Tuesday, December 04, 2007
Throw a Drowning Librarian a … Brick?
I just finished reading “Consuming Information” by Brett Bonfield on LibraryJournal.com, and this blog’s title accurately describes my emotional response. I entered graduate school with good skills in web page development, strong abilities in computer software and hardware, and an eager willingness to learn about the latest advances. As the semester ends and as I work to complete numerous projects and assignments, I’ve been feeling pretty successful at riding the technological wave on the ocean of Library and Information Science, and far from drowning. Mr. Bonfield’s list of twelve steps to better information management, while meant as resource-for-choosing-resources, is simply too long for most librarians to complete amidst all other work-related tasks. The advice makes rational sense, but how many of us need one more reason to spend scarce “off-duty” time being better prepared when we go back “on-duty?” And the list of 42 links to web sites relevant to his topic, while helpful, feels like added weight to the workload I’m already carrying. To top it all off, Mr. Bonfield uses an analysis of “Second Life” as an example of a three-step strategy for “staying informed.” Like the information above, it is valuable and informative, but combined into one article it can have the cumulative effect of a certain iceberg on a certain cruise ship. Don’t get me wrong: I plan to test his ideas to see if they really work. But their value rests on some assumptions that bear closer examination.
First, while emphasizing the low-cost or free nature of these resources, using them is dependent on having newer computers and quality data connections. Both are more likely for libraries with greater funding in large, metropolitan areas. And, both are more likely for higher-paid library staff than for new and/or lower-level staff. I live in a semi-rural area, and pay twice as much for a broadband connection as my peers living in larger cities. In some places in the US, dial-up is still the only option available!
Second, suggestions like “check out podcasts and vlogs,” and “become a Firefox hacker” assume that librarians have spare time at work to learn some programming, and would enjoy doing so. Nothing could be further from the truth for many of my classmates. And for them, a suggestion that “IM saves time” translates into “yet one more thing I have to keep track of.” Even Meredith Farkas admits in a recent blog entry, “Must admit, being out of the loop for a week was nice” after spending time in Florida. Our daily lives are already tethered to cell phones, voicemail, email, and the like, both at home and at work. Now I should add IM to the mix??!!
When I think of a library-school peer who was nearly brought to tears because of the frustrations of trying to make even the best technology in a thoroughly modern computer lab work for her, I just have to ask, “Is technology working for the librarian, or is the librarian working for technology?”