Friday, June 25, 2010

G20 reference librarian on duty, online

I am not a reference librarian. I'm a research librarian, and presently I am only half of one of those. So, when a posting came out across the U of A library school listerv looking for volunteers to help with an online reference service for accredited media for the G20 summit, I'm not exactly sure what possessed me to put my name forward. I have since begun to feel nervous about the prospect of having to handle questions from only God knows where and God knows who; however, I'm stuck with the task now, so I'll have to find a way to manage.

Two truths: 1) I put my name forward because lately I've been feeling bad about my lack of volunteer activity*. I used to be a girl guide leader, but stopped that when I went back to school. I'm not inclined to return to this as I'm not a huge fan of the way the girl guide program has gone (i.e. less camping, more focus on trying to be "hip"). I had hoped I might be able to be a Can Skate figure skating coach this season, but at present I don't actually have the qualification for this (hopefully I can fix that over the next year); and 2) I thought it might be good for the CV/networking aspect of my career since the project is headed by the librarians at the University of Waterloo, where at least Andrew would like to work one day. I might too, depending on how things go. I guess actually there are three truths: 3) it also sounded sort of cool in the email.

So what exactly is this gig? Well, as I mentioned above, the UW librarians along with OpenText (another Waterloo company) have put together a forum for attendees and members of the accredited media covering the G8 and G20 summits to go to for assistance on questions related to the summits. Inside the Website are a number of different "rooms," or forums relating to a variety of topics, such as different G-8 and G-20 countries, Climate Change, Financial Regulations, and Global Economy. These areas contain spaces for uploading/downloading documents, and a wiki that users can contribute to. The two most important for me are: Ask Librarian and Library Room. In either of these areas users can pose research questions with which they require help. The hope is that most of the answers should be locatable either through the other G20Net rooms, or government and other official Websites, etc.

The whole idea is meant to be an experiment in social networking and reference services, with a small army of librarians (primarily from UW, U of T and UWO, and 3 additional helping hands from the U of A) ready to take questions from 5:00 am to midnight EST every day. So far things have been pretty quite in the library rooms, which as you might have guessed from my comments above, I'm not too concerned about. I have just started my second out of four shifts and from scrolling through the days events there's been approximately two questions all told. I suppose I don't want the whole of my experience to go by without having to answer a single quiry, but I am presently on duty after 9:00 pm EST, and have to imagine that most people are done for the day in Ontario (both reporters and politicians).

I'll try to remember put up a quick post after my experience is over to comment on how things went.



*I often feel like I should be more socially active, ideally through volunteering with some kind of non-profit organization; however, working standard office hours and having creative writing as a hobby/hopefully one day career make it difficult to scrounge out the extra time do do this.

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