talking tech

I’m here in Montreal, QC, to attend the 2009 CLA Conference.  But before the big show got going, I first sat in on the Emerging Technologies Interest Group‘s pre-conference session, which was spectacularily rescued and then hosted by some fine people over at McGill’s SLIS.  You guys are awesome – thanks.

I had to step out at the lunch hour since I had to bring to bring some work along on the trip  – there are many papers to mark this week, and my own deadlines to return them are fast approaching – but it was all in all a nice little morning.  Although I don’t think the three speakers (John Fink, Jason Hammond, and Jessamyn West) really had anything revolutionary to say this morning (that’s not necessarily a bad thing, guys), they all spoke on the difficulties us librarians can have dealing with, tech, tech people, and the people we serve.

I think there is something more to these problems than just “dealing with tech”, and it becomes evident if you were to mash up the speakers’ talks into one.  The problems we encounter when dealing with tech isn’t necessarily tech so much as it is “translating” the needs of our patrons/clients/neighbours to the tech people who get their feet dirty dealing with code and hardware all day long.  Our profession may not be tech experts, but we can at least speak their language. Likewise, we can also evaluate how to best fill the “tech needs” (if their is such as a thing – I’d rather just say “needs”) of the people we serve.  We can mediate between the two groups to achieve vibrant, happy endings full of mini-successes and rainbows.

We do an alright job of this most of the time, but as Jessamnyn noted, sometimes we falter and we don’t see the forest for the trees.  we need to remember that we try to implement tech and social media not because its cool or savvy or hip with the kids, but rather because these tools can sometimes actually help people.  If the tech isn’t going to help a person, then let’s find another way to use our skill sets to enlighten some one’s day.  That might be teaching them  to differentiate between files and folders on a desktop, or it may also be explaining how to just use an OPAC or even how to best compile (dare i say it) print sources.

i suppose what i’m trying to say is that yes, tech is awesome, and yes, i love the tech very much.  And i also want to use it to make my job easier and other people’s lives better. but in the end, i’m in this job for the people.  i want to help people.  librarians can bridge the gap between tech and people because we have a foot in each camp.  let’s just be sure that we’re always attuned to the needs of the latter..