What are libraries?
Though he has some nice things to say about libraries, even the Old Spice Guy can’t help but compare libraries to book repositories. He doesn’t mention that recent economic events have placed librarians in positions that they never imagined that they would find themselves in even as they learn to deal with the additional stresses that come with added responsibilities.
All joking aside, reaching out to all users is fast becoming an increasingly tricky proposition as the digital divide grows wider and cuts across age and economic lines. One of the major concerns with Digital Natives is that the library is becoming irrelevant to them because of the ubiquitous nature of the Internet. Even those who work in libraries aren’t immune to thinking of Google as the be-all, end-all of Internet resources.
However, at the same time, we have those on the other end of the spectrum, those who are uncomfortable with technology and may use it reluctantly or not at all. While it’s important that we try to encourage these users to become somewhat conversant with technology, especially since it won’t be going away any time soon, we can’t force them.
So, what do we do?
I think we need to recognize both the possibilities and limitations of technology. We need to realize that learning styles go beyond Howard Gardner and people are perfectly capable of using both sides of the brain. We need to understand the fears that prevent people from fully embracing technology. We need to see that for every student with an iPad, there are still students who prefer paper textbooks.
As a society, we need to continue to grow and technological advances are evidence of that growth. But if we are serious about our desire to reach out to all of our users, we can’t focus so much on our efforts to reach out to the digital natives that we forget the analog residents. In this respect, I think we need to be wary about making change just for the sake of making change. Change is good and even necessary, but we need to remember not to make such a concerted effort to reach out to the younger, tech-savvy users that we completely exclude all others. However, I do realize that this puts librarians in a bit of a quandary. We make the assumption that all Millennials are equally comfortable and conversant with the latest technology, but this isn’t necessarily true. In the future, though, as the numbers change and the digital natives begin to outnumber the digital immigrants, settlers, and analog residents, this particular complication may no longer be relevant. However, there will be new concerns and new issues regarding technology and user services and again, we need to be vigilant about leaving nobody out.
Originally posted on my class blog.