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THE NEW MEDIA CENTER: The NEW Media Specialist

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Jan 1, 2011
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This column’s new title has prompted me to think about the skills that new media specialists need. As I did so, I first listed attributes such as resiliency, flexibility, and adaptability. Nothing new. Then I thought of a seminar I had attended not too long ago, entitled “From Scribes to Printers, to You/Me.”

In the seminar, an English professor taught an entertaining, scholarly, and thought-provoking history of the book. He chronicled its evolution and reactions to its changing formats throughout the centuries, discussing book publishing in three distinct contexts:

The medium: Stone, clay, parchment, paper, disk, etc.

The container: Scroll, book, and HTML

The production/dissemination method: You and me as publishers

He included interesting visuals for emphasis. In one—a video clip on YouTube: “Medieval Helpdesk With English Subtitles”—early scribes are both amazed and afraid when they examine a book, a format different from the manuscripts they were familiar with. They had to turn pages!

He discussed with us how the book continued to evolve right up to the self-publishing and ebook formats flourishing today. I left his seminar excited and comforted. My brain was full of new and interesting ideas about books … and my profession.

Like the book, we media specialists and our media centers are evolving. And like books, some have flourished, while others have not. The past months have not been kind to many media specialists and the profession.

The Evolving Media Center

More recently, I visited a new public library that epitomizes one of the many new ways of thinking about libraries and librarianship. Anythink Wright Farms is a part of the Rangeview Library District in suburban Denver. I first noticed colorful flags in the parking lot that suggest food, places, adventures, and more things to think about. I saw the drive-up book return with a service window. These signaled innovation before I even entered the building and saw the self-serve shelf for holds, multiple self-checkout stations, and “service points” for information guides. Materials on the most popular topics were front and center.

Going further in the room, I saw materials organized with the system’s WordThink Classification system—no Dewey numbers, but instead words and phrasing similar to those used in the book industry. I visited the 7,000 square foot Children’s Experience Area (with areas of play, reading, and watching videos), a huge teen section, a computer lab for classes and quiet work, classrooms, a picnic area, a relaxation area, and meeting rooms.

This new facility was being patronized by individuals and families … on a beautiful fall day! It is clearly patron-friendly and welcoming. Would you like to work there? Job applicants for many positions need not have a library degree; bookstore experience is helpful if you would like to be a concierge, materials dispatcher, wrangler, or sidekick. Wow!

A Skill Set … And Mindset … For New Media Specialists

With that seminar and that library visit in mind, let me return to my library specialists skills list. Here are some attributes and attitudes I think are essential for our profession at this juncture. A new media specialist needs to …


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