Yesterday, a library director colleague shared her experience at her state’s library association conference recently. I’ll quote her email (some things just can’t be expressed well in a Tweet).
“So as I sit in “mobile technology at your library”, I thought I would send you a quick note. I am finding the 21st century library tag to be pervasive in this conference. And no one has the slightest idea what it means. Nor are they trying to define it. It seems to BE defined by the technology. Twitter. Facebook. Texting. E-Reference. etc., rather than any particular service or part of the mission. It seems to be more the idea of “Look at all this cool stuff I get to play with at work. Now, how can I make it fit.”, if that makes sense. And, it isn’t that it isn’t useful, texting late notices is very useful. Twitter…ummmm. That’s a stretch.
But it seems discrimination is out the window. It’s all the bundle of technology or nothing. If you embrace it you are (be default) 21st century. If you don’t…well, you’re behind, or you must not get it. There is certainly a bit of the “Emperor’s new clothes” feel as I sit here (feeling confident in my own techsavvyness) watching these two 20-something IT MLS kids tell all the librarians how to Twitter. And, if they dare ask “Why?”, then they must not be able to see the Emperor’s clothes. So people have stopped asking why. At least that is my feel after two days. And, it could just be here. People want to think about anything but their budget. So maybe it is a bit of lala-land syndrome. “Twitter is more fun”, “Twitter makes me vital”, etc., and, of course, insert any technology in place of Twitter.”
Her frustration with balancing real world keeping the doors open vs. creating a 21st Century Library is heartfelt all over the profession right now. If there is no library to provide 21st Century library services, it’s kinda a moot issue.
Another colleague with a few decades in the trenches also provided some insight into the situation the director was experiencing. Here’s her text reply.
“Well tell the little twits that it’s not that hard to figure out, but you have to do it on a phone and old people can’t see the keys, and I think you have to have an iPhone or at least a Blackberry. Twittering is really just telling the whole world what you are doing hour to hour all day and night.
I have learned if nothing else that I don’t want anyone knowing my business let alone every time I go take a xxx, or have a nose bleed, etc…. From what I get that’s what it is to Twitter, you can only do 140 letters at a time, and it is all about being the one who Twitters and has the most followers or friends. I personally think it is reality TV on your phone.”
Reality TV on your phone! How awesome an observation is that! This Digital Native generation is also a product of reality TV. Do they remember TV before reality shows? Survivor. Big Brother. Kate & John-type shows, and a whole host of others on cable channels that most adults don’t even know exist. That is a total facet of their preferences that has never been addressed, as far as I know, but it certainly seems to have had an impact on them. Obviously, my friend from the trenches is not technology illiterate, but has a healthy skepticism of its application in library services.
This exchange brought up two issues that I wanted to address in this post.
First – 21st Century Library is NOT Library2.0 – It is much MORE! Library2.0 only encompasses the technology. 21st Century Library encompasses the application and integration of technology into library services, and developing technology skills among library staff for appropriate implementation in library services. It includes library policy, which includes Library Boards (in all public libraries anyway), and appropriate governance agents. As much fun as it is to play and experiment with technology, when it comes to making an impact on library services, that is not play. Every library director is painfully aware that whatever the library does has consequences. Application of technology has to have purpose and goals. Library2.0 is part of the strategic plan, not THE strategic plan.
Which brings me to my second observation.
Second – 21st Century Librarianship is NOT the domain of the GenY librarians coming into the profession, but maybe Library2.0 is. While they have tremendous skills, creativity and desire to contribute, they don’t always see their Library’s big picture into which their skills and ideas must fit. No organization can function well or for long with individuals going off in all directions that suit their personal interests. Individuals are a part of the whole organization, and every organization, in order to operate successfully, must operate as a total system with all its elements in sync. Library2.0 seems to have started out as play, and the GenY are certainly into that!
It would be very encouraging to see, read, or hear conversation about 21st Century Library in the broader vision than simply Library2.0. I think it’s time we evolve to the next level of progress beyond Library2.0 into 21st Century Library. How about you?