Every week I want you to write a 300 word blog posting, basically a journal entry, about what you are feeling about working with technology: what it is like to be trying something new, how technology makes you feel, working as part of a team, not knowing what you should be doing, etc. Do you get the idea? I want you to reflect on all aspects of this experience except the service learning piece. My primary goal, besides having you become more confident bloggers, is to have you develop a better understanding of how library patrons or staff may feel when encountering new technologies.First, working with new technology, I feel a loss of artistic potential and control. When I was in charge of web page design at work in both the public and private sectors, I invested a great deal of time and energy learning how to make web pages appear the way I wanted them to. The places I worked could not afford expensive, powerful software packages (Dreamweaver, etc.), so I mostly hand-coded the websites I created. This allowed for unlimited tinkering to get the page just right, and when I succeeded, I felt a great sense of success and satisfaction. The variety of page design options is endless and inviting, and with just a few lines of CSS code, one can produce amazing results. For an example, check out the CSS Zen Garden: The Beauty in CSS Design. Here, graphic artists create some fantastic web page designs by changing only the cascading style sheets.
Now, I have to start all over again, learning a new technology, and doing it as part of a team. I am nervous about having other people depending on me while I am learning; I am a bit of a perfectionist, and loathe disappointing others. In addition, the artistic potential of this effort seems diminished in some way. It feels like trying to paint a picture with a paintbrush that has a 3-ft. long handle, and multiple people holding on. The result has the potential to be appealing, but I fear it will lack the detail of a landscape painting that I prefer. And using terms such as “mashups” gives no additional reason for optimism.
On the flip side, new technologies such as blogs, wikis, and the like, have the potential to be accessible to more people. The simple interfaces and tools can allow anyone with access to contribute meaningfully to the great “information commons” that the Internet can become. And by taking it under the “wing” of the library profession, we can raise the standard of quality to a level we find acceptable. But libraries are being squeezed between shrinking budgets, and increasing demand for electronic access to services. Despite our best efforts, there continues to be a growing “digital divide” between the “haves” and the “have-nots.” And as current economic policies and practices continue to widen the gap between rich and poor, it will only make things worse. So what do we do? Where does our professional role end, and advocacy begin?
My thanks to Judy Kemp's blog, An Evergreen Tree of Diabolical Knowledge, for this week’s blog idea.