Libraries & Technology

Over the past year or so, I have become extremely interested in the topic of technology in libraries, the problem of technical support for patrons and the problem of technical knowledge among library staff. The whole “the user is not broken” discussion made me realize that library staff are not broken either. Sometimes those of us in the technical support arena work off the assumption that the user is the problem. This attitude isn’t helping us get the most from people – nor does it help us provide better customer service to our patrons. Technical knowledge for many people working in libraries is a big problem – even bigger for public services’ staff who are often expected to support and help patrons with technical problems. I’m hoping to do some type of study of this for my capstone experience, special project, or whatever you want to call it (which I will be doing during the spring of 2008).

Along these lines, Emily Clasper put together a list of technical competencies for librarians over at Library Revolution. Clasper is adament that these skills are an absolute must. I agree with her. I’m just not sure where these skills need to come from or who should be responsible for assuring that people have them. I tend to think people should have these basic skills before they even apply to library school. But, I think that since technical knowledge is so incredibly critical, we, in libraries, need to find a way to provide better and more effective continuing education for our staff.  The basic skill set changes fairly rapidly – and I can only see it getting worse.

I love this quote from Clasper:

So here we are trying to sell 2.0 technologies and initiatives, and all too often hitting a brick wall. But is it any wonder? Sometimes I feel like if I have to explain to one more librarian how to cut and paste a string of text I’ll just about die. No wonder I get a glassy-eyed look when I mention XML syndication!

I agree that dealing with Web 2.0/Library 2.0 is so far beyond the day-to-day things that go on in most libraries. I don’t think we can fully move forward with new technologies until we have a decent grasp of the basics.

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4 Responses to Libraries & Technology

  1. Emily says:

    Yes, we usually come at things with that “the user is not broken” mentality, and most of the time I agree. However, sometimes I think that the users meed to meet us half way, especially when the user in question purports to be an information professional. Librarians should not complain about the OPAC being “unusable” when they don’t even know how to use their browser. Unfortunately, this is something I hear on a semi-regular basis. I’m all for making things more usable… but it still has to be within the bounds of the available technology, and librarians should at least have a basic grasp of that technology.

  2. Jeff says:

    I would say that anyone with technology experience has a responsibility to train those who do not. I think we are being too harsh with a population that was mostly trained to help people with books. It’s changing. However, one thing to keep in mind is that much of a library’s front line staff has the same technical competencies as the population at large. A training plan for them has to be as easy and simple as a training plan for the public.

  3. […] for library staff, she touched a nerve. Her post spawned a flurry of comments and other blog posts. With Houghton-Jan’s new publication on Technology Competencies and Training for Libraries […]

  4. […] for library staff, she touched a nerve. Her post spawned a flurry of comments and other blog posts. With Houghton-Jan’s new publication on Technology Competencies and Training for Libraries […]

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