Librarians vs. Consumer Reports
Last night we had our third “informal” e-reader program at the Library. About twenty patrons spent time asking questions and examining the six different devices. One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked over the past five months, last night included, is “Which e-reader do you recommend for me to buy.” Each time I tactfully tell the patron that it’s their decision and I am not there to push any particular product. Last night, one man said he’d have to go to Consumer Reports for help since I was unwilling to rank devices. I told him that was a good option, but to remember that they wouldn’t be able to discuss the whole downloading OverDrive books, only compare devices. At that point, he got a bit angry and wanted to know why I wouldn’t help him. It got me thinking about our role in providing information to the public. It seems like those of us who research the e-readers, use them regularly, and know the OverDrive interface, are among the best ones to give recommendations – and yet we either can’t or won’t. How crazy is that?? Rationally, I can say that Consumer Reports reviewers are paid to research and then give written rankings. We’re not. We give unbiased information based on a number of sources and experience. Last night I ended up conducting a mini interview with the “Consumer Reports patron”, leading him through his needs and expectations from an e-reader and then showing him the different devices that might best meet his criteria. Naturally, my personal experience had a part in this discussion. When asked which product I owned, I told him which ones and why I chose them. In the end, I felt like I had favored one brand over another, but our gentleman went away satisfied and not feeling like I was stonewalling him. It is an uncomfortable position for me and one that too many of us face when we give information but not recommendations. On the Reader’s Advisory Desk we give book recommendations based on our expertise. Should it be any different with technology?