Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reflecting

Now that the semester is coming to a close I'll just do a bit of free writing about how I see the librarian's role in the tech revolution.  Let's see where this goes.

What will become of our career as librarians as tech advances and our responsibilities shift.  I spend hours a day working on a computer.  I am updating patron info, producing and posting podcasts, writing blogs, finding digital materials for teachers and students, guiding students through the process of researching online, putting purchase orders together, et cetera.  Research, a central use of a school library is becoming more and more about online research.  The online materials are updated regularly and easily searchable.  The physical library feels at times a bit outdated--limited in both scope and relevance.  Online feels occasionally too large and occasionally unprofessional if you don't know what you are doing?  Is this the future of my career?  To help people understand how to wade through the crowded waters of online research?  Teaching students how to go beyond the first page of results from a Google search?  To constantly slash through the garbage to collect relevant info for all units in a curriculum?  Am I a curator of information, or am I a guide?  Am I both?

Even the fiction section is in danger.  With libraries like the one at the private school in Massachusetts who eliminated all books in favor of Kindles everything could change.  I know that school had a special arrangement with Amazon, and I myself have thought about contacting Amazon about how such a program would work.  However, I also found myself afraid of the can of worm that might open up.  What happens to the library when the books are gone?  The school in Massachusetts has purchased a coffee bar and new computers for a lab.  Ok, so now it is a hang-out space and computer lab.  What happens as access to information becomes even more ubiquitous and even more portable?  What happens when you no longer need a dedicated physical space for machines to access information?  What happens when a library no longer needs a physical space?  Is there still a library?  Is there still a need for a librarian, or will we simply be information specialists solving problems remotely?  This may seem far off, but I think it is closer than we all think.

The only kind of library I see surviving for some time more are libraries for children.  They need the physicalness of a book.  No device out right now can replicate the color and feel and durability of a real childrens book.  And as of right now, the younger students I see still react more positively to doing research and learning from a real book.  They seem to remember the information more as I think it seems more tangible and real when learned from a book.  However, in time these things could change too.

It is an exciting time to be a librarian.  I wonder how this will all play out over my career.

At times I am reminded of my grandfather who went to a trade school to learn how to repair radios.  The radios back then were using tubes and had very complicated designs.   Shortly after he finished school, transistors became the norm and radios and other electronics became cheaper, more durable and easier to repair.  He had a long career as a butcher at a deli.

34 comments:

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