Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Use the Media, Don't Be the Media

I haven't blogged here for awhile, time to do something about that!

Thanks to the lovely Tae, who suggested I blog on the topic of "cybrarians" and then in further discussion said:
I find the library no longer "feels" like a library - every librarian seems to be chained to their computer.
It's a valid point. In our current times of media change, are we forgetting what libraries are truly about? Are we so focused on embracing the fabulous new that we're forgetting the valuable old?

Now you know I'm an IT librarian, and that I'm also a passionate user of new media. Web2.0 and digital media are my career. However this doesn't mean that I feel that it's the ONLY way to obtain information. I recently wrote another blog post elsewhere on why I became a librarian, and that is solely due to a love of books and libraries (and lovely librarians). A love I've never lost.

Information comes to us in a myriad of forms these days. From the age old print media of books, magazines and newspapers, to 20th Century methods like radio and television, through to the new millennia media of the internet. As librarians, I believe it's our job to provide access to this information, raise literacy levels and encourage a love of reading regardless of the media.

Every library user is different. Each library user responds differently to various media. If they respond positively to online information and digital reading, then so be it. The same for print or audio/visual. One is not better than the others. However, that doesn't mean we can't give some encouragement to library users to expand their knowledge and skills to media they are not yet using. One of the great joys of being a librarian is that moment where you open up a whole new world of reading, literacy and information to someone with a good recommendation or a new set of skills.

I do understand the lure of the new, the sexy, the innovative, the gadget, the clever. Oh how I understand, I am an iPhone owner after all. But my hope is that we also know how to keep the tried and true, the reliable, the quality we've developed over time. I don't want to see us throw away great practices and traditional formats simply because something "snazzier" has come along to dazzle us with it's shiny newness.

However, that doesn't mean that we should just turn our backs on anything new, write it off as a fad, or "young people's time wasters" or full of nonsense. Every form of media is simply a tool, and if you know how to use it, indeed learn how to use it if it is new to you, it will allow you use the information contained within.

Basically what I'm getting at is that any time we lock ourselves into a label as librarians, be it traditional, or "cybrarian", we are at the risk of becoming one trick ponies. We're more valuable than that, and once we have our eyes open to the new while practicing the best of the old, we become invaluable.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Why Isn't Social Media Taken Seriously?

As someone who uses social media both professionally and personally, I am often challenged by colleagues and friends who do not on the validity of social media. Regularly I hear "Oh I'm not of the digital generation." or "You must have so much time on your hands, if you've got time to waste on that stuff." People send me links to articles like this one from the BBC News with the suggestion that the technologies and services that I am a champion for are rubbish, or "babble". (Statistics are an interesting thing - if 40% is babble, that implies the other 60% is NOT babble.) Whether it's to either goad me or because they're genuinely curious as to whether it's true, I wonder sometimes whether most people know the magnitude of social media in our world, and how quickly that is growing.

Take a look at this video from Socialnomics:

After watching this, how do you feel about social media? Are you starting to take it seriously yet?

It's hard because the mainstream media are fighting very hard to minimalise social media. Social media is free, and it's users drive it. That is very, very scary to mainstream media like newspapers, magazines and television. People who used to buy a newspaper every day, now receive their news through Twitter, or news blogs and feeds like BoingBoing, Crikey or the Huffington Post. Instead of being told what news is interesting, users are collating their own sources of information, fed directly to them through their computer or mobile phone.

Communications are changing rapidly. When you watch television tonight, take a look at the ads. How many of them mention a website or email address? Think about 5 years ago. How many of them mentioned a website or email address then? Pick up the newspaper and see how many adverts have a website, email address or Twitter account. If you have Facebook, search a few brands or companies and see how many of them have an active presence.

What about when you want a recommendation for a product or service? Where are you most likely to source this information? Are you going to look in the Yellow Pages, a newspaper or magazine, do you Google it or do you ask the people around you? Your colleagues, family and friends.

I believe we're at the cusp of a time of change. Not just in technology, but in our culture. Technology is bringing things to us more immediately, on demand at any time and any place. But the real change is in the social nature that technology is taking. We're asking our peers, family, colleagues to recommend products and services to us more than ever. Some of that is because money is tight these days, and we're also time-poor, and it's quicker and more efficient to ask people we know. Some of it is because we're looking to our communities again after 20 years of moving away from that. In the 80's and 90's we stopped joining communities like church, sporting groups, school interestes etc and moved into smaller social communities. There is a real push these days to broaden those horizons and expand our communities again.

Change can be frightening and intimidating, but I feel that this is an exciting time of opening up our world to a new level of positivity and connection with other people.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

How to Help your IT Department Help You

Ever wanted to tear your hair out because you can't get help from IT? Well, take that feeling, times it by ten, and you probably are getting close to how your IT department are feeling on a good day. So I'm going to give you some good clear advice.

  1. IT departments, regardless of the level, are always understaffed. Sometimes they can be management heavy, but they are ALWAYS low on the good old worker bees. Often those worker bees aren't paid anywhere near as much as they are worth. But they stay there because they are passionate about it.
  2. Remember, you are not the only one having problems with technology. Even if your issue is a specific one, there are at least a dozen other "specific ones" out there. Plus things that are issues across the whole organisation/company. Don't pester your IT staff, and give them a reasonable amount of time to solve your problem. They're good, but they're not magic.
  3. If you think you know the answer better than your IT staff, why the hell are you ringing them?
  4. Prioritise. Is it on fire? Is it going to shut down your operations completely so that you can't work at all? If the answer is no to any of these, don't panic. Calling IT in a state of panic is only going to cause more stress for everyone. Before you pick up that phone, take a deep breath, remember that the world isn't going to end and you're not going to die, and then think about what you're asking. The statement "It's bloody broken and won't work." is of no use to anyone.
  5. Get information. IT is a vast world of information. Help your IT tech by getting as much information for them before you call. Does it have a barcode or serial number? What is the error message? How long has it been a problem? This information helps your IT tech find the proverbial needle in the haystack.
  6. Have you checked that it is plugged in? All the cables? Are lights working on it to prove that it is getting electricity? I can't tell you the times I've hauled arse out to a site to look at something, or paid for a very expensive tech to do so, only to find that a plug/cable has come loose. It's embarrassing, but you're the one that should be embarrassed that you didn't check, not the technician!
  7. Is there someone there on site that has a bit more knack with technology than you do? Ask them to help. They often have an advantage over a tech that they can see and touch the machine that is the problem, sometimes that advantage can solve an issue quicker than a tech can trying to diagnose blind over the phone. And then, ask them to show you what they did to fix it, so you remember next time.
  8. LEARN. Don't just fob a problem off to your IT technician and forget about it. If possible (and it's not always possible), ask them so you know next time how to solve an issue.
  9. Remember that most IT techs are multi-taskers. As well as working on your issue, they probably have half a dozen balls in the air that they are juggling. Give them space to focus on what they need to.
  10. You want your problem solved? So does your IT tech. Because it's one less that they have to worry about once it's solved. Don't get into the mindset that they aren't doing their best to get it solved because it's not their problem, if it's your problem it's theirs.
  11. In most cases, as well as fixing problems with existing technology, a lot of IT techs also have to research, develop, test, implement and maintain new technologies long before you ever get to see them. Sometimes, you will have no idea just how much work your IT staff are doing on top of fixing the issues that you raise with them.
  12. Don't be rude to your IT tech. Not only does it not achieve anything, but your IT tech probably knows at least a dozen ways to really mess with your technology if you piss them off.
  13. And finally, I am yet to met an IT tech who isn't made very happy by either chocolate or coffee (or both). It's amazing how much service you can get out of a Caramello Koala.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Learning Really is Lifelong

Excellent to see a couple of suggestions for my blog challenge, I'll have a go at those in the very near future.

Today I wanted to share this article with you all.  Meet Ivy Bean, a 104 year old lady from Yorkshire in the UK, who is using both Facebook and Twitter.  I've actually been following Ivy on Twitter for a few weeks now, and she's delightful.  She tweets about her day fairly regularly, and often imparts with a pearl of wisdom that to her, is just how she lives her life.

The reason I bring up Ivy Bean, the 104 social networker, is because along my campaigns to get as many of my colleagues learning new technologies and ways to find/share information, I hear a lot of "Oh it's all for young people." or "I'm not of the digital generation."

Do you think Ivy holds this attitude?  She's twice the age of most of us and so long as someone takes the time to set her up, she is jumping on in with both feet.  And as she does so, she is meeting lovely people all over the world who are enriching her life and are being enriched by her.

I do understand that for those of us between the age of about 30 and 55, computer technology was REALLY fractious and unstable back in the days when it was first hitting the mainstream market.  Personal computers died at a single keystroke (oh how the blue screen of death struck fear in my heart) and we've all cursed and cried over losing massive documents, days worth of work when a computer has failed at a crucial moment.

But those days have passed.  Technology is unbelievably  more robust than it ever was.  It is more user friendly than it has ever been.  There is more information, support, tips and tricks, and help right at our fingertips with a simple Google search.  We have more say in how the technologies we use than ever before.  You only have to look at the user generated changes to Facebook after they changed their format without consulting their users, and the feedback was bad.

There isn't really an excuse of "I'm too old" any more.  We learn our whole lives.  If we don't keep learning, we don't keep living.  And if Ivy can do it at 104, nobody else has an excuse!

Wanna hear my favourite tweet of Ivy's?

"Playing dominoes with my friend Mabel today.  She's a bit blind so I can cheat."

I hope I'm as cool as Ivy when I'm 104!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Challenge Me!

Hello readers! If there are any of you out there still for this blog. I hope so because I am intending to keep it alive.

But I feel the need for a challenge or three. I feel a little stale with my blogging at the moment and would like some energy injected by you, my readers.

I would like you to challenge me to blog about a subject. Now as this particular blog is now devoted to libraries, reading, literacy, technology and things along those lines, the only limit really is that the subject will need to tie into those subjects somehow. It doesn't have to be directly related, but needs to be tied in somewhere.

I will attempt every single subject suggestion that is appropriate!

Leave me a comment with your suggestion.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Killing Our Libraries

killing our libraries
Originally uploaded by libraryman
It's a little dramatic, but a very effective statement.

Busy times are the times we NEED to innovate more than any other. Not because something is new or different, but because it offers us a way to save money, time and energy.

I love the slogan The Libraryman has made here. If you click on the image you will see it in higher resolution.

Never be afraid of innovation. Be afraid of stagnation and irrelevance.

Friday, January 9, 2009

This is How To Library Blog

I found this beautiful library blog this morning, from Adelaide City Council:

Charlotte's Blog

It's gorgeous! It looks good, great colours and layouts, is chatty and informal yet informative, clearly tells you that it's part of Adelaide City Council without "badging" all over the place and going corporate, and draws you right to the library website all over the place, without leaving you feeling spammed or harrassed.

This is what I would love to do for us. Get rid of all the marketing rubbish that is imposed on us, keep it simple and attractive and yet draw your readers to the places that you want them to see.

I think a lot of Web2.0 technology has excellent applications for libraries. Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Flickr, you name it - we could be using all of these to create a presence in the online world, without being formal or contrived in any way. But I think one of the thing that holds us back is the fact that everything has to be "branded". It just makes it look false and boring. Marketing strategies are great for printed matter, formal information websites and the physical appearance of branches and venues, but when it comes to the online environment, formality just kills it.

I hope to see a lot more push to allow public organisations go in this direction, as ACC are showing it can be done and done really successfully.