Posted by: Steven Harris | November 17, 2008

To the Lighthouse

Stephen Abram visited my library last week. He was a guest of the Rio Grande chapter of the Special Library Association. Abram is the Vice President of Innovation at SirsiDynix and current SLA president. He gave a speech at our library, which I was unable to attend. There was, however, a brownbag luncheon with him as well.

The luncheon format was really a lot of fun. Mr. Abram had an opportunity to speak casually with librarians from all over Albuquerque. He’s an innovative kind of guy, as you might expect. The lunch conversation as mostly about how librarians adopt technology and adapt to technological change.

A couple of interesting points that came up:

I asked about how to encourage library workers who are near retirement to embrace change. “Why bother? I’m out of here in 2 years. What’s in it for me?” Abram made the good point that people are living longer and continuing to work up to a more advanced age. They also may work part-time or volunteer after retirement. People who retire still have a good 20 years of work left in them, Abram said. Excellent point. And, I just realized, what library will want a part-timer or volunteer who is completely bamboozled by new (or current) library technology?

Another contrary point was made that librarians can adopt new technology and social networking tools like Facebook, but we never “speak them fluently” like those who are born digital, as it were. Maybe us oldsters will always be foreigners in this country. That was a point made by one of the librarians attending the meeting. Abram (and I) didn’t quite buy it entirely. Sure, there may be some barriers to comprehension in the use of social networking tools (what’s up with Twitter?), but I think the language fluency metaphor can be pushed too far. I think it’s more like riding a bike or learning to use a hammer. With enough practice, you can speak like a native and hammer like a carpenter!



  1. So, here’s my story along these lines–not library related at all. I have lots of “friends” on Facebook from all parts of my life, including some highschoolers in my family. Personally, I love the status line and like to keep it reasonably up to date–or to comment on someone else’s status line. My young cousins and my brother tell me that it’s “creepy” to comment on the status line. Maybe a generational thing? So, am I using FB incorrectly? And does it mean that I need to bring myself up to speed on this communication medium? I *generally* consider myself pretty savvy.

  2. So, maybe there are cultural and generational differences in the way some tools are used, but however much the youngsters might think they’re right, I can’t see that one is more correct than the other. Like, my mom and Christina Aguilera both wear dresses, but, um, they’re different!

  3. I think another way to look at it is shift in learning style. That’s probably more accurate than a language metaphor. School-age children now are more likely to be more nimble at jumping from point to point to point. To an older person, this may look like ADHD, but it’s not — it’s adapting learning style to the information flow coming at them. The trick is if one is not from that generation of learners, you’d better at least be aware of it when teaching that generation.

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