Our patrons are not homogenous. It would be much easier if they were. Since they don't agree on everything, the "experts" at the public library step in to help out....
So, how was life at the 3rd largest library in the state?
- management - treats technology as just another resource like books or CDs
doesn't know what a browser is
- staff - alternately critical and uncritically accepting
lead tours bemoaning lack of computer use for research
- patrons - alternately confused/needy and demanding [stupid?]
the more they use tech the more they hate our OPAC
- community - could look to library as a leader, but do they?
DoL anecdote "we have to be mechanics, it's gone from toilets to computers"
Who do we have for leaders? DoL, Microsoft, local wifi initiatives, education folks?
80% of everything works perfectly and 20% doesn't.
Do you focus on the 80, or the 20? People need to do both, but someone
needs to fix what's broken.
I work with and for the public. I can use public resources to address various sociopolitical concerns, if I decide to. Such as...
- homelessness - library cards for the homeless, safe places to congregate during the day, public restrooms
- unemployment - resume writing books and software, certification tests in online databases, access to daily papers for classified ads
- poverty - limits to fee-based services, equality of access, free programming, free ILL services
- the digital divide - email and technology classes, public computing facilities, free books about technology
What about less obvious, or more nuanced examples? it's all about choices, and choosing FOR one thing often means choosing AGAINST something else.... like the internet being the world's biggest library.... overt rules and decisions often create unforseen and unintended consequences. I'll talk about a few of them
- Hot Tech vs Cold Tech
- DRM - Do you own your ebook? What DO you own? What have you agreed to? [do you own the ability to read it out loud, to sell it, to change the format?]
["follow the money" example: post 9/11 homeland security, you have technology and you have aggressive marketing of technology]
Watch what the vendor says & know what to ask them. professional ethics, you have divergent goals
what can you do? careful planning, current awareness of new technologies & NETWORKING to see what your colleagues are dealing with. Learn the vocab so you can speak effectively to vendors: XML, blogs, RSS, APIs, &c.
- Money spent on any subscription services is money not available in the budget anually - upgrade costs are often a big unknown
- Operating system lock-in. Did you choose your OS? Are you aware of any security holes it might have, and the ways to prevent their exploitation? viruses are mostly Windows viruses
- Staff who do not understand technology make bad technological decisions. Purchasing technology is NOT the same as purchasing books, DVDs or office furniture.
what can you do? technology planning
will ease the pain, all time spent at home reading Slashdot
is now "research", know that there will always be some bugs
. Learn about Open Source
and good alternatives
to expensive applications.
- "chilling effects" of over-self-policing
- passing on misunderstandings to a whole new generation of confused people
- Digital Rights Management may not be based on law, people are basing policy on legislation in some cases not even passed [fair use may allow for copying, for example in certain contexts - government policy policy vs corporate policy]
what can you do? how comfortable are you being a test case?
CreativeCommons, stay informed [ALIA example
] and inform others, a pro-active response beats waiting for the knock on the door. Learn about Open Access
models like PLoS
- Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America's Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes by Robert Wachter [review]
Why Things Bite Back: technology and the revenge of unintended consequences by Edward Tenner [review]
- How Things Don't Work by Victor Papanek [review]
Jessamyn West is the editor of the weblog librarian.net
and the co-editor of Revolting Librarians Redux
. Her latest writing about technology appears in the Vermont Library Association newsletter. IM her at iamthebestartist
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