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Josh Boyer
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Hi, I'm Josh Boyer at NC State. I was not at the ACRL panel, so I'm just jumping in out of the blue. Correct me if my comments end up off base. I've spent 12 years now involved in what we used to call "virtual reference" (and now need a better name for). I'm a strong advocate of doing reference in new ways and in reaching students where they are. When we at NC State were able to add text messaging to our suite of services a year ago, I was tickled. The fact that the volume of text messages received by my library is modest, well, that's fine. Services don't have to generate huge numbers to be cool. What confuses me about this debate is that it frames the traditional reference desk vs. all our newer efforts as an either / or choice. It's not. We need some kind of desk or service point, and we need all the new methods Brian champions. Clearly we need to rethink the traditional desk because our desk stats are falling. But while we're talking stats, I'll point out that at my library and many others, the majority of our questions still come to the desk. IM, SMS and other methods get all the attention because they're growing and interesting, but the stats on those methods are still well below the stats of the desk. To watch the growth of new methods and jump to the conclusion that the old method is dead strikes me as wrong. It's like watching the growth of e-books and concluding that we should toss out our print books. It's like the speculation 10 years ago that the internet would destroy books and newspapers, or the speculation long ago that TV would destroy the radio. The older industries had to change (and yes, some of them had to shrink) but they're still around, serving their purposes. So the role of our desks will change and maybe shrink, but they're still useful to us and to our patrons. Right? Cheers, Josh
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Apr 28, 2011