tech.

The How to Lose Your Techie Librarians memes have gotten a lot more traction than people talking about Library 2.0, mainly because we don’t have to discuss whether techie librarians exist or not. They do, we do, and we’re all over the place. There are also computers all over the place which in my neck of the woods has more to do with the Gates Foundation and less to do with technology advocacy. Is it a surprise that people who use technology enough to become bloggers are also technology advocates? I’ve been reading some thought provoking pieces over the past few days which I’ll list here

  • Rory has been keeping up with his blog and wrote a long piece about technology advocacy and his ideas about technophilia. While I think his tone verges on the negative, which often happens when people talk about things they don’t like about “bloggers” without addressing one person or idea directly, I think I can still extract what he’s getting at. I also question his listing of the presumptions of what he perceives to be the tech advocates. While he is comfortable calling people’s ideas and assumptions “irrational” because they aren’t supported by research, he is also dismissive of people’s conclusions on topics that are well-researched, such as the tech savviness of newer younger library users, making his assumptions seem equally irrational. I’m always sorry when people feel that any group of people to which I belong feels exclusionary to them because I aim towards openness generally and because I know it can feel bad to be left out. On the other hand, I don’t feel that tossing around words like “perverse” is a good way to get a dialogue started, it sounds too much like choosing sides. On the other other hand, I have known Rory for a while and know that he’s no luddite, he’s just more on the cautionary side of technology adoption and advocacy than, say, I am. I think we’re both pretty skeptical of gadgets, bad technology for sale by bad companies, and the hype and boosterism involved in the marketplace generally, we just express it differently. Read what he says and think about it. You don’t have to agree to get good ideas from it.
  • This prompted a response and a longer response with a lengthy follow-up comment over at …the thoughts are broken… with even more food for thought and rundown of the ideas involved from another biblioblogger and library student who doesn’t always feel quite in the loop.
  • Contrast this with super-techie Karen Coombs talking about new-fangled AJAX and how and why it does what it does. This is in response somewhat to Walt’s post making a flip reference to “all the cool people” being seemingly dismissive about usability at Computers in Libraries. Walt asks, Karen answers, people learn. Good.
  • Last in the list is an essay from Rick Anderson that is part of a chapter he wrote for Attracting, Educating and Serving Remote Users Through the Web: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians where he discusses some very real truths about the world we find outselves in, as information professionals. I specifically found this line interesting “[I]n fact, what we are seeing is the end of a world – a world in which information is mostly published and distributed in print formats. That world is gone. We are not talking about a change that is going to happen someday or that is just starting to happen – the revolution is over, and online has won.” Now if you read the rest of the essay, he’s not some zealot telling us to replace our OPAC with Google, he’s just talking about risk, and the way that electronic information is different from print, and the way mastery of both is important, but different. I like this essay.

Now from my perspective, as much as I love my technophile friends, it’s the people who are in the first stages of coming in to the profession (Rory and I are both at about the ten year mark I think) whose perspectives on technology I’m curious about. I’ve said before, I grew up with technology, my father had a job with the word “technologist” in the title and to me computers are like video games, big fun problems to solve. When I work with librarians in this region, a less wired area, I complement [and compliment] the library staff. I do not tell them that “I am the future” or that they should all get ipods, though when they tell me that they hear that MySpace is where all the sexual predators hang out, I try to tell them what I know. When they think about getting their catalog online, I try to help them choose a sensible way to do it. My feeling is that technology will continue to be a growing part of libraries now and in the future and we can either choose to learn the technology ourselves, or get it sold [or given] to us by people who may not have our best interests at heart. I think we ignore technology at our own peril.

I teach email to old people, I teach technology to librarians, and I co-manage an online community of 30,000 people. I think we need to use technology sensibly, purchase technology sensibly, and encourage people to talk about technology so that it doesn’t become some oogyboogy topic like sex or religion that people feel that everyone else has already made up their mind on.

7 Responses to “tech.”

  1. ivan Says:

    i’m completing my first year in library school. “to me computers are like video games, big fun problems to solve”, this resonates with me. i’m a techie. i’m interested in converting local catalogs into knowledge bases. nice tip on the Anderson essay.

  2. mo Says:

    i love tech too, but occasionally need to remind myself…just because we can automate something does not mean we should

  3. Michael Golrick Says:

    Jessamyn, one of the things that I love about you is that you understand that technology is only a tool, but that you really do know the technology. I love that you see part of your role as de-mystifying it, and helping real people to include it in their lives.

    Now, you must realize that I am writing this under techno-stress. At work, I am in the process of changing laptops. So, my old and new laptops are “at the shop” getting data moved from one to another (I guess it takes time to move 35 gig of data), and I am on a borrowed machine.

    Thanks for your wonderful common sense!

  4. Anna Says:

    Well said! Rick Anderson is forward-thinking, but cautionary, so I’m not surprised that you like his writings.

    +15 oogyboogy

  5. Mark Says:

    Thanks Jessamyn! Nice post and you did a wonderful job of pointing out that it didn’t seem as if Rory was really trying to start a dialogue. I could have addressed that better, but I think that was what I was trying to do by asking him to “sit at the table and join the discussion.”

    The reason I respect Rory has nothing to do his with politics, but with his more philosophical-historial-sociological writings on technology and other related library topics. I was probably a bit over the top using “fanboy,” and honestly I have absolutely no pop culture cred to use it. But I was trying to encourage him to join “us” and not sit in the corner shooting spitballs.

    Whether or not I always agree with him, and I don’t, I have sincerely missed his voice while Library Juice was “off the air.” I don’t want to see him disappear again.

    And I’d like to second Michael Golrick’s comments! And in case you missed it in my 1st post that you linked to, or if I haven’t said it before, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” Yours is the 1st blog I ever started reading, and discovering your voice is truly one of the reasons I finally made it into library school. I was seriously on the verge on giving it all up; now I graduate on Mother’s Day this year! Incredible when I think about it.

    So, thank you Jessamyn, for all that you do in the world, but especiallly for (re)convincing me that there is a way to be a librarian and a decent, engaged human being, all at the same time.

  6. VALIS » Blog Archive » Search and more: MSN customised search, Ask.com, Rollyo etc Says:

    [...] There’s also been talk about the relaunched Ask.com, with some commentators (e.g. the  Wall Street Journal) praising the new interface and claiming it has better results than Ask Jeeves did. The Slashdot crowd aren’t so impressed. I thought even the old Ask Jeeves performed better than people gave it credit for – back at school I compared it with Yahoo and Google in a small trial, and found it roughly tied Google for quality of results. I’d expected it to be a distant third. Meredith Farkas writes about times when searching the free web can be better than searching academic reference sources. [...]

  7. Michael Dunne » Blog Archive » Am I a Techie? Says:

    [...] Following a pointer over at Librarian.net I read an interesting post by Rory Litwin called Questioning the Techie Mission. It’s quite a long, thoughtful, post about the role played by library bloggers (who are by definition ‘techie librarians’) in forwarding a technical agenda in libraries, and he says: Most library bloggers, it seems to me, are advocates of technology in libraries, and often practically missionaries. [...]