By Elizabeth Wroten
Redux: Letting Go
On 21, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
It always irks me when someone in customer service cops the it’s-not-my-job attitude. I am a big believer in doing what is necessary to get things done or go the extra mile, even if it means taking on a task that isn’t technically my job. Rewriting the MLA citation handouts as an interactive pdf when all they really needed were a couple typos fixed? Sure! After all, it made the information much easier for the kids to understand and access and that’s what a library is all about.
I am also a big believer in great customer service in libraries. I know many people in Library Land don’t like to call it that, but librarianship is, in a lot of ways, a customer service profession. No I don’t help people find a dressing room, but I do help them find a book on the shelf or information online.
That being said, is there a time when it’s okay for us to let loose a little and actually take the it’s-not-my-job stance? Obviously, yes. We can’t do everything. But I think the answer is more subtle than that and it came to my attention the other day while watching the first AL Live video (which was very interesting, by the way).
Maybe it’s just me and the blogs and tweets I read, but I feel like librarians have become hyper focused on technology in an attempt to distance themselves a bit from the books-only image many people have. More specifically, I see a lot of predicting of technology trends. I understand and agree that libraries are becoming more tech oriented and I love technology. I’m even married to the technology director from the school I worked for. Sometimes it feels like I live and breath technology.
My aha! moment during AL Live was that I can say, “It’s not my job” to predicting where technology is going. It is my job to follow and use technology and decide what will work for my library and my program. I suppose that’s what most librarians do, but I still feel like there is a pressure to find new apps, find new gadgets, find new social media and it makes me feel very focused in one area. Libraries are not all about new technology just like they are not all about books. In my limited library experience I’ve seen this pressure backfire with the use of a bunch of web apps that petered out or that didn’t actually appeal to the patrons. The new major technologies adopted were found by some one whose job it truly was to follow the technology industry.
The ideal place for libraries to be is not as early adopters. If the popularity of a technology follows a bell curve we need to be on the leading edge just as it’s really beginning to gain momentum. By that point it should be becoming ubiquitous and it’s usefulness to the library should be obvious as well. We won’t look like we’re behind the times. We can help introduce people to it and help them see it’s value. In letting go of predicting The Next Big Thing we can redistribute our attention into all our ventures and areas of expertise.
I’m not suggesting libraries should hop on every band wagon and try every new technology fad. I’m not suggesting we need to ignore technology. I’m not even suggesting this is how every library and librarian is feeling and operating. I’m just suggesting we (I) can let go a little and occasionally let it be some one else’s job to find The Next Big Thing.