Technology Is The Building Block


Technology is the essential building block of a 21st Century Library Model, as well as the 21st Century Library. A full understanding and integration of technology, using more business-like processes of librarianship, is the building block that supports every successful 21st Century Library.

Now more than ever, there are additional technology skills (beyond building websites) required for librarians to be successful, skills not taught in SLIS. What SLIS focus on is the librarianship theory. Masters level education is virtually all theory based, which is highly important, but not all encompassing. My most favorite “truism” I learned many years ago was that: “Theory without practice is empty and practice without theory is blind.” [Kidd, J. R. (1973). How Adults Learn. New York: Association Press.] In other words, an MLS is not enough to be successful as a 21st Century Librarian. Today’s librarians require additional skills, most of which won’t be taught in SLIS.

Librarian technology skills are most closely associated with the Library2.0 activities, primarily Learning2.0 from Helene Blowers that went around the world in 2007 and 2008. But, as pointed out before, it died because that’s all there was to it – acquiring very basic web technology skills. It lacked any purposeful application component to develop 21st Century library customer services.

Technology Examples

One specific example of the additional technology skills required by 21st Century librarians was demonstrated in a recent Web Junction webinar about “Gadgets” (defined as ebook readers, mp3 players, video and digital cameras, and handheld computers and smartphones). Gadget Checklist 2010: For library staff, users and our future (click on “View the full archive”) presented by Michael Porter, was a fascinating overview of this gadget technology and its applications in the library setting.

That is the key! Application of technology in the library, just as long as it is appropriate and applicable to the delivery of a library service that fulfills the customer’s information needs.

Web Junction has a treasure trove of different types of technology presentations that is well worth browsing for those who want to catch up to what challenges libraries are facing and ways to address library customers’ interests. They have specific sections addressing Mobile Devices, and E-Books and Digital Audio Books, as well as just Basic Technology.

Another good resource is College of DuPage Press, the distance education arm that presents Library Learning Network information. An archived teleconference from September 24th, 2010 – “Libraries & the Mobile Technologies Landscape”, a part of CoD regular series Library Futures: Staying Ahead of the Curve 2011, was especially worthwhile. The studio guest was Joe Murphy, Science Librarian, Coordinator of Instruction & Technology, Klein Science Library, Yale University. (Joe Blogs, presents and consults about mobile technology, and he received the Library Journal 2009 “Movers & Shakers” Award. Joe was also co-presenter of the Keynote address at the recent Hand Held Librarian Online Conference III with his “Creating the Future of Mobile Library Services”.)

Joe approached the topic as both expert and public library customer with needs for mobile library services. “Networked information is gearing itself toward that mobile technology. It is not a passing trend.”, he asserted. He also proposed that “mobile literacy” is an issue that is driving much of the demand for mobile library services. A video overview of his model of Mobile Literacy using the Prezi application was very impressive. Have you heard of “foursquare”?

Since information is available at a touch, any time, any where, instantly, libraries must become as convenient and accessible as any other information provider. QR codes and location services (like foursquare) can create direct links to reference desks and librarians to facilitate those 21st Century reference transactions. Reference must be flexible and reflect the changing ways users seek and interact with information. Geosocial Networking is another evolving realm for Millennial users. “Geosocial networking is a type of social networking in which geographic services and capabilities such as geocoding and geotagging are used to enable additional social dynamics. User-submitted location data or geolocation techniques can allow social networks to connect and coordinate users with local people or events that match their interests.”

ALA’s Research

Every year since 1994, ALA has conducted a study of Public Library Funding & Technology Access. The 2009-2010 Study findings are being published as a “digital supplement to American Libraries”.

TECHNOLOGY LANDSCAPE

New data this year indicates that the use of library technology resources was up significantly from just one year ago:
• Most libraries (75.7 percent) report increased use of public access workstations.
• Most libraries (71.1 percent) report an increased use of Wi-Fi.
• Less than half (45.6 percent) report an increased use of electronic resources.
• Some libraries (26.3 percent) report an increased use of training services.

CONCLUSION: Data from the 2009-2010 Study describe a mixed landscape and paradoxical environment. Libraries have expanded technology resources, particularly around workforce development and e-government, to meet rising demand, but many are hampered by outmoded buildings and funding reductions that threaten every aspect of service, including available staff and hours open. Public libraries need sustained support for their services to ensure that the safety net they provide to millions in the United States remains in place.

Unfortunately, expanded Internet access is NOT the hallmark of a 21st Century Library. It is all of the other technology applications to all of the other library services that make access to the library fast, mobile, convenient, and especially appealing. The hallmark of a 21st Century Library is technology, of which most librarians should gain a general understanding, that is used as another tool to provide YOUR library customers with services THEY WILL USE.

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