Some write to remember…

My thoughts on libraries, conferences, teaching and yes, random other things I find worth sharing

Libraries: Connecting the people [to the information] to the people


What I want to write about today is a very unfinished, not very well thought through idea that I have been thinking about for a while.

[disclaimer: I am not even sure, and have not checked extensively, if it is a new idea indeed. Maybe there are places out there that already do something similar to what I am going to write about].

The idea starts with thinking about what sort of things a user can have access to these days through a library catalogue. The idea of full library discovery is not a very new one; libraries all over index resources like information from the library’s website, LibGuides, even their own staff,  and make them discoverable through the library’s search interface. Lorcan Dempsey has a very good blog post on the topic, and also gives some good examples of where and how this is already happening in library land:

Although this approach has been around since new search interfaces appeared a few years ago (Discovery Layers, as they are referred to by vendors), it seems the idea has not been taken up by many institutions. I had a quick look, and none of the academic libraries in WA, for example, seem to provide access to anything other than “traditional” resources via their catalogues.

Apart from the fact that I think it would be a very good thing from a user’s perspective to be able to get information about opening hours or the Libguide relevant to the topic they are researching via the catalogue, I am more exited about the thought of cataloguing people. So the library’s role would expand from connecting people to information, to connecting people to information as well as to other people who have more information. I realise that we are probably talking about knowledge now; and not just information.

As mentioned above, this has been done in terms of library staff/subject librarians, and also in separate projects like the Human Library, but I am thinking about something bigger than that.

What if we had our search results displayed, bento box style (think about the way Trove displays their results for example) and there was a box for people.

So, a library catalogue could contain records for

  • Library staff
  • Current PhD and masters students studying at the university
  • Academics and their research profiles and areas of expertise
  • Student mentors
  • Other university staff – teaching coaches, counselors…

The records could include availability and preferred method of contact.

Now, I am not sure if the library catalogue is the best place for this connecting of people to information to people to happen. Also, I can hear your comments re: who would maintain the records, how would you assign “subject headings” etc. etc. But the fact is that with my PhD hat on and therefore from a user’s perspective, I think it would be amazing to have that additional service from my library. So when I am stuck with my research method, I can not only access more books and articles to read about it, but also find out there is an academic who is not only an expert in the method but also willing to chat to students every Tuesday, find that there are three current PhD students using the same method who are on campus regularly,  as well as finding a librarian who just wrote a whole LibGide about methodology. This is what it could look like:


This is my first blog post (!) – not counting the one yesterday that just said I am blogging now. Reading through it, I feel that I could spend hours making it sound better, sell the idea better, do more research on it and quote more people that talk about the same or a similar idea more eloquently, BUT this is me, this is a little idea that I have, this is my blog, and I am done with not sharing stuff because I think it’s not perfect.

Thanks for coming here and having a read 🙂



4 thoughts on “Libraries: Connecting the people [to the information] to the people

  1. Cool idea Petra!

  2. There is a tension between various purposes of information about people. At MPOW there are several systems where information about people is managed and sometimes displayed. Different departments have a different purpose – Marketing wants to make it easy for the press to find an expert, Research Office wants this a bit, but has an even bigger picture about research prestige so they have a different audience in mind, but really more of a limited slice of the human pie by focussing only on research, not teaching. Office of Learning and Teaching the focus is on finding who are the expert teachers. Switchboard wants a simple easy way for anyone out there to find the right phone numbers. Individual staff may want/need to be excluded from public listings due to privacy or safety issues. IT & Library want to know which people should be in which groups for authentication purposes, and which services need to be targeted where. So complex in figuring out smart ways to minimise duplication of effort.

    • Thanks so much for commenting on my post, Peta. Another thing I have to learn about blogging, need to take the time to reply to comments 🙂 You are right with everything you say in your comment. Also, I am not sure if the process of finding and then engaging with like-minded people can be encouraged with my idea, or if it’s better to leave it as it is, a rather serendipitous affair…

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