Monday, May 20, 2013

Technology & Libraries: Don’t Get Your Panties in a Bunch!

Dear Libraries:

You’re doing a great job! You provide free entertainment in many forms: books, movies, music, apps, ebooks. You provide interesting programming for a wide range of interests and age groups. You provide a quiet place to study, read, catch up on email, social network. You host exhibits of artwork and you host guest lecturers and author visits. You do all these things, so why are you so worried about yourself? Why the constant anxiety about keeping up with technology and maintaining relevancy?

            This is the letter I would write and send to public libraries across the U.S. But would they listen? Would they actually read it and pay heed? Be comforted by an insider’ perspective? Maybe not.
            I am a librarian who’s worked at my job for almost five years. It was a career change for me. I went to library school in my mid-forties, and contrary to the stereotype of the older librarian, I love technology. I went from using partially computerized typewriters to MS-DOS to windows driven platforms. I’ve seen the changes and I look forward to more changes, but since I am in that older librarian age bracket, I am not over-awed by technology. I’ve used whatever tools were available whenever they were available, and I will continue to do so. Will I ever be able to know them all? Impossible. Because of my attitude towards these tools though, I’m not intimidated by them.

            For tools they are and will remain. Libraries have, “given the customer what they want,” for decades. We will continue to do so where budgets allow. But let’s not get our panties in a bunch. Let’s not become so anxious with keeping up that we lose our focus. We are a service organization providing one-to-one personal service as well as all the wonderful things I’ve stated in my open letter to libraries. That one-to-one personal service is what people continue to visit libraries for, and I think for most librarians, that is one of the biggest perks of the job. Building relationships with people is what’s behind all the “things” libraries provide for free. Let’s not forget that, Public Libraries!