Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Make this work

X-Posted to Closed Stacks

I’ve been reading a lot of e-books on my Kindle lately, but I have some complaints.These complaints are chiefly that I do not own a Kindle and I’m not reading e-books but actual regular physical books that do not allow me to expertly assist the general public needing help with their e-readers. You don’t know how to download your college textbook onto your MacBook Pro? Guess what? I don’t either.

Last week a patron placed his iPad under my nose and asked me why it was having trouble connecting to the WiFi network. When I started to explain that I wasn’t sure why and if he could show me what he was doing, he interrupted me to shout, “What do you mean you don’t know? You’re the librarian!” I responded by acknowledging that I was the librarian, but also mentioned that this was the first iPad I’d seen in person and he was the first person I had met that owned one (aside from my coworker who claims he has one at home). I did not say this as a “Well, hello Mr. Fancy Pants” sort of dig, but to try to get the point across that librarians do not know all technical thingamabobs intuitively. I think if the public understood that if they can be patient and willing to learn with me, then I might possibly be able to find an answer their question.

In the past, staff would receive training opportunities to learn new databases and software as it was implemented in the library. Several years ago, we were scheduled to participate in Library 2.0 activities like playing with image generators or setting up an RSS feed reader. However, with the current economic climate of slash and burn library budgets, there’s no way we can ask for a staff Sony Reader to practice on. At the same time the public still expects that same level of expertise and in today’s world of Google-on-the-spot answers, they want it now.
Which leaves me to ask, where, or to whom does the responsibility to educate staff on current technology trends fall? Should staff run out and buy the newest item with all the bells and whistles in order to learn? Librarian stereotypes are notoriously split among being technophobes and gadget geeks, but the one thing we usually have in common is a limited budget – both in the workplace and at home.
So we have to come to an understanding. As of right now, what I can do for you is this: (metaphorically) hold your hand and offer reassurance while we navigate your shiny new doohickey together. It’s probably going to take a few minutes but if we figure it out then maybe next time you won’t need me to show you and I’ll know how to help the next person who asks that question. What I can’t do is glance at your Droid and instantaneously tell you why your gmail isn’t loading properly.

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