An article on information literacy in the norwegian science library blog ERR-BE made me think about how library workers and users percieve the information rich environment in a library or a library web-site with links to databases and services. The image of fish and divers came to me this morning.
How does fish percieve the sea? They probably do not think much about water and the sea as such, they are a part of it and lives in it with insight and understanding of the rules and forces governing their environment, much like librarians percieve information and the library.
Divers on the other hand are strangers in the sea. They need help to negotiate it, breathing apparatus (or just holding their breath for shorter stays), mask, protection etc. They are out of their normal environment, clumsy and bevildered by all the new impressions that are assaulting their senses. After a while, or with frequent dives, many divers become proficient in the sea and might even master it to such a degree that they are not far from the fish experience.
Just like library users. To a new library user the library is a bevildering environment, they have difficulty navigating the physical library to find what they desire, they admire the librarians for their seemingly effortless use and mastery of this very complex environment. After a while many library users will become proficient in how to use the library to satisfy their needs, but without a full understanding of the underlying forces and rules that govern the library.
So to better the experience of users, we need to think more like divers and less like fish:-)