Yesterday, Dorothea Salo wrote a post Training-wheels culture over on her blog, Caveat Lector. Salo is tired of “. . . having to stand over a grown professional’s shoulder teaching her to use a set of essentially self-explanatory web forms because she cannot be bothered to learn by doing.” I believe that Salo’s training-wheels culture is a culture where people prefer to ask for help repeatedly rather than learn something for themselves. Now, I can’t argue that this culture exists. As a technophile, my life is filled with people who would prefer for me to show them something rather than take the time or make the effort to figure it out. This isn’t just a work thing either. It is actually much more prevalent in my personal life. Human beings are an interesting lot – and there are many, many of us who don’t feel the need to learn how to do something because we have someone close to us who knows how.
Now, I see some issues with Salo’s attitude. I will admit that I have spent a great deal of time being frustrated by technology users and their inability to grasp simple concepts. Part of what I have learned from this entire “The User is Not Broken” thing is that we need to afford the same courtesy to library employees that we afford to our patrons. Technology permeates almost everything that we do in libraries. It is essential that people who work in libraries understand a great deal about technology, understand that things will continue to change rapidly – and they need to have a basic confidence in their own knowledge of technology. This isn’t the case for so many people, and to me, it means that we are not giving people the skills they need to be successful in the library environment. Do people need to step up and take responsibility for their own skill set? No doubt about it. But, we have to work together because there is a real divide in the technological skill set. Why do people continually ask for help with something that the technology experts believe they should be able to figure out themselves? Why? We need to be looking at this rather than just getting frustrated.
Now beyond that, Dorothea Salo includes a rant about the value of cataloging. Salo read through the responses to Nicole Engard’s survey about LIS requirements and was seemingly astonished by the number of people who wrote that they believe they need additional training in cataloging. Whether you believe that MARC is dead, or should should be dead, it currently is THE foundation of our library systems. Should it be? I’m not getting into that debate. I’m not necessarily a fan of MARC, but we are a long way from saying goodbye to it. We have to deal with it. If you are going to work in a library today, you need to understand it – as well as the reasons why people believe it to be inadequate. Additionally, people can’t truly understand its weaknesses unless they first understand it. I also believe that it will be those people who understand MARC and AACR2 best who will be able to move library cataloging forward. I wasn’t surprised by how many people mentioned a need for additional training or advanced classes in cataloging. I thought it was a good thing.
Dorothea Salo’s frustration with the training-wheels culture is more than evident in this post. I’m with Salo in that we need to find a way to get people to be able to do more with technology on their own. However, I don’t think that screencasts and/or tutorials and the like are going to get us there. Nor do I think that convincing LIS students that they don’t need more training in cataloging is going to help either.