Monday, February 06, 2006

Ask a Librarian

Peter Merholz posted some interesting pictures from an exercise redesigning library services.

Ask A Librarian

Peter's main point is that "lexicon shifts to user-centered (not system-centered) language". I agree that this is important, but I want to make three additional points.

First: the service is redesigned from the user's perspective.

Second: the name of the service shifts from the technical infrastructure or platform ("reference desk") to the business resource ("librarian").

Third: the new service seems more welcoming to the user. However, the librarian may feel more exposed to the user - has less rubbish to hide behind. (Fans of the TV comedy "Little Britain" may think of the character whose stock line is "Computer Says No".) The new service is only going to work effectively if the librarian actually has the power (information, tools, autonomy, motivation) to provide a decent response to the user's requests. This is an example of Taking Power to the Edge.

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