Last week on the MacBreak Weekly podcast roundtable members briefly discussed a little-known fact about MacBook USB ports. As I listened I thought to myself, “Oh my gosh, this is why L Lee had audio troubles this the semester.) When I had a chance, I emailed L Lee the information I’d heard on the podcast, and he agreed what they talked about could very well have been the problem.

Thinking about this I realized, once again, how serendipitous information gathering and the exchange of information with others can be. I also realized how important it is, as a librarian, to really listen to what others say so that these opportunities for serendipitous information exchange can actually take place.

Part of the serendipity comes from not focusing too narrowly by only paying attention to the resources and information covered within books, web sites, periodicals, etc. for a specific age group or audience. For example, magazines specifically geared to teens aren’t the only place to find out what teens are interested in. Similarly, library journals specifically geared to youth aren’t the only place to find out what should be in a library collection for teens. Being open to finding information when talking to a friend, when listening to a podcast about technology, when reading a blog about politics, etc. definitely helps in the serendipity of information exchange.

When it comes to listening and serendipitous information exchange, I am reminded of what teens often say when interviewed by students in my library school classes. When the students ask the teens what they look for in a librarian, the answer is almost always something to do with listening. The teens say things like, “We want someone who will really listen to us without judging and without needing to give advice. It’s OK if the librarian lets us know what she thinks, but that should be after we’ve had a chance to say everything we have to say.”

When librarians actually listen to what teens have to say it might mean that the librarian doesn’t say too much during a specific conversation. But, it also means that the librarian can store what the teen says in the back of her mind and then when the librarian uncovers something that relates to the conversation, she can let the teen (or teens) know about it. That after the fact information exchange demonstrates true listening and also demonstrates that the librarian thinks about teen needs even when a specific teen (or group of teens) isn’t around.

I find that serendipitous information exchange is pretty exciting. Locating resource unexpectedly that will be useful to someone always fun. And, teens are always appreciative of the after-the-fact support.

Let us know in the comments if you have any favorite tools for serendipitous information exchange.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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