Aug 4, 2009

Old tech librarians are not complaining, just saying the future will be “a lot more crazy change.”


When researching this blog, drinking a cup of coffee, I assumed I would find happy Web 2.0 advocates (and excited librarians for Web 3.0) proudly discussing new trends in the field of library and information science. While one may find an uncommon, optimistic librarian, like this very optimistic teacher hilariously touting “digital citizenship,” this is not always the case. The professionals are not completely pessimistic but many question their identities as librarians and feel ALA has lost its verve a long time ago. Blogs written by professionals in the field joke about technology and some write objectively about new advancements. Whether it is tongue in cheek, or written in nebulous prose, an RSS feed of good blogs give a decent feel for the current pulse. Thinking intuitively as I read blog posts, I sense librarians blasé about the newest trends, even to the point of mocking librarians who seem to spend their hard earned MLIS degrees serving adolescent teens wanting to get on Second Life (an online simulated world like The Sims) or acquiring a trendy gaming system at their local library rather than true grit research or simply finding information for their homework. Consider the Annoyed Librarian’s humorous quips. She or he is one of the tech bloggers I am talking about: seriously knowledgeable about trends but seriously opinionated about it too! S/he has a spoof virtual reference desk called Library Five-O to share with the world: to search the library’s OPAC go to Amazon; If you need a reference question answered, go to Google; if you want to consult an encyclopedia go to Wikipedia; Need storytime for the kids? Go to Youtube!
Librarians are in a predicament because on the one hand, librarianship is a civic idea, designed to simply provide information no matter how glitzy. Librarians are somehow also supposed to package technological finds in attractive ribbons to make it more palpable to the masses. He uses a marketing strategy from Trent Reznor (of Metallica fame). Reznor apparently draws consumers by throwing thumb drives to fans replete with songs and allowing free downloading of podcasts on the Metallica web site. Should the technological librarian do the same and follow the “Trent Reznor Experience?” Is it true the technological library ought to be built according to the equation CwC + Rtb = a dynamic library. Where CwC is “connect with community” and RtU is “reason to use.”
It seems to me tech does not necessitate community. Community has to pre-suppose tech. If there is initially no community then technology will not work -- or worse. create a false community. Although, I don't agree with everything he said. a prelate from Britain talks about the dangers of pseudo-communities on the internet. Although I do not agree that facebook and myspace lead children to commit suicide. But. I am not going to get into that here. Back to libraries.
The disconnect between librarian’s professional identities and community needs is widening. It is no wonder there is a common collective exasperation in the professional library world when it comes to advances in technology. The pioneers of information technology reminisce about their first foray into the technological world of librarianship when computers first became standard in local public libraries and schools. Now that most libraries have computer labs and most librarians are expected to have some kind of computer skill, the once optimistic and forward-thinking attitudes librarians dreamed of has become a reality. But, with more advances, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to integrate new trends without a full time systems librarian on hand. Not all librarians are systems librarians, but because librarianship has become so permeated by technology, every librarian has to have not only working knowledge of the principles of librarianship, or even working knowledge of information literacy, BUT working knowledge of how to use and implement information technologies. Librarians are becoming exasperated because librarianship has become ipso facto systems work. It is no longer feasible to be purely analog these days; a librarian has to not only be able to evaluate an HTML page but also create one.
Also, librarians are not necessarily happy about new technological advances. Some are nostalgic for the old days of technology when things were simpler! Stephen’s Lighthouse has on his blog a link to a Wired magazine article about “100 technological advances our kids do not know about” And another link to “50 gadgets from the past”! Sadly, VHS players and stamp vending machines are now as nostalgic as juke boxes and BETA. I hate bloggers who bemoan the imminent loss of LCD displays, music CDs, Anti-Virus software and stamp vending machines. But, thankfully, one techie admonishes her readers that obsolescence is necessary for innovation (sorry, if you can find the origin of this phrase I will kiss your left nut).

But, anyway, what do you do with those people who just won’t give up their tried and true, who stick to the obsolete? Fire them? And even the most dogged among us still want our traditions. We have reached the point in information technology when we can be nostalgic. With librarians chucking their VHS tapes for DVDs some wonder when they will have to yet again overhaul the collection for the newest digital format. And god bless the library who invested in Beta or Super 8 tracks! The ephemeral nature of free Web 2.0 products and services that libraries often utilize sometimes fail. If a web 2.0 company busts, then all the work and content is lost related to the service. One example is Mag.nolia, a popular social bookmarking web site that folded recently (thanks information wants to be free!). Once a library adopts a free service (like Wet Paint or even Google Docs) the work load is sometimes doubled especially when a new version comes out that negates previous work or newer operating systems cannot read older files.

Then there is the talk about the future of technology that is more speculation than actual hard technology. Mash-up is the new way of talking about technology. All one has to do is imagine what the future of the book will be like, as in a mash-up of a future e-book reader in this youtube video. The utopian world of book size screens that act as iPhones; the ability to flick through pages with the flick of tap; the ability to scan a book at the bookstore and have it sent to your e-reader; super thin e-readers that allow you to zoom; edit content; add notes with a stylus and more are all utopian ideas librarians talk about but no on really believes these new technologies will not come without a price.


But before we get to the utopia librarians dream some librarians think up I think we need to get people to do a simple, effective Google search. We have a long way to go before technology utopia. I mean, come on, let us be caustic: most folk don't know fuck. It is so fail. Sorry. I mean, it is not always people: the internet is fail. For the most advanced among us, the ostensibly easy "task" is fricking difficult. I want library 3.0. Sure. But, something's has to happen. Get rid of proprietary bullshit and let the memes run the show.

Peace


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