Can anyone tell on what this librarian is perched?
Let’s face it. Many of us have been using blogs in libraries by now. Getting a bit bored with it? Read on.
I recently put up a wiki as a knowledge exchange for one of the Virtual Reference projects with which we’re invloved. Knowing that it was quite easy for me to throw up on the web (nice mental picture, that phrase) and that it is certainly easy to update, the head of Adult Services asked if there were any uses for wikis on our website. His initial thought was that it could be used for some sort of patron book review portion for the site. I was impressed with the forward thinking quesiton.
The ease at which wikis can be altered makes them not the ideal technology for public use, I think, but there must be some libraries, or at least one, that are using a wiki in some capacity. If our staff blog wasn’t as popular as it is, a wiki would be an interesting choice. Rick and I agreed that throwing technolgy at problems that aren’t there often leads to the creation of problems, but it is a good thing to ruminate about how technologies might be applied.
So please email me if you are using a wiki in some library capacity. I’d show you the one for the VR project, but then I’d have to kill you. 😉
The local paper ran a page 3 article on library technologies today, and we were heavily featured. The focus of the article was ‘libraries are hip and tech savvy’ and illustrated how we’re using technology to make libraries convenient. During the interview I gave the reporter our AIM name, hoping to solicit some response but it was not included. I was looking forward to seeing if we got a deluge of IMs had it been in there.
While I appreciate the article and think it is good, it does present a false dichotomy between books and technology. Budgets are tight and choices have to be made, but just because a library chooses to implement a wireless network doesn’t mean that they don’t value books.
We’re lucky to get what I think is a decent amount of coverage in the two local papers. Make friends with some reporters; they can provide effective and free marketing.
this boy is having more fun than I am in the library today. spring fever is rough.
This just in from Michael Stephens:
SEXY! Technology Planning & Techno Lust
Do you have any experiences with planning for technology in your libraries? Writing the big technology plan? How about issues of “technolust?” I’m writng an article and need some input. You can be anonymous if you choose! Email me at mstephens7 (at) mac.com.
Yesterday’s Odyssey on Chicago Public Radio was about the politics of popular culture. While I didn’t necessarily agree with the conclusions drawn by the show’s guests, they did do a fine job of mentioning a mid 20th century debate in political philosophy. Two thinkers, Benjamin and Adorno, took opposing views on pop culture. Benjamin saw it as a (potentially and in many cases actually) liberating and progressive force. For instance, he liked the idea of movie theaters because the masses and culturally elite could convene and enjoy themselves together. His essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is worth a read and has much to say, as you may be able to guess by the title, about current issues surrounding P2P file sharing, copyright, and creativity. More on that later.
While Benjamin realized that Hollywood (or Nazi propagandists) weren’t progressive or liberating forces, he still understood pop culture and the means by which it is produced to be good things. Adorno, though, loathed the entirity of pop culture, mainly because of the mechanisms of induction found in television and movies.
Anywho, you’re expecting to read about libraries, technology, and library users, but I think that this stuff is germane. Very similar things have been said about computer and web technologies. You know, some think it is bad for us humans, others see it as a democratizing force. Although I agree with Adorno more on the pop culture issue, I take a Benjamin-esque stance on technology. I think that these technologies are potentially (and in many cases actually) liberating things. And it so happens that some libraries are a great example of this. When we use an online database to find an article for a student, we’re using the web (and technological means of reproduction) in a positive way. When we make it simple for students to tap into the library on their own and get the article, we’re using the web in a very positive way. Why aren’t more public libraries doing this? It has become unsurprising, and saddeneing when I’m at a library’s website and they’re don’t offer a high degree of remote connectivity. Clearly this is due to financial, technological and time constraints in many cases, but not all of the time. Benjamin uses the term “aura” in his essay to talk about art, but it is useful in explaining why libraries are perhaps afraid of exploiting the web for all that it can do.
Let’s take a step back and hash out some of this aesthetic theory. Before things could be reproduced easily, pieces of art functioned as authoratative things. High Art was mysterious, and understanding of it came from contact with this aura. He thought that new forms of art, like photography and film, were interesting because there is no original physical piece of art, only copies. Mechanical reproduction made art available to everyone, conversations could be had, and people could derive their own meanings from the art. No more authority, no more aura.
Benjamin states that the desctruction of aura, “is a symptomatic process whose significance points beyond the realm of art.” Certainly it points to libraries and information. Historically libraries have been the keepers of information and in a certain sense, we were the Information Authorities. Technological reproduction, though has changed the public’s perception of this and it makes libraries nervous. By not guiding their patrons though the web as they should be, perhaps libraries are grasping on to the last bits of aura they feel they, or their buildings, have. This is short sighted, and confused because the authority of the library has little to do with its physical space. Does it matter if users access the library while in their skivvies at home? I’d much rather have people use the library from their homes, or mobile devices than have them use a search engine and still not visit the library building. Through actions like providing remote access of online resources, libraries provide more resources to more people while dispelling the myth of the authority of the library’s space.
Food for thought.
I’m teaching the reference course in the local LTA program this quarter. In our discussion today a student said that she was surprised about some of the questions that reference librarians receive, and asked if many patrons are too demanding. I mentioned that different libraries have different policies which indicate how far a librarian is to go in answering a question, etc… and that I probably would have answered the particular question in question.
It was later that I thought of something else I might have mentioned. It really isn’t the question of what information we’re giving patrons that should be concerning us, but rather how we are giving it to them. Obviously we need to be providing them with quality information, but if we’re not giving it to them in formats they want, or will be wanting, they might forget about us.
“Keeping your Computer Clean” was the title of a class I held at the library tonight. Interestingly enough, many of my patrons came even though they thought their computers were doing “okay.” However, I made sure they left with the fear of God put into them. While I didn’t feel comfortable making a direct recommendation about any tools, I did show them what I use at the library for the staff computers.
I run these computers through a gauntlet of Spybot, SpySweeper, and AdAware. Pretty typical for computer types, but only one of them had heard of any of these. I also mentioned ZoneAlarm, TrojanScan.com, and the security check on Symantec’s site. Also I made sure they knew how to clear out the cookies and cache from their browsers.
If you’re in the position, hold such a class. Their heads were spinning, but they loved it.