Older Adults Want Internet Access — can Libraries Deliver?

Susan Smith Nash, the illustrious E-Learning Queen has made a call for Wifi and Computer labs in every nursing home. I say libraries, especially public ones, should join in on the call — but go even further. How about IT basic skills to go with the wifi? What about a little file management too?

I was lucky recently to win an iPod after answering a marketing survey. Yesterday I showed it to some older family members who thought it was just great that they could store their entire collection of Vera Lynn on a tiny little box. Now they want me to hook them up so they can run and go.

I am not sure exactly, but it seems to me that being a tech/information management guru might be a future for reference and information literacy in public libraries. Most desk requests are hold placements really. Where we can really help is by setting up the information training wheels so people can Flickr, and download MP3s and receive podcasts themselves.

“Don’t Fix the User” — An Anti-Meme, for precision rather than contradiction

I can totally understand why documents like “The User is Not Broken” would come about.   It’s about time someone attempted to tack directives onto the library doors to get us out of 20th century with web technology.   I have alot of respect for Karen Schneider as well, who was friendly enough to carry a neologism joke with me on her blog to the farthest reaches of absurdity.  I also love her How OPACs Suck  series.

But I always get concerned when a post comes out and is followed by a thousand “Amen!” “Hallelujah!” “So true.” “Yes, yes yes!” comments.    It just begs for immediate and early revisionism.   So here is my shot at it.

Lefty testy; Righty Tighty — How to Fix Your Users in Five Easy Steps 

All technologies evolve and die.  Every technology you learned about in library school will be dead someday.

Thank goodness.   Can someone please “kill” the lawnmover so my neighbour will stop nagging me?

You fear loss of control, but that has already happened.  Ride the wave.

Oh yeah.   The 60s generation was just sooo “in control” to begin with.  🙂

You are not a format.  You are a service.

I am a “service?”    I have a hard enough time being an “adult.”   Could I be just “Service?”  That way it comes off more like a superhero.  Or better, a superhero with an evil alter ego, “The Format.”   Like “The Juggernaught” from X-Men, except more ominous.  And professor X could tell me telepathically, “No, no, no Ryan — you are not “The Format,” but “Service” — the kinder, gentler librarian who works in Systems but would really rather be hanging out with the Reference Department.”

The OPAC is not the sun.  The OPAC is at best a distant planet, every year moving farther from the orbit of its solar system.

Now I’m confused.   If the OPAC sucks, doesn’t that make it a black hole or at least a vacuum?    Could it be a “sun” that exploded?

The user is the sun.

Let us hope that we, unlike Kryptonians, do not give up our only one to work as a journalist in a cheezy city.

That’s enough for now.   Come on folks, can you honestly tell me that, if you sat across the table from someone who told you you were “a service,” you’d immediately say “yes, hallelujah!”  with any amount of sincerity?    I am not a service.   A service is that fuzzy feeling the user gets if I do my job right.   A service is the ether that exists when two conditions are met:  1)  Someone implements an innovative (or not) idea and 2) People use it.   So, how about this:

1.  The user is the sun

2.  The OPAC is the clouds

3.  Knowledge is the earth.

4.  You are the wind.   Blow those clouds away and let the sun shine in!

The Subtler Side of Podcasting

The CBC has been offering podcasts of their most popular radio shows, and discovered some interesting things about their listeners. For example:

From that survey we learned that most podcasters are men under 40 who have high levels of education and work full-time. Interesting information to be sure, but with so much room to grow! CBC Radio is enjoyed by all kinds of age groups, and by people of diverse backgrounds – what the survey told us is that there is an untapped audience out there who might become podcast users if we provided the content they already enjoy.

One of my favorite CBC podcasts is “Shelagh Talks Podcasting.” ‘Shelagh’ is Shelagh Rogers from CBC Radio One’s Sounds Like Canada. She says that people usually hear a sound broadcast as individuals, not as part of a group. (She gives the example of sitting in a bathtub listening to a radio broadcaster who is talking as if he/she is in a classroom — a fairly uncomfortable experience).  Podcasting is perhaps even moreso, since I imagine people are listening to mp3 players with headphones, and perhaps doing all sorts of private things at the same time.

Sound information ought to tell stories.   Straight-forward, direct, and often personal ones.  No baloney.  No lessons or instructions.   Just one to one.
So that leads me to believe that libraries need to understand that people will not listen to podcasts of someone citing the latest DVD arrivals. Although it is cool that libraries are doing podcasts, I wonder if we might be doing ourselves a diservice by entering into the podcast world with marginal content.

But it is not fair to complain about library podcasts and not share ideas about how they could be better.  Here are some podcast ideas I would like to try.

  • A bookclub for guys hosted by a librarian, but in a local pub. The books are on whatever and definitely not Oprah or Canada Reads. Non-fiction should be encouraged. The discussion should definitely not be focussed on the book, but a 5 question multiple-choice quiz each person has to answer before the discussion. At the end, a prize goes to the person with the highest score. The series ends with a podcasted interview with the winner, maybe hosted by a famous interviewer (like Shelagh Rogers, say).
  • A “library stories” campaign would work with a podcast. Interviews encouraging people to tell their library stories. Maybe even call Madeleine Lefebvre and get her to advice on a podcast about love in the library.
  • A Community Tour would be an interesting thing as well. Each week or so, have someone travel into the community with stories about what they do, how they do it, and where the library fits into their work.    Even cooler would be something for small business, as in ask business folks “how did the library help you get started with your business?”
  • Open Mic nights could be a great source for podcasting or even videocasting information to customers. It could highlight youth achievement and show the library’s value in the community.

I assume that there are more ideas out there as well, but the bigger point is that, in the long run, podcasting is only as cool as the content. Better not to podcast than to podcast something we would rather not listen to ourselves.