Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ideas for libraries?

We had a guest speaker last night at my Library Science class.  She talked with great enthusiasm about all the wonderful ways that libraries could and should be using technology and social media.  The talk started with her request (more like a demand, actually) that we all give our "elevator speech"; a very brief self-introduction that would "sell" our skills and potential assets.  Also, apparently "Google is now your resume."  If you're not visible on the Internet, you are unhireable.  Then she went on to talk about all the wonderful iPhone apps she uses, how Starbucks, hackerspace, and TED talks are stealing business from libraries.  Her mantra for the evening seemed to be "Why isn't the library doing that?"

While I agree that libraries should use technology and online trends (like social networking) to bring in more patrons and help them do/learn/find what they need, I resent and reject the idea that everyone must be connected in these ways.  If people want to be on Twitter, or have a blog, or create or use apps, that's fine, and the library should support that.  But it should not expect or require patrons or staff to do so.

After class, I was giving my friend E a ride home.  We talked about how this culture of technology and social media and "selling" yourself is not what we want.  We are intelligent, informed women, and we would be perfectly happy to be married, stay at home, cook, garden, and care for children.  Being a housewife does not preclude us from being smart, or from being valuable assets to any organization.  Just because we choose not to hang our names all over the internet, just because we choose not to be tethered to a smart phone or an iPad or any other device, does not mean we are not qualified to work with or for those who do so choose.*

Our culture is trying to tell us that we must be connected, we must be visible, we must be extroverted.  I reject these values.  I was particularly angered by the "elevator speech" idea, although I did manage to come up with something to say.  What I wanted to say, though, was this: "Hi, I'm Laura C., and I am not the type to initiate conversation in an elevator.  Thank you."

This isn't all about me, either.  While E and I choose not to identify with the tech culture, there are others who are excluded from it based on economic and linguistic barriers.  It's fine to include apps and social media in a library's repertoire of services, but the minute those high-class projects start taking funding and staff hours away from more basic services that benefit under-served patrons, it's a BIG PROBLEM.  Who needs our help more, the Abercrombie-wearing teenager whining about how the library should have an app for that, or the single mom trying to learn English so she can get a job?  Seriously.  Let's get our priorities straight here.

*Yes, I appreciate the irony inherent in my using a blog to discuss this issue.  Thanks.


  1. Happy sigh. I love you.

  2. Thanks, Laura. -e
    I did some more thinking on this after I got home, and I think that perhaps the part of this talk we need to focus on (which got swallowed up a bit since so much content was covered) is finding the right contributor, because each individual can't do it all. If one librarian is attempting to understand all the media outlets and interests of an entire community, it's too much. But maybe spread across a staff, it could get done. That's what I'm choosing to focus on. Teamwork! :p