The challenges related to technology which were identified in Michael’s white paper “The Hyperlinked Library” felt very familiar. Having worked with technology for a very long time I’ve sometimes felt these myself and have helped others overcome these challenges. Techno-hesitation is particularly vexatious. It’s not just libraries which face this problem; for many of us this can be as simple as knowing when to make a purchase. Do I buy that new iPad now, or do I wait? There’s risk in everything we do, but with new technology the risk often seems insurmountable. The cost associated with this risk often drives techno-hesitation—for an individual this can be a few hundred dollars, and for a library this can cost much more. Risk management techniques can be used to manage the hesitation (along with the other techno-challenges) while opening the doors to more and better conversations with members. The culture of perfect combined with the cost of not being perfect leads to stagnation.
Jason Pontin’s experience at All Things Digital (as described by Wade Roush in a 2005 Technology Review article) interesting—especially considering the sponsorship of the meeting (the major technology columnists for the Wall Street Journal). It reminded me of my first week in library school. At Syracuse distance learning students spend about ten days on campus at the start of the program—on the first day of class I was surprised to find so many of us with laptops in hand in the classroom. This wasn’t a new idea for me: in the business world we all brought our laptops to meetings … but nearly nobody in attendance needed to do that. Even my undergraduate experience as a distance learning student didn’t prepare me for this; other than incidental contact in class-based discussions hosted on a First Class system, students didn’t really have much contact among themselves. Fast forward a few years (I completed my B.S. in 2006) and I’m in a classroom that’s totally engaged: we’re engaged with the instructor in the room and we’re engaged with each other by following (and contributing with) a class hashtag on Twitter.
This could actually be a real problem for the Hyperlinked Library model—it’s so easy to create connections and conversations without the library that it becomes more difficult to make the library a compelling part of the conversation. This shows clearly in the section of the 2009 ITHAKA report we read—researchers are clearly communicating with each other, but they feel they’ve built those conversations without the library and don’t necessarily see the value in the library now.
You identify a key issue that we need to work on – the conversation can go on without us – very easily! – so we need to be in the game. That’s why exploring and learning is so important.
You bring up some great points. Libraries everywhere, especially the small public libraries are feeling the pressures of “techno-hesitation”. Do we buy e-readers to lend out, or will something better come along in a year or so? With limited budgets, it is hard to make these decisions. However, this is a way for us to stay relevant. Providing great new technologies assists patrons in their purchasing decisions. This is also a way for us to stay in the game, the only difficult part is deciding what new gadget to purchase. Although this shouldn’t be too hard, we are librarians after all…do some RESEARCH!!