Wednesday, October 1, 2008


It's been awhile since I blogged. I'm getting comments from the peanut gallery that it's been too long, so I figured I'd better devote some time to it today, because the rest of the week is looking a bit scary as far as schedule is concerned.


Hmmm... dunno what I'm going to talk about though. Creativity is hard to muster when one is extremely busy. Thinking....


Oh I know, let's talk about technology and it's role in libraries. Cos that's what this whole 23 Things/Web2.0 malarkey is really all about, isn't it? Expanding our knowledge of technology so we know what is happening in the world around us, and finding the bits that will be of use to us to help us do our jobs more efficiently and effectively.

I went through a patch where I felt like I was out of touch with libraries and that I wasn't contributing to the beautiful, wonderous thing that I've always felt libraries are. When I was a little girl, the library was this wonderful, safe haven where I could always go and be happy. I loved that I could always find something interesting on the shelves, and to me, the people who were in my library were just amazing. I idolised our teacher librarian. In fact, a few years ago I was in line at an author event (it was Michael Palin, if you're curious) and there was a lady in front of me who I was sure I knew. I was talking to friends and she turned and said "Your name is Kathleen isn't it?" and instantly I knew who she was. She was Miss Stubbs, my teacher librarian from my early years in primary school.

I was so thrilled to run into her, and even more thrilled that she remembered me. I told her that SHE was the very reason I worked in libraries today, and that all these years later, I've never forgotten how she would hold the box of new books for me to read first each month, because I'd already read everything else in our little library. I'd never forgotten her telling me about books that she thought I would like, or her reading to me when I turned up at the library at weird hours a bit lost and forlorn. It was really awesome to run into her again and be able to thank her for her influence and inspiration in my early years.


And it was around the time that I ran into her that I began to question if I was in the right place, working in Systems, with a very technology based job, rather than those books and reading and literacy things I loved so much and that formed me in my youth.


But once I got thinking about it, I realised that I don't believe that technology and reading/literacy are mutually exclusive. In fact, I really believe that technology enables us as librarians to do what we do in a much greater capacity than ever before. We can communicate to more people than ever before, in more formats than ever before, and particularly with the whole Web2.0 thing (and you probably all know how I feel about that term, Web2.0) we're able to share and collaborate more than we ever have done.

For me, the beauty of Web2.0 is that I can now know more about people. I don't mean that in a scary, stalker kind of way, but in that I can share things with people and they can share things with me. Knowledge is an awesome thing and I am personally always striving for more of it.


For a long time, technology was this big oogie-boogie thing that only a small percentage of the population could afford, access and understand, and it was quite isolating to be involved in anything technological. It used to be nerdy blokes who talked in this strange language and seemed to look down their nose at the rest of us who didn't have access or understanding of those technologies.

But along came Web2.0, and suddenly grandma's are putting their photographs on Flickr, mum's are blogging about their hobbies, sports fans are making videos to whack on YouTube, 50 year school reunions are being organised on Facebook and so forth, and we're all reading and viewing all this stuff. To "Google it" is now part of our every day language. And people like me, who are definitely not ever going to know the nitty gritty of technology (good gravy, I can't think of anything more boring than codes and stuff!) are able to do these things simply and almost always for free. We don't even need the "For Dummies" books any more because we can just Google information that we want. Who'd have thought?

And in relation to literacy and reading, I've found the internet constantly draws me back to books. Be it through the applications on Facebook for discussing books, videos on YouTube of author talks and even previews of movies that are based on books, social databases like LibraryThing, Shelfari and Good Reads, even podcasts of radio programmes about books and authors.

In the same sense that it draws me back to books, I do believe it draws people who might not be big readers to books and to reading in general. People who never pick up a book may be reading this blog right now. And reading is reading, no matter what the format. Perhaps reading a blog about books will be the catalyst to someone who might not otherwise pick up a book, to do so. Or maybe seeing something about the local library on Facebook or Flickr may be the thing that gets the person walking through the door next time?

I guess the real skill lies in working through the huge oceans of stuff out there and picking out what are actually useful tools out of all the fads and buzz sites. And one of the ways to do that I feel is to actually talk about this stuff. To try it out, to learn about it and to share ideas and experiences. So that's where that whole collaborative thing that goes with Web2.0 comes in, isn't it?

I'd love to hear what other people think about technology and it's place in libraries, reading and literature. Leave me a comment, or better still, blog about it and show me your blog! Let's collaborate hey?

I'll leave you with a little video interview with a guy whom I find fascinating, Michael Stephens. His blog Tame the Web is one that I subscribe to and read regularly, and it always gets my mind ticking over about what we do, and why we do it, in libraries.

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