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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Interview with Rebecca Vnuk, New Booklist Editor of Reference and Collection Development

Rebecca Vnuk Rebecca Vnuk, super-librarian, blogger, and friend of RA for All, will be joining Booklist as the new editor of reference and collection management on October 17th.  I am so thrilled that a RA focused librarian is taking over this job that I asked Rebecca if I could interview her about the position and why RA focused librarians need to pay attention.

Before I begin however, I just want to offer the following disclaimer.  Booklist is published by the American Library Association and my book is published by ALA Editions.

Now the interview:

RA for ALL: Your new title is editor for reference and collection management.  With many people declaring the death of traditional reference books in the 21st century, what do you see as your role in the library community?
Rebecca: I'd like to think of myself in this new position as a facilitator between librarians and the publishers.   I have some ideas on how to get more input from front line librarians and collection selectors; I'm hoping that this information will let the publishers get a better feel for what is needed -  how real-world reference interactions work, what librarians need to do their jobs.  In addition, one of the things I'm really excited about and what makes me a great fit for the position is that they’ve really decided to change it up and make it a new position - Collection Management is really going to be a robust new component.  I have strong views on how we deal with collections as a whole - why does nonfiction need to be compartmentalized between reference and general nonfiction.  Patrons surely don't care.  Are we buying reference materials that no one is using, and if so, what’s the real issue – is the material not what our patrons need, or, do they not know it’s available to them? 

RA for All: Can you expand a bit on where you see reference going? 
Rebecca:  I think the death of the traditional reference book just means that the nature of the reference question itself has changed. Let's face it - in your average public library, we just don't see the same type of questions we saw 10, 5, heck, even 3 years ago.  Adults are quite satisfied with Wikipedia or what they can find with a Google search. For them, a "reference" book often just means something that's not a fiction book.  When thinking about traditional reference, it's the students that we need to be capturing, the ones who really need the authoritative sources.  And I mean students in the broadest sense - all ages. 

RA for All: Will Booklist begin reviewing non-subscription based reference sources, websites, and blogs?   
Rebecca:  Yes - Booklist has already begun this, and I can only imagine it's going to be more and more.  In addition, I'd like to start regularly taking a look at various apps that libraries should be using/can recommend to their patrons, and I would love to see us “reviewing” blogs.  (Maybe recommending is the better word there?)

RA for All: How does your experience in Readers' Advisory help you as your approach this new job? 
Rebecca:  Funny you should ask - this was asked during my interview.  My answer was this:  I have a real passion for books, and for knowledge.  In my view, it doesn’t matter where in the collection the material falls, it’s our job to get it in the hands of the patron and fill their needs. The line that used to be “Reference Librarian” on one side and “Readers Advisor” on the other has gotten so blurred, let’s stop pretending it’s there.  The question from the patron really boils down to, “This is what I need, how can you help me?” and it doesn’t really matter if it’s “I need a romance similar to my favorite book” or “I need to get material on learning Spanish” or “I need to know how to care for my mother, she’s ill”.  Our job is to know our collections and to have the correct material available.

RA for All:  I have already profiled the newsletter The Corner Shelf here on RA for All.  One of your new jobs will be to manage this newsletter? What are your plans for its future? 
Rebecca:  I simply loved that Mary Ellen chose to interview 2 prominent Collection Development librarians in the first issue.  My plan is to continue interviewing librarians,in all different types of libraries and capacities, so that we can see what our colleagues across the country are currently dealing with and working on.  What a great “conversation” to have.  In addition, I’d like to use some space in the newsletter to feature selected Q&A from the various webinars we present.  In fact, we have one coming up that I’ll be moderating on October 18th – “What’s New in Reference”.  You can find out more information at http://www.booklistonline.com/webinars 

RA for All:  What will become of your popular blog Shelf Renewal? 
Rebecca: I am going to continue my work on Shelf Renewal, but changes are in the works...stay tuned.

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