person to motivate. Until I’m inspired by something, I’m not motivated. A good teacher, for me, was someone who helped me see something as interesting, but just telling me something is interesting doesn’t make it so. I think librarians should be responsible for making people in libraries as aware as possible of the tools they have available to them and how to use them to find their own inspiring subject. If approached however, the librarian should be instrumental and encouraging in the whole information cycle. Whether or not it’s the librarian’s responsibly to be the inspirer for me comes down to whether or not a librarian should be responsible for shaping what people decide to dedicate their time and energy to, and I just don’t think that’s quite where me need to be.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with you Daina. Motivation for most people, has to come from within and not from external sources. If someone does not want to be motivated, then a librarian is going to have a hard time trying to help the person. However, what the librarian can do is show the person what resources are available to them and let them know they have options. Sometimes patrons don’t know that they have a vast array of resources right at their fingertips, and then need someone to guide them through.

      In hoping to be a school librarian, I hope to be able to instill in children and young adults the love of learning. This can be tricky, especially at the high school level when most students just want to get the assignment done, and don’t really care what they are learning. But it is important as a school librarians that we model for our students why continuing to learn, even after we have finished school, plays an important part in being able to improve our society. If we are not up-to-date on the current issues and technology, how are we going to be able to make a change for the better?

      • Darren J. Glenn

        I agree that this is an issue of particular pertinence to school librarians.  If you can get that motivational momentum going early on, it makes it easier for other librarians in general to continue instilling a thirst for knowledge.

  • Darren J. Glenn

     I suppose one of the questions inherent to Lankes’ statement is “what CAN motivate your patrons?”  This is question that has dimensions applicable to individuals and whole communities and operates on the presupposition that everyone can be motivated.  Also pursuant to this point is “how can we motivate our patrons?”  It’s easier to provide access to motivate your patronage if you are working closely and directly with them and form relationships with them easily–ie. children, the elderly.  However, when people can be easily distracted and decide in and of themselves that information is only a means to an end, a librarian faces far more friction.