Lately I’ve been part of a variety of conversations that, in essence, question the value of participation in all things library 2.0. The talk ranges from “I have no use for 2.0 technologies” to “I have no use for anyone else who does use 2.0 technologies.” While I am a professed technology junky, limited only by hours in the day to try everything I’d like and $$$ in my bank account to buy the toys I’d like, I don’t fit in the category that has no use for anyone who doesn’t share my interests. However, I have serious concerns for those who will not acquire any 2.0 knowledge or skills.
I’ve heard a great many excuses for not developing a 2.0 familiarity: I have no use for a blog; It’s a waste of time; I’m retiring soon; My community doesn’t want a technology centered library; A particular staff member takes care of all the computers; I didn’t become a librarian to run computers; It’s a fad that will go away, just like all the rest of them.
I suggest that there are at least 3 reasons why library information professionals should make the effort and the time to develop familiarity and skills with at least a representative few interactive, communicative technology tools.
- Using 2.0 technologies stretches budget and outreach. Most of the tools are available as open source, free-ware, or at really low cost (you can’t beat $24.95 a year for a Flickr account.) With minimal investment of time reading help screens or using tutorials (especially on WebJunction) or even attending one of our classes and time practicing, a librarian can put together a website or an online newsletter with blog software – and postage cost is $0. Pictures posted on Flickr thrill most everybody – a lot of us still haven’t gotten over the ego trip of seeing our picture published.
- Developing 2.0 tools produces training opportunities and models. I may develop a blog or podcast that is of value to very few if any people. However, in doing so, I’m acquiring skills that I can relate to someone else who has a need to develop that tool. I can also use the tool I created as a model or demonstration project. With some experience, I may adapt the tool in a useful way to promote my library.
- Be in the know. The librarian is the town “smart” person. Where else can the average citizen go to get baffling questions answered — and nothing is more baffling than technology. By positioning oneself as the go-to expert on everything from how to get that picture out of the e-mail to how to understand and even take a look at MySpace, where one’s kid is seemingly spending a lot of time, the librarian can be established as a trusted information source. While working with one of our public libraries on strategic planning, I was impressed by the committee’s sincere desire to endow the library with a goal of being a leader in cutting edge technology.
Last week when I went to the bank on the President’s Day holiday I didn’t expect it to be open, so I had my deposit ready in one of those ATM deposit envelopes. When I drove up to the 55th St NW Wells Fargo, I was pretty surprised to see the drive-up open — 6 stalls worth, all with green open lights inviting customers in. Only a single car was at the window at the far left, by the teller. What was truly amazing was that the far right ATM machine had a waiting line, in which I was number 5.
What does this have to do with libraries? It appears that in banking (and other things), people prefer self-service. As I sat in line, listening to my Sirius tunes, I pondered my first experience with self-service in libraries. While working for the Air Force Library Service in the early 90s, we got a 3M self-check machine. (Never mind that it took a year for all the installation challenges to be worked out.) Our customers would stand in line to use that machine, rather than step over to the circulation desk, even though we had great staff on the desk. Just recently when I was picking up books at my local library in Rochester, I saw the same phenomenon. I think it has to do with that we as a culture aren’t too far from the stubborn toddler mentality that says “I can do it myself.”
So here’s the message. As important as we (the collective voice of the traditional librarian) think we are, as much as we want to disavow the technology that will put control in the customers’ hands, as unimportant as we think unmediated requesting is, as much power as we want to keep in the name of patron service, this is where the public’s mind is at. Preferring to “do it myself” – even if it means spending time in line for the single self-service station.
Who would have thought that the word “scrotum” would cause such lively discussion among librarians, media specialists, the media, some parents, and the biblioblogosphere. In case you’ve missed it, the newly named Newbery Award-winning book by Susan Patron, The Higher Power of Lucky, uses the word on the first page when the book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum. Thus far, there have been praises and challenges for the book nationwide. Fortunately, in Minnesota, we’ve not heard much, although there has been considerable discussion on E-mail lists. The Star Tribune published an article Wednesday, Newbery flap more a ripple with media specialists in state
Media Specialist Tom Ross, Plymouth Middle School in Robbinsdale, wrote an amazing piece in a letter to the MEMOlist (Minnesota Educational Media Organization) about what is truly important to him (and the other wonderful educators I am blessed to work with). I asked his permission to share the piece with my readers, and he said he’s “honored.” Thank you, Tom for these words:
Higher Power of Lucky.
Come on folks… I am not worried about this word. I am worried about my student who attempted suicide twice. I am worried about my student who is falling through the cracks because everybody wants to discipline him, but I think he is so depressed that he will end up like that first student. Everybody is trying to do the right thing, but we are not perfect people. Sometimes we may not cover every child perfectly and yet our heart is breaking over each one. I am worried about the gangs x-ing out each other, I am worried about my principals giving up because they are being worn down by parents who are demanding perfect people handle their children and there are none to be found. I’m worried about my Goth student that thinks that nobody cares about him as a human being and I wonder if he is cutting again. I’m worried about the little girls that come to school with bruises and bumps and social services is working on the problem… but there are not enough of them to cover everybody fast enough… I’m worried about the teachers that are leaving because they can’t handle the disrespect, intensity and pace of their job…Good people who will be lost forever to one of the most important task society has given them. I’m worried that society is abandoning us because they want to pretend the problem is the language in the book and it’s not the kids who are dying. I’m worried about the kids whose mom has 3 part time jobs and no insurance. I’m worried that if one of my students ends up running away, she may end up a street child who will be abused by some evil man for something as fleeting as money. I’m sorry this is a word that just doesn’t worry me. I want my students to live to the next day… That worries me.
Sorry if I have my values misplaced, my heart is breaking for my kids right now.
Plymouth Middle School
Kathy Dempsey, editor in chief of Computers in Libraries posted this to the PR Talk listserv this morning: posted here with Kathy’s permission
. . . when someone wonders why America still bothers with libraries, refer the un– informed person to Bill Gates. you have to admit, he’s one of the country’s richest and, likely, smartest men. so if libraries are useless, why does Gates continue to support them with millions of dollars? if he sees that much value in them, they must be worthwhile, and still necessary, right? especially considering Gates is all about technology! yet he champions libraries and helps bring them up-to-speed technically. therefore they must still be worth using.
Kathy also recommended an article in Educause Review, If the Academic Library Ceased to Exist,Would We Have to Invent It? by Lynn Scott Cochrane, Director of Libraries at Denison University. It could apply to other types of libraries, as well. Ms Cochran relates a fictitious college which quit supporting the collections and staff of the library, and instead gave each student the prorated amount of money spent on their behalf for the library – $1,230. The college did leave the library doors open, without management or staff and only kept a cleaning service.
The article relates how a typical student spent their money and how inadequate other sources of information were, the public library with its typical collection or a nearby academic college which had made a similar decision regarding funding. It reminds me of the disturbing trend I’m seeing in the libraries I serve where funding is cut by cities, counties, boards, administrators, etc. with the rationale that the patron or student can just go use other libraries in the community. Situations like this are really happening — such as the case in Jackson County Oregon, where all 15 libraries are closing at the end of their normal business day on April 6th. See my posting on SELCO Librarian, 10 Reasons for Public Libraries.
It’s really, really cold — and windy makes it worse! When the thermometer hits -20, it’s time to take care of yourself and others. Driving to work this morning, I was thinking of how libraries could serve their communities as a warm spot — things I’ve done or seen.
- Make the door accessable, and the parking lot — including no snow banks to climb over between the parking lot and the library
- Hot drinks — coffee, spiced tea (keep it brewing for a warm welcoming aroma), hot chocolate, hot water and tea bags. How about making it free when the temperature is below 0?
- Stock up on energy assistance information and applications
- Have lots of pre-school storytimes and after-school activities. Help parents get out of the house with their kids
- Make a special invitation to people who work out in the cold to come to the library and provide them with a space to warm up, have a hot drink, or sit down to write reports. Some folks who would appreciate this could be: law enforcement, streets and road workers, meter readers, bus drivers, crossing guards . . .
- Winter reading programs are great. Libraries in our region have “Hot Reads for Cold Nights” programs. Every year has a theme. SELCO produces the promotional artwork and incentives and makes them available at low cost and has a kick-off event. Libraries run varying programs to suit their communities
- Cozy escapist reading
- Recipe books-especially stews and soups
- Craft books
- Travel books about warm weather places-armchair vacation
- Gardening books-plan for spring