Bibblan svarar– ett tecken i tiden : En virtuell referenstjänst ur ett postmodernt perspektiv
The aim of this master’s thesis is to examine the virtual reference service Ask the Library [Bibblan svarar] from a postmodern perspective. Ask the Library is a Swedish online reference service that is run by the country’s public libraries. The postmodern theories of Jean-François Lyotard are used to study how information is managed and transmitted within the service. From this point-of-view three aspects of the reference service are studied; how the information is affected by the virtual environment, the librarian’s role within the service and finally how the content of the service is managed. The methods for extracting data are a blend of qualitative interviews and online observations. The data is then analyzed from a theoretical viewpoint.
The result shows that there are several postmodern tendencies in Ask the Library. Namely the service shows a number of indications toward plurality. This can be related to Lyotard’s theory of the downfall of the grand narratives since postmodern theories celebrate the idea of plurality and diversity. Ask the Library is complex and dynamic in the sense that it adapts its services to the users. In addition to a multilingual service, Ask the Library also offers the users reference help in the form of social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. This makes the service more varied but also deeply complex. The reference service also emphasizes on the librarian’s individual competence and promotes personal knowledge and expertise. In Lyotard’s postmodern theories there is a rejection of absolute and objective truths and this falls in line with the subjectivity that the reference service celebrates. Ask the Library has two different agendas; providing qualitative reference service to the users and also promoting the librarians and their skills. The information, or content, in the service is still organized and under examination by the librarians. Critique of the sources is an important skill for a librarian within Ask the Library to have. These traditional ideas of objective truth are balanced with the new virtual environment that often promotes collective construction of information and knowledge.
This study is a two years master’s thesis in the academic field library and information science.
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