Another CiL has come and gone, leaving in its wake longer Facebook friends lists, crowded Twitter feeds, numerous travel horror stories, and several gaggles of library folk who’re more informed and engaged than they were a week ago.* My Day 3 began with Michael Edson’s excellent keynote address detailing the insights he’s gained as the Director of Web and New Media Strategy for the Smithsonian, and ended in a Holiday Inn in Edison, NJ, quite further from home than I’d hoped to be. (But then, getting back to Ithaca can be difficult.)
Since the conference, I’ve found myself considering and reconsidering Amanda Etches-Johnson’s presentation during Tuesday evening’s Dead and Innovative Technologies session. In a display of audience participation which warmed the cockles of this former teacher’s heart, she’d put the name of a technology up on the big screen and ask the audience if it was alive or dead. Unsurprisingly, “blogs”, “Twitter”, “Second Life”, and “information architecture” went up on the screen to be soundly and joyously declared deceased by the crowd, and Amanda concurred with their assessment.
But then, with the first two examples, she did something I found very interesting. She showed how the purposes of blogs and Twitter had become diluted in content and infested with corporate advertising, and noted that this proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that such things were no longer trendy. And the part of me that used to teach LSAT prep perked up and said, “That’s a scope shift. Just because something’s not trendy doesn’t mean it’s dead.” And sure enough, then she showed a blog that was honest and interesting, and a helfpul Twitter conversation between a library and a patron. In cases like these, such tech doesn’t seem nearly so dead.
It’s easy, I think, when we play around with so much new tech, to mistake trendiness for viability.** It’s easy for library folk to forget that, by and large, we are not our target audience. Neglecting technology that our patrons might still be using because it’s not trendy is just another iteration of the mindset that gives us user-unfriendly OPACs that librarians think are awesome. And considering that most studies of library presence in Facebook indicate that the kids don’t really want us there right now, maybe communication and networking technologies like these only become viable for libraries when they’re not trendy anymore.
Finding the viability window for communication technology strikes me as one of the major issues that librarians need to grapple with in coming years, and Amanda and the other presenters did a great job of kicking folks’ brains into gear on the subject. And, it was fun to play RockBand with her.