The morning of Friday the 13th of November saw the Ask Scotland Development day at the Mitchell library. The day was a chance to outline the overall strategy of implementing the service and was also an opportunity for the first group of librarians involved in Ask Scotland to ask questions about it and give their own thoughts.
Elaine Fulton, Director of SLIC, started the day with a brief introduction to the day and the ideas behind Ask Scotland. Library services need to do more to keep themselves relevant in an age where increasingly the perception is that the first place to gather information is Google and Wikipedia. Library services need to align themselves more closely with the needs of a generation that tends to expect to receive information immediately and also not to discriminate between formats.
This introduced Senior Information Officer, Gillian Hanlon’s, presentation about the Ask Scotland service. Developments in the web (commonly described as “web 2.0”) allow people to access and discuss information in a variety of ways. People can share information via social networks or even contribute to the knowledge held online via a variety of services such as wikipedia or youtube. Furthermore this desire amongst people to contribute as well as consume can lead to the development of other services, such as the free to use Ask A Citizen service which allows volunteers to answer questions about their country.
This, to detractors, would seem to make libraries an anachronism. However, library services have much to offer to web users that goes beyond what they can find when making searches at online repositories or via online search engines. Scottish library services have much to offer even now; as a community they have great reserves of professional knowledge and also a great deal of esoteric knowledge which is less likely to turn up easily in a Google search.
Many people have an interest in, for example, genealogy or local history. Queries about these topics are where local library services can shine. Indeed, when it came to discussing the kinds of question that are frequently received at reference desks it seems clear that these kinds of query are frequently received by reference librarians. When one considers both those that have moved within Scotland and the wider Scottish diaspora, it would seem that the ability for anybody anywhere to make enquiries on Scottish matters is a positive step for Scottish libraries.
After the presentations the day moved on to a discussion amongst those that are already making use of Ask Scotland and what they have found so far and what they’d hope to see. Also considered were future developments of Ask Scotland (including frequently asked questions, how this can feed into ongoing digitisation projects, and the implementation of new services, such as online chat.)
Overall the day was a positive one and we hope to see Ask Scotland go from strength to strength! Thoughts or questions about the service and any ideas for improving it are always welcome, too.