Moving & Shaking in 2007 (and The Internal Digital Divide)

Congrats to Amanda Etches-Johnson who was recently named one of Library Journal's 2007 Movers & Shakers. Amanda taught the “Social Software” course at FIMS in Fall 2006 and everything I heard about this class sounded like it was amazing.  I don't know many of the names on the list of past winners but wonder if this is the first time somebody with a FIMS connection has won?

Looking at the list of people named this year, there is a heavy technology-connection evident in why many of the people listed were chosen.  This reminds me of something I was pondering the other day.  We talk a lot about the “digital divide” in library school but usually in reference to our patrons – those who know/use technology and those who don't.  To generalize, rich v. poor, urban v. rural, young v. old. 

But I sometimes wonder if there is a digital divide within the field of librarianship that fits those same criteria – those who are comfortable with technology and those who aren't.  I'm not just referring to the 29 and a 1/2 years of service librarian who refuses to use the new version of MS-Word  because “I'm retiring in six months” or the branch manager who doesn't want to know about RSS because “that's a job for the systems guy.” 

There are many library students and recent grads who don't like technology or don't feel comfortable with it either.  So, is this even an issue?  Should it be?  If it is, what should we do to help reduce the “internal digital divide”?  Conference sessions are a good idea but if you have no interest in “Top Tech Trends”, are you going to be attend?  Same with magazine and journal articles – will you read an article about Facebook if you dismiss it as “kid's stuff”? 

Personally, I think the best solution is to actually encourage people to use the tools although I'm not sure how best to do that (I suspect word of mouth directly and via things like blog posts is a good way!)  Even if someone doesn't keep it up, if they start a blog, they'll know how easy it is if called upon to do so in their workplace.  If a shy librarian joins Facebook, they gain a way to socialize with other librarians that might be more comfortable than talking one-on-one after class or in a group setting.  If someone buys a new digital camera and realises that putting their photos on Flickr means that distant family and friends can easily follow the events and happenings of their life, maybe they'll take the next step and think “Hmm, this camera makes digital movies too.  Maybe I should put up a video of my little angel singing “Old MacDonald” on YouTube.  (It's important to note that most of these sites allow you control the privacy settings – the default is “public” but it's easy to specify that only people you approve can see your content.

Comments 3

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    I take it this means I should consider taking 757 Social Software and Libraries?
    What's funny, is that recently, a number of my non-library friends have expressed concern about facebook and in some cases, deleted their profiles altogether; I do try to explain the privacy settings, but what is bothering people the most, is the way acquaintances from their past are popping up out of nowhere…some people don't want to be found again, I suppose.

    Posted 20 Mar 2007 at 9:53 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Barb has talked elsewhere on this blog (in my improving Facebook entries?) about the etiquette of Facebook – what do you do when someone you don't really like asks for an add? And I posted info about an article in those comments too about a prof who took the plunge and signed up even though he didn't fit the demographics/worried about not maintaining a certain barrier with his students. So yeah, it really is a matter of comfort on what you want to put up and how much – I'm not a fan personally but one trick I've seen is to only use your first name and an initial. Or a nickname and an initial. That helps keep some anonymity unless there's a chance some stalker from your past will already be friends with the people you're friends with.
    Oh, and you should definitely take social software if the good reports I got from people taking the class are to be believed (and why wouldn't you?) Nice thing about an online course like this is that much of the work is done online so you can still read blogs from previous students to get a sense of what they did/the workload. Heck, I felt like I was a student in the class for free just reading some of these blogs:
    There were others from the class but those were the ones I could find in my bookmarks.

    Posted 21 Mar 2007 at 2:37 am
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Sometimes when I do a post, I'll get the odd person who e-mails me directly for whatever reason – they don't want to post, even anonymously, they don't want to get into an argument online, they just have an aside that they don't feel is worth posting or contrarily, they have lots to say and would rather not post a mini-essay as a comment.
    Well, this is a new one…
    Today, I got a three very thoughtful, very long replies via e-mail from former colleagues who wanted to discuss this entry including one person who wrote me twice at length on the subject!
    I'll summarize their main points…
    – am I saying that librarians should be able to actually implement these technologies or just have a familiarity wih them?
    One person pointed out that she'd done all the research required to make a recommendation about how to implement an RSS feed during her co-op but couldn't have actually programmed the XML to make it happen.
    “I knew nothing about RSS, but I did my research, learned the best practices and made recommendations, analyzed the organization's web site, implemented a timeline for completion, and initiated education for clients (online tools, in person workshops, lists of other feeds of interest). I even debated with the web officer about user friendly approaches and supporting long-term RSS developments in our choices (eg. RSS and Atom) vs the techy approaches he wanted which would have confused non-techy folks.”
    Which side of the digital divide is she on? To me, the good side. I definitely wasn't saying that you need to be a top-level programmer to be a librarian today. But you should be able to do all the things she listed so you can act as a bridge between the techie types who actually do the implementation and your patrons/staff/whoever will be using your site.
    Another wondered if the Web 2.0/Library 2.0 buzz is just that – buzz? Is “Web 2.0” today's equivalent of “computers will lead to the paperless office?” (we all know how that turned out). I think there's definitely a sense of hype (the phrase “2.0” is more marketing than reality in some ways). This person also pointed out that it is common to see pepole actively involved in blogging and other technological pursuits – except this is happening during lectures and classmate presentations! So what sort of a signal does that send about the person's priorities? They might be web 2.0 savvy types but will they make good librarians if they can't show other important skills like “listening” and “learning”?
    Good point as well. We have to remember that Web 2.0 isn't the be-all and end-all and there are still patrons who might not even feel comfortable using a mouse, let alone Flickr or whatever. But again, that's where I think librarians should be that bridge – if you're a reference librarian, maybe encourage your patrons to use MSN to contact you instead of coming down to the library in person. Or if you're a teen services librarian, maybe you should learn about MySpace since, odds are, a number of your patrons are using it.
    The first person I mentioned also had another suggestion – perhaps it's not either/or as I indicated but that there is room for a third category – librarians who read a load of librarian and/or tech blogs, know the terminology and what the sites do, even if they haven't actually do – and would be a bit quicker on the uptake (and willing as well) if asked to say, set-up a wiki for a company than some librarians who fall on the other side of the “internal digital divide.”
    One of them also pointed out that part of the problem is that library schools have a tough time dealing with this issue as well – since the range of technology skills is so vast, it's hard for them to target courses to the students properly. (I agree – our “Managing Internet Information” class ranged from people who really didn't know a lot about the Net but took this class to learn the basics up to people who were extremely proficient with the Net but still wanted to learn new stuff and be challenged. How does a prof deal with this?
    Anyhow, all good thoughtful points so I thought I'd share them here.

    Posted 25 Mar 2007 at 6:24 am

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