by Kama Siegel, Oregon Chapter, Legal Division
I think most SLA members consider themselves to be tech-savvy, if not “on the cutting edge” of gadgetry, social media and other innovative forms of communication. Even those who find individual forms of communication distasteful make a point of, if not embracing it, then using it fairly competently. The reason one of my colleagues gives for reluctantly accepting Twitter, for example, is because she knows that a fair number of her patrons or colleagues rely on it as a handy tool.
However, what if you run across colleagues who refuse to even try out these new tools, let alone adopt them? Do you just shake your head and leave them to their Luddite tendencies, or do you explain to them how they’re shooting themselves in the foot? I advocate the latter for while it may be uncomfortable to tell someone they are falling behind, it is a far worse proposition to ignore a way for our patrons to slip through the communication cracks.
Here are some reasons why a colleague would eschew the use of some form of technology (hardware or software), and the way you might address each:
- Cost/budget – Most communication platforms cost nothing, and are hosted on the web. It is understandable if someone balks at spending $500 for an iPad or a smartphone, but there’s no excuse for ignoring a tool that even one patron might be using.
- Fear of the new/fear of looking ignorant – The best way to get over your fear of new technology is to play around with it. No one is disapprovingly looking over your shoulder. And if you play around with it enough, you’ll find that you will either incorporate the technology into your routine, or you’ll discard it in favor or something else. Once you’re competent enough to make that choice, you’re no longer going to be ignorant. Additionally, your colleagues are librarians – they’re used to helping people! No one is going to laugh at you.
- Lack of time to properly learn/continue using the technology – This one might be the most difficult to overcome. However, if you can convince your colleague that all they need for competence is a mere 5-10 minutes a day for as long as they feel comfortable, you’ve won most of this battle. The other half of the battle is finding the time to keep using the technology in your everyday job duties. But again, if you start with 5 minutes and work your way up, you may find that it helps with your productivity.
- Lack of interest in a specific software or item of hardware – “Oh I’ll never use _________” says your colleague. Oh no? Famous last words. I nearly gave up on Twitter before I realized just how useful it is as a tool to increase productivity, and industry news feed. Stress to your colleague that some of these tools might need a lot of front-end work before she makes the decision to discard them or move on to the next available product.
- Belief that no patrons will be affected by the librarian ignoring the technology – Have your colleague walk around your organization and see what sort of tools your patrons are using. Tell her to talk to her patrons to find out how they’re using these tools. She might be surprised about all of the different methods by which patrons are harnessing information.
- Not sure about what’s available – Encourage your colleague to follow tech blogs or tech-savvy librarians’ blogs. They need to be at least a little curious about the tools in the first place before they can start to use them.
Ignoring any method of reaching our patrons is the opposite of Future Ready. To do so willfully should constitute malpractice.
Kama Siegel is the President of the Oregon Chapter of SLA and is the Computer Automation and Reference Librarian at the law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt.