When I began this class I was a techno skeptic. Part of the reason was the learning curve involved in using new technologies. When someone I know showed me this video on YouTube it instantly struck a nerve:
But another reason is that I equated the use of technology with the idea that big corporations profit from it. The main players in our lives include Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard. It’s a little challenging to integrate the ideas that libraries of the future will be both humanistic and technologically advanced. And I also think that private companies are organized around different missions than public libraries. But during this class, I began to see another side of technology: the way it appears to have leveled the playing field between big corporations and consumers and its potential to benefit people who are organizing politically. This is the view of technology that I read about in the The Cluetrain Manifesto. It does seem that the library where I work, San Francisco Public, has become a more open and democratic library in the last five years. This could be because of our new director, an expert in team-building, but also because of the leveling effect of everyone communicating on the Internet.
However, I think that librarians will continue to face conflicts between protecting patrons’ privacy and adopting emerging technologies, especially geospatial ones. I experimented with Foursquare which is on my library’s web site. However, when it or they asked me where I was located, I ended the experiment. I draw the line when it comes to providing information about my location to a company, whose motives I don’t know.
Reflecting on the class assignments, I think my favorite ones were reflection blogging and the context book report. While doing research for my blog, I learned about the staff and workplace structure, at SFPL, including the teams that work on issues like literacy and learning and diversity in programming. These teams have formed in the last five years, and I became aware of them by looking at the staff intranet. I am a library page and the pages, for the most part, (I only saw one exception) have not been asked to work on teams.
The primary organization of SFPL is by department and it is very hierarchical. We have four different classes of librarians, three of whom are managerial positions. However, when asking for information from the staff, I was impressed with how open and informative they were. For example, I emailed the person in charge of the library’s digital strategy and talked with him for at least two hours about creating a social media policy and the library’s plan to adopt BiblioCommons. I had a similar experience when researching the library’s programs for disabled patrons and the early literacy space. This open environment might be a result of SFPL’s next generation of public library leaders’ program, whose goal is to foster a collaborative work environment. The staff’s willingness to answer questions might also because they are committed librarians who value sharing information. Learning about the library’s programs through the eyes of the staff was a pleasant surprise.
I might add that I did not find the same kind of willingness to provide information when I contacted BiblioCommons, a private company, about my director’s brief. One person there had a good idea about researching this catalog, since I couldn’t login but he left many questions unanswered. The other librarian who I contacted worked at Evanston Public Library and also provided useful information. These differences in the willingness to share information reinforced my stereotypes about the different priorities of public libraries and private companies.
I graduated from SLIS in 2007 and had become increasingly aware that I was falling behind recent graduates and some librarians in learning about new technologies. I am more conscious, after taking this class, about the ongoing nature of this process. One way to continue it is to take InfoPeople classes or classes about technology at SFPL.
I am not sure about where I will work when I become a librarian. When I began library school, I wanted to work in a government documents department in a public library. I once went to that department at SFPL with a question about whether people who lived near a condominium project which would block their view had any rights to keep their views. The librarian I talked to was very helpful: she brought out a zoning map of my neighborhood which showed that I live in a mixed residential commercial district which meant I had no right to keep my view. I thought that I would like to provide this kind of service to others. I also liked doing reference, when I was an intern at the Marin County Free Library. These experiences have given me clues about the kind of environment in which I would like to work. I also think it’s important to follow your heart when deciding which jobs to seek.
I enjoyed being a part of this online community and sharing blog posts and comments. Perhaps I’ll see some of you in another class at SLIS.