Emerging Technologies Librarian, Andy Burkhardt

burkhardt2I have a new person on my Twitter feed: Andy Burkhardt is the Emerging Technologies Librarian at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. He graduated from the UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies with a Master of Arts degree in Library and Information Studies. His professional interests include exploring new technologies, social media, and finding innovative ways to connect people and information.

He blogs about those things at http://andyburkhardt.com.

1. You are the Emerging Technologies Librarian at Champlain College. Can you explain a little more about your work? Do you enjoy it?

“We have a fairly small staff of librarians at Champlain College, so we all do some of everything. I help out with reference and do a lot of instruction along with the other librarians. I really enjoy the public service side of librarianship. Actually talking with people and being able to see your work making a difference is very rewarding. In addition to the shared tasks, I also concentrate on evaluating and implementing different technologies that could benefit our faculty, staff and students. What this means is that I’m a problem solver and get to play with all sorts of different technologies, with the aim of serving our patrons information needs. I update the website, create video tutorials, design and post to our social networking pages, help faculty and staff understand and utilize web technologies – while trying to stay current on the latest technologies and web trends.

It’s wonderfully exciting work and the atmosphere at Champlain is one of innovation and trying new things. I love the job.”

2. What are your views around using social media to provide library services? How can we select tools effectively based on information needs?

“I think that the second half of that question is the most important. When selecting and implementing tools, we should never concentrate solely on the tool. Just because some technology is really exciting and hot right now does not mean it will necessarily be right for your library. You have to start out with your goals, and ask yourself, “what am I trying to accomplish?” It shouldn’t be, “how can I use this cool new tool in my library?”  So my views on using social media to provide library services are this: if they help you meet your goals then great, let’s use them; if not, let’s find something else. I try to remember that all these things are simply tools, but what we’re really trying to do is connect people and information.”

3. Can you describe a successful project you have undertaken in your library using social media?

“Probably the most successful project using social media that I have been a part of is the use of wikis to create subject guides for the library at Champlain College. This was started before I came on board, but I’ve been integral in their promotion and design. Our subject guides work well on so many levels. First, it’s simple for librarians with little or no HTML knowledge to create their own subject pages. Second, we are co-creating these subject guides, so if one librarian sees a resource that they think should be on another librarian’s page she can easily add it. Third, even faculty have contributed to some of our guides and added their own specific knowledge of the subject. We’re using wikis to create something together which benefits a larger audience, and the guides are highly utilized. It is truly social media at it’s best.”

4. What’s the future of social media, do you think, for librarians and information professionals?

“Well, if our wikis our any indication, the future looks bright. People can create information together, like in the instance of wikis or Google Wave (which I’m really looking forward too). People can also share information and build relationships with others very easily. A tool like Twitter allows professionals like librarians to network and share ideas. I’ve seen it bring librarians together<http://andyburkhardt.com/2009/08/02/librarians-are-social-media-butterflies/> in things like tweetups or conferences Social media makes it easier for people to connect with one another and share information, and that is a big part of what libraries are about. Libraries and social media are a natural pair.”

5. If an MLIS or Master of Archival Studies wants to be an advocate for social media, or work in the area, do you have any suggestions?

“Play. Play around with different social technologies. Keep your eyes and ears open and if you hear of something new try it out. Not all technologies will be for you, but the best way to find out is to try them out. Developing an attitude of play and experimentation is necessary for a successful career working with social media.

Another piece of advice I would give is to remember that different social media technologies are just tools. I talked about this earlier, but when advocating for social media it’s important to stay grounded and remember your goals. Some people aren’t as excited about these tools and letting them know that they’re tools that can help your library can make it easier to get them on board.”

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