Thursday, 8 March 2012

Library Tours

As the year turns again towards Spring and I once again offer my apologies for the blogging pause, I've been thinking about library tours. There's been a lot of talk lately about library tours. Who do we give them to? How do we do them? And what do people think about them?

This is the library in which I work. A few weeks ago, I gave a library tour to a group of library and information professionals from across the East of England. I organised a day of tours and visits which included a college library with special collections, a busy faculty library, and a different type of academic library service. The aim was to give people outside the Cambridge academic sector the opportunity to see how things work and how different the different types of libraries really are. They serve different resource needs. The aim was fulfilled as participants came from Norfolk and Bedford and several different sectors were represented.

Organising the day was quite a lot of work. I prepared packs including maps on how to find the different libraries, I thought very hard about what I wanted to show and tell, and I collated feedback from participants to evaluate the event. Yet the whole experience of event management was a real development opportunity for me and my tour participants gained a lot from seeing other libraries and other ways of running services.

I think this is the key: library tours given by information pros to information pros need to be different to other types of library tour. We all work with information - we know how Boolean works! We might have a deeper interest in a library's in-house classification scheme than the average student. We might care about which Library Management System is used or how the use of ebooks is affecting print loans. We need to tailor our tours. And whilst it's true that it can become a lot of work for the tour-giver, giving a tour to fellow professionals taught me a lot about confidence and dealing with difficult questions!

So today we have another tour organised for our colleagues within the libraries of Cambridge's Colleges. I'm also giving a tour to some tweeple later on in March. By giving tours, we can reflect and muse on our policies and procedures as we explain them to others. It helps to keep us fresh and our services as relevant to our users as they can be. And giving reciprocal tours to colleagues across the profession is a great way to engage in CPD during economically challenging times! 


LibRhi said...

Great points here, Lottie. I think tailoring tours to the audience helps to make it a more useful experience for them. I have been giving library tours to university students, researchers and staff, and like it when I have a small group so can tailor it slightly to what people in that particular group needs to know or include examples from relevant subject areas. I’ve never given a tour to information professionals, but it sounds like it has been a great experience for you.

I totally agree that giving tours makes us reflect on library policies and services. I also find that preparing for tours helps me to keep up to date with what’s going in other parts of the library and I sometimes learn new things if people ask questions that I don’t immediately know the answer to and have to go and find out!

LottieMSmith said...

Thanks for your comment! Yes I totally agree with you, giving tours helps me stay fresh and helps others.