Back in 1986, a librarian named Constance Mellon identified a problem she labeled as “Library Anxiety
”. She noted that college students in particular were prone to being ashamed of their research skills to the point where they didn’t want to ask for help. One can imagine that the rise of the internet did little to alleviate this problem. After all, no one wants to ask a question about something like library anxiety, only to get a link from Let Me Google that For You
as a response.
In order to address library anxiety, Langsdale has been working with students in UB’s Information and Interaction Design, and Integrated Design programs to develop a Check Out a Librarian (COaL) app. This app makes talking with a librarian just as easy as finding a match on Tinder. To begin using COaL you will need to have a profile, but the app makes this easy by automatically pulling in your interests and reading habits from sites like Facebook and Goodreads. Once you have a profile, COaL will show you photos of librarians in your area who share similar reading habits. If you find a librarian that looks relatively unintimidating, just swipe right to indicate your interest. If the librarian swipes right back, the app will help you arrange a meeting with a librarian at a nearby independent bookstore or a café with free wifi.
So far, most the people beta testing the app say that it is really helpful for breaking the ice with librarians. One COaL user (Isobel, age 17) indicated that she may even be able to approach one in the library now. “Librarians are like priests” Isobel said. “You can tell them you want information on just about any subject and they never look at you weird. It’s like a rule or something.” Many of our librarian participants benefit too, realizing that they can be themselves, even when not in a building with the word “library” etched over the entrance. As librarian Jane Jameson put it “You can take the girl out of the library, but you can’t take the neurotic, compulsively curious librarian out of the girl.”
In the future, we hope to expand the beta to more and more cities until it is available worldwide. If you are interested in participating in COal, either as a Librarian or as a Reader, you can sign up here to be notified when it becomes available in your area.