Reply To: Trend Reflection – Virtual Reference

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Hi Chris, I have to admit to feeling a little alarmed by the thought of wholly digital libraries. For me the library is much more than a place (physical or virtual) to get the answer to a question and I think, reading your reflection that that’s how you feel too – ‘helping people’ and ‘discussing research issues’ seems to me to comprise more than a mere exchange of information. For example, I love the smell of books and wandering through the shelves surrounded by knowledge and literary charcters seething within the book jackets. Of course there is a place for technology and the speed and cost effectiveness that it can bring, as you rightly point out, and as Stacey mentioned some libraries are becoming completely digital. I think it’s the sometimes intangible human element in face-to-face conversation that adds value to transactions, particularly when issues are complex or uncertain.

A friend recently grabbed my arms when I was ranting about some outrage and, laughing, asked me to explain it to her without waving my hands about. I had to admit it was much more difficult 🙂 I think it would be a substantial loss to lose the face-to-face reference transaction altogether.

Thanks for your interesting point of view, it’s good to prompt thinking about the things we value.