In library school, keeping up with technology is stressed. Yes, the school may not be able to offer every program in existence for students to sample but they can offer some common ones and those that are freely available. One required course was even titles “Introduction to Information Technology.” Yet, how does the skills learned translate to the actual library and archive environment?
Based on where I’ve worked, attended school, or visited, the actual use of technology varies. Most academic libraries and well-funded archives seem to be technology pioneers. The academic libraries offer multiple computer types and programs; scanners; specialized multimedia labs; and online tools, such as LibGuides, screen capture software, and discovery tools (ex. Summon, EBSCOHost Discovery, etc.). Many also have begun to acquire 3D printers. For example, when I worked as a graduate assistant we were the first library in the state to acquire a KIC Bookeye scanner. This useful device was such a hit with students, after I left there were plans to acquire another. Looking at discovery services, the same library contracted with Summon to offer a discovery service back when it was the only product of its type, thus making it one of the first universities to offer the service. Other digital devices, such as iPads, cameras, video recorders, and more, are also offered for checkout and support is provided for these items.
Looking at archives, the well-funded ones I’ve visited or volunteered at pioneer other technologies. They offered microfilm reader/scanners as soon as the devices debuted. Behind the scenes, pending the amount of funding, they have planetary scanners and/or slide scanners and conservation labs. They also frequently began and led digitization movements to allow greater public access to information. Lesser funded ones usually have these technologies and related plans in mind, but they lack the funding to do anything about it.
Well-funded urban library systems nearby seem to mirror the academic libraries in regards to technology. They embrace the changes and keep up with it. Yes, they may not offer discovery tools, but they offer a plethora of databases. Their computer and online technology is also current. Other offered technologies vary, but I have seen one with the microfilm scanner/readers and a library system on the other side of the state recently made headlines when it purchases an Espresso Book Machine for patron use.
However, let’s look at another angle. Where I work now is a semi-rural public library. They scoff at technology changes. The online catalog was new over fourteen years ago and it’s capabilities are severely limited compared to what I used in college/graduate school and when I subbed long-term in a school library. Only a few databases are offered. The public and circulation computers still run on Windows XP, which will no longer be supported as of April 8. The computers in the offices were only upgraded to Windows 7 within the last couple months. Recently, the server was glitching and we could not access files stored there. I suggested making a move to using the cloud storage was have as part of our Google Apps for Education subscription because it would always be available and more than one person could edit files at once. In short, that did not go over well. Additionally, despite repeated requests, classes on social media use are not offered. In a nearby rural library system I once interviewed at, they had yet to create an online or offline electronic catalog. They plan to debut one later this year. Also, again the computers were old and, on to of that, the high speed internet was really no better than dial up. How does one handle all this? They must be a common problem in public libraries with small budgets and older staff, especially in rural areas. I will point out as a counter point, those where I am currently have embraced the self-checkout machine.
So to my point of this musing. In school, we are taught to be tech savvy. We are told to embrace technology. We are given experience with dozens of programs/technologies and on both PC and Mac computers. However, once in the field, technology’s use varies. I’ve worked places that embrace the new technological tools as they become available and in ones that drag their feet until the last possible moment. If you are a librarian, archivist, or a student planning on that career goal, what have you noticed in regards to technology and its adaptation? For those of you who are just library users, have you noticed this pattern when you utilize your library services? Has anyone noticed a similar trend in other fields?