Monday, September 10, 2007

Slam Those Boards!

Today's the day! It finally arrived! And I'm VERY excited!

And why, you may ask, am I so excited? Because today is Slam the Boards! day. This is the day that all you reference librarians out there are supposed to go to various online answer sites and start answering questions. A kind reader sent this to me, and since the organizer of this little event wants everyone to pass on the news, I'm doing just that. You all know how I like to do the profession a good turn.

So here's the plan from the horse's mouth, as it were:

"Slam the Boards!

Librarians invade the "Answer" sites
Monday, 9/10/07--All Day
Supporting Wiki:
I'd like to invite any and all interested librarians to be a little bold and have a little fun by going to online "Answer" sites, such as:

* Yahoo Answers
* Amazon's Askville
* The WikiPedia Reference Desk

(see a list of others at

Once there, let's answer!"

These librarians are so enthusiastic. "Let's answer!" That's sweet. It does my old heart good to see some fresh young public reference librarian so peppy and enthusiastic, exhibiting a fresh warm glow of excitement before being crushed by reality. I wish I could maintain that level of pep and enthusiasm without medication. If only exclamation points were enough.

At first, I thought, Wow! This is great. This really shows the commitment of reference librarians. This is just another way to demonstrate an obvious truth - that reference librarians would be out there answering questions even if nobody paid them! Often this truth is demonstrated by the salaries many reference librarians get, which usually show that they are charitable folk excited to fulfill the world's information needs without expecting mere monetary rewards.

But then I got a shock. It's not just about answering questions. That would be too altruistic. This isn't about librarians just answering questions for the fun of it. No, this time they want something!

"I envision a day-long answer fest. Answer as many questions as you feel you can. decide. Just try to do what we do well--provide answers from authoritative resources.

...and then MARKET!

This means making it clear that this question was answered by a librarian/library professional/etc. End each answer with the mention your own library, your VR service, etc. Add the link. Mention that readers should consider their own libraries, too. Promote it to local media. Keep in mind how many people don't even realize that libraries offer reference services. Let's surprise and delight them with our quality."

Wow! Marketing! Now this really is exciting. I really do wish I could take part in this "answer fest." And the organizer would like everyone to participate. "I'd like hundreds of librarians to do this. Thousands? Why not?"

I sure wish I could "slam those boards." It would remind me of that abortive attempt to learn karate when I was in junior high. And I used to be a dab hand at reference myself, so I could probably do a good job board-slamming. Unfortunately, it's Monday, which means I have work to do. But I can dream.

Besides this little promotional, perhaps I could help in some way. Maybe I could pose some questions on those answer sites and see if any librarians answer them. Then, I could help evaluate the effectiveness of these librarians by analyzing their answers on the AL. Now that really would be exciting!


David, Library Tech. up. North said...

Whoa! We get PAID to answer library reference questions? Nobody told me this!

Anonymous said...

Slamming The Boards

A Mini-Play

by: Anonymoose

The King, waking from a sound slumber: "snarfle! Eh, what's this?"

Lowly Serf: It's the librarians sire, they're INVADING!

Silent Pause

The King: "Did you say the librarians are invading?"

Lowly Serf: "Yes! Yes! And they want you to come visit them and use their services when they're through with you!"

The King: "I'll be the judge of that! Let me see out the window here."

Peers out window, comes back with a look of bemusement.

The King: Oh dear, we really should do something about that. When they get to the moat, lower the drawbridge and slam it on their heads. If any are left, hand them a copy of the Gutenberg and send them on their way."

Lowly Serf: "Sire?"

The King: "Who do you think sells it to them? Now be off and wake me when something really important happens, like a dragon or that Godiva woman riding by again."

Lowly Serf: "Aye, Sire!"

public librarian said...

Wait, are we really supposed to provide opinions about (and here I'm looking at Yahoo! Answers) what hair relaxer to use, your favorite flower, whether you have more shirts than pants, and how to hook up with your best friend?

AL said...

Yes. And when you do, be sure to mention you're a librarian!

Special Library said...

In all fairness Public Librarian,
this issue is covered in the "". Of course the author assumed a certain level of literacy and follow through by participating librarians. These two characteristics are incidently, very uncommon among my library school cohort.

Anonymous said...

There is a spanking joke in there somewhere, but the recitation of all three of Humorless Unionators blogs has sucked all the fun out of ,me.


Bill Pardue said...

Hi, Bill Pardue here. No apologies for pushing the marketing aspect of the project. We've had it drummed into us that for the majority of patrons "Library=Books," according to the 2005 OCLC "Perceptions" report: Reference services barely register. Numbers are down. Waiting for people to come to us simply doesn't work. By going out to the boards, we show the quality of our work and let some folks know that librarians can provide answers, not just good reads. Shouldn't we let users know who we are? There's no guarantee that any of them will ever visit a library, but we've at least reminded them that we're here. Isn't marketing what happens every time the library places a press release in the local paper or has a float in the 4th of July parade?

As for the types of questions that are out there, yes, there are a lot of "if you could own a planet what would you name it?" types, but I've already answered questions today about 2002 stock quotes, the difference between a lake and a pond, the cofounders of California Pizza Kitchen, the percentage of galaxies that are spiral-shaped and the responsibilities of notary publics. Sounds like a pretty average day at the Reference Desk, no?

Frankly, this is also just plain fun and not a little addictive (in a 2.0 kind of way). Part of my goal is definitely to have librarians stay involved in the boards, just because we belong there.

Anyway, there's still time to pick up some questions today. Care to participate?

Anonymous said...

Frankly, this is also just plain fun and not a little addictive (in a 2.0 kind of way).

GEEAAAHHHHHHH!!!! Nooooo, not Web 2.0! Quick, bring me the crucifix and Holy Water!

No, the silver one.

Anyway, there's still time to pick up some questions today. Care to participate?

Will you pay me or will this help me to get a job? If not, why bother? Oh yea, it's fun, it's easy, and we just don't know if it'll work as some sort of viral marketing thingamabob. The librarians flap their wings and beat their chests to a collective "who?" How two point oh.

DearReader said...

If I got a really good answer on Yahoo! Answers, wouldn't that make me more likely to go back to Yahoo! Answers? I'd assume that two types f people are asking questions on Yahoo! Answers:
1) People who regularly use the service, and are probably pretty happy with their answers (or else they'd be elsewhere) and
2) People who haven't used it before.
In either case getting a good answer on Yahoo wouldn't make one more likely to go to a library website, would it? I'm confused.

brian said...

"Isn't marketing what happens every time the library places a press release in the local paper or has a float in the 4th of July parade?"

Actually dude, that's "promotions" or "PR"-- I would not really call that "marketing" per say.

austeniteshero said...

My library thought this was a good idea and asked for reference librarians to volunteer to do it during work time. I said "Yes," because I like doing reference, I'm just not crazy about interacting with patrons, so this was perfect.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Bryan said, "Actually dude, that's "promotions" or "PR"-- I would not really call that "marketing" per say.

Bryan, dude, promotion IS one of the infamous four Ps of marketing: product, price, and place (distribution) being the other three.


As for Slam the Boards - there's some feedback from some of those who participated over at