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01

Jan
2014

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

January 1st Edition: Reading Resolutions

On 01, Jan 2014 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

This past summer I really knocked out a huge portion of my TBR pile, but with the end of the year blog posts that looked back to good books and ahead to books that look good, it’s grown again. In order to get a handle on my piles (which are really lists on GoodReads) I’m hoping to take a bit more methodical approach to my reading this year. I would also really like to get to some older books and the backlists of a number of authors. In addition I am trying to focus a bit more on middle grade and even upper elementary books as I now volunteer one a day a week in a lower school library (PK-5).

To this end I am resolving to:

  • choose an author each month and read as many of their older books as possible
  • read at least two or three titles off my TBR (YA or MG) piles; if they are titles by the monthly author, they count toward this
  • read one non-fiction book off my personal shelf at home; this kind of  reading has taken a real back burner since my daughter was born and with all the YA books I plowed through last year

I’m sharing this here to try and keep myself honest and also because you will be seeing the reviews come across the blog. I also think by breaking it up into more manageable chunks with goals like this, I will actually stick with it. Last year my reading came in these incredible bursts, but that strategy wasn’t very sustainable. I would go through long lulls before picking up another stack from the library and maniacally reading through them while ignoring the dishes, laundry, and dinner.

Does anyone else make resolutions for their reading?

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20

Nov
2013

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Makerspaces and the Library

On 20, Nov 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

On this blog I try to keep a separation between my professional development and my personal life, but back in October I attended two conferences (CUE and Internet Librarian) that brought some of my personal research into play. Over the past 6 or more months I’ve been really researching alternative educational philosophies and options for my daughter’s education. I know it’s a little early, but our public school system is abysmal and our private schools are less than impressive. The more I read about these philosophies (primarily Reggio Emilia, Montessori, and Waldorf) the more I agree with their underlying principles of student-led learning, teacher as mentor or co-learner, the incorporation of art and creativity, an emphasis on imaginative play (which is almost totally gone even from our local private schools), and a mixture of “subjects” that include more practical activities like cooking, cleaning, and developing hobbies.

I know libraries continue to see budget and staff cuts and keep having to do more with less. The new popularity of makerspaces and the insistence of some that they be part of libraries doesn’t help that situation. Neither does the fact that they feel a bit like some hipster fad. I can totally see how they aren’t right for many libraries and would be downright impossible for others to pull off. But I also think they’re a really important opportunity, especially for school libraries, to help curiosity, creativity, and outside-the-box thinking. Three of the sessions I attended at my conferences focused on makerspaces and I found myself very inspired by them, largely because the idea dovetails so nicely with the educational philosophy I have found myself drawn to in researching for my daughter.

So what exactly is a makerspace and what happens there? A makerspace is just any space that has been designated for free creating that is open to either the public, or, in the case of stand-alone makerspaces, people who pay a membership fee. Oftentimes it will be a place that has equipment that you would not have at home because it is large, expensive, or specialized, like CNC machines or letter presses (although I have to admit we own one of those) or 3D printers.  They tend to be spaces that encourage people to collaborate, bounce ideas off one another, and teach each other. Some makerspaces aren’t permanent, they “pop up” when a cart of materials is wheeled out into an open room. They can be large, they can be small, they can be medium. Some makerspaces have a specific focus for the types of projects created there, like printing (again with the letter presses!), others simply provide an open flexible space and a variety of classes (like the University of Nevada, Reno’s Science and Technology library that has whiteboard walls and offers classes from lock picking to Nerf nights themed around zombies and science). Making doesn’t have to be complex or expensive and any age can do it. Think toddlers with blocks, school kids with a bunch of cardboard boxes and some tape, and high schoolers with some wood scraps and a few basic tools. All making is, is creative thinking and imaginative play. It also frequently taps into STEM (another buzzword) and STEAM. Kids building with blocks to explore architecture. Kids using Minecraft to build in a virtual world. Kids creating art to express what they are learning about biology or math. Kids learning how a camera works by taking one apart and experimenting with one. Kids writing a play and making costumes to share what they have learned about a historical figure or event. Making can be cooking, baking, or brewing.

To me, the most important piece of making and makerspaces is that it emphasizes process over product. I think far too often in school, and even the work place, the product is more important than how a student got there. Even though that process can be incredibly enlightening. I would rather a student made a mistake and turned out a less-than-perfect product, but learned from the mistakes and made adjustments later than produced something perfectly the first time and was able to simply move on without much reflection. Product is obviously important, but it isn’t the end all and be all that our educational system makes it out to be. Makerspaces provide a great opportunity for students (and people) by giving them a space where it’s okay to fail and try again.

Makerspaces also provide a place where students can direct their own learning and follow their own interests. So much of our schooling focuses around a pre-set curriculum that requires learning facts that someone else has deemed important. Sure there’s value in what we learn in school, but, at least for my daughter, I would be happier if she learns how to learn (metalearning), learns where and how to research when she has a question and learns to love learning than learns a list of historical dates. That doesn’t usually happen when someone else is telling you what to learn, what questions to ask and to answer. A makerspace allows students to explore what it is they want to explore. They learn to ask questions and then set about answering them without someone telling them how. And, again, they learn how to fail and what to do when that happens. They learn to play and have fun learning. They learn to be creative and flexible thinkers.

All of this isn’t to say that because makerspaces are great I think libraries need to become makerspaces, nor do I think all libraries should create a makerspace. You need to know your institutional culture, your time constraints, your space limitations, and your budget. It’s important to note, though, makerspaces don’t have to be large or expensive (bring in some rolls of masking tape and a stack of newspapers or save large cardboard boxes and see what a group of kids can do). They don’t have to require loads of extra staffing (roll out the materials during a lull). Certainly a lot of what makerspaces stand for and encourage are tenets of libraries. I know where ever I end up when I am back in the workforce I will certainly consider creating a makerspace.

To go along with this post I would like to create post with a list of makerspace resources for anyone interested in learning more. My hope it to compile that over the next week, but I can’t be sure it will happen especially with the holiday coming up. At any rate, when it is up I will put a link in this post to it.

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20

May
2013

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

And Another Thing

On 20, May 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

A few weeks ago I talked about how staying home with my daughter is, much to my surprise, making me a better librarian. I have also talked about how my parenting philosophies have crossed over into my professional philosophies. I have since realized another crossover between my parenting and my career.

Now, I have virtually no experience with babies and very young children. I was terrified when they wanted to send me home from the hospital with no manual for my daughter. To calm myself down I did the next best thing, I read. I read a lot. I read books and websites and just about anything I could about parenting. After a few weeks with my daughter, I realized that my instincts and common sense were enough to get me started.

I also realized I could rely on all the literature I had read, instead of choosing one method or approach. There was a lot of trial and error as we figured out things like sleeping arrangements, feeding, weaning, sleeping, schedules and the like, but I was learning what suited our personalities and our family values in terms of parenting techniques. And that in turn made it easier for me to find ideas for what to do when my daughter cried in the middle of the night or how I wanted to go about introducing solid foods.

It may not be a new or particularly original idea, but I think it’s really important to realize that knowing your culture is applicable to libraries. Just as I needed to discover our family culture, it is essential to learn the institutional culture in order to know what kind of tools and programs will work. I love to look around at ideas for library activities and services, but that doesn’t mean every good idea I come across will work for whatever library I find myself in. I can pick and choose activities, services, and technologies or adapt them to fit the culture I find myself in. The whole messy parenting process taught me this.

I think I should note that none of this is meant to imply culture can’t or shouldn’t change. I think changing the culture of an institution can be extremely necessary and important, but knowing the culture will help you implement programs and innovations much more successfully. It can also be immensely helpful when beginning to work toward changing the culture itself.

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03

May
2013

In Reading Round Up

By Elizabeth Wroten

Reading Round Up: MLIS Debate Updated: 5/8/2013

On 03, May 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten

I guess I’m hopelessly out of the debate loop in Libraryland, because I had no idea until this week that people were debating the need for librarians to have an MLS/MLIS. I don’t want to turn this into a lengthy opinion piece, but I wanted to add a couple thoughts and share three links to some good posts about the debate that I read this week. First the links:

As I said, I was totally clueless that this was even something up for debate. I always thought it made perfect sense to require an advanced degree to be a librarian if for no other reason that it shows some level of dedication. Plus I think it lends professional librarians an air of credibility and legitimacy outside the library community. Whether or not that’s a good or bad thing is another conversation.

I agree with the Effing Librarian, because library school does give you a good philosophical foundation, just like getting a teaching credential would give you a good pedagogical foundation. Sure it’s expensive, but education is. Maybe we should discuss reducing the cost instead of no longer requiring the degree all together. Although I think Andy’s idea about a certification isn’t bad either, especially for people who already have professional degrees.

Update: While I really agree with most of the sentiments in the guest post on Agnostic, Maybe my own experience with the degree was different. I worked full time in a really poorly paid position. The economy had just tanked and jobs were disappearing. I didn’t have the option to quit my job and find a library job. San Jose State, where I was enrolled, had many internship opportunities but they were all unpaid and in the Bay Area, a good two hour drive from where I was living. Taking one of those just wasn’t an option. I also noticed that many of the other students enrolled were older than I was and married. They either already had a library job or had a second income that gave them the flexibility to take unpaid internships or low paid internships. I wish I had been that lucky. I tried to get library jobs while I was in school, but no one was hiring in my city. I used library school, even if it wasn’t perfect, to get a theoretical background, to get a sense of the directions I could go, and earn the necessary degree.

That isn’t to say only librarians with an MLS/MLIS are good librarians. There are bad librarians with the degree and there are good ones without it. But I ultimately agree with the Effing Librarian that without some sort of educational requirement/certification it potentially opens the field up to a lot of unqualified individuals and when the administration that does the hiring already thinks you just run a book museum, that’s a problem.

 

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04

Feb
2013

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

The Bookless Revolution?

On 04, Feb 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

So I guess that new bookless library that is going to open soon in San Antonio is causing a bit of a titter in the media – in and out of Libraryland. If you haven’t heard about it you can read a bit about it here on NPR’s website. The story has now run on NPR’s All Things Considered and also on APM’s Marketplace. I think my husband even told me he saw something about it on Gizmodo.

I thought, however, that the idea was interesting in light of two other blog posts I read on The Ubiquitous Librarian and on Censored Genius. Admittedly they aren’t exactly about the topic of ditching books, but they have ties to it. And they got me thinking about adding my two cents to the whole maelstrom.

I guess what irritates me about this whole debate is that it should be a non-argument because places like this new bookless library are really outliers on one end of a spectrum where most libraries fall somewhere in the middle. We should remember that library services are varied. We offer readers’ advisory and we offer computer classes. We offer study space and collaboration space. In the end I don’t think anyone, except for a very few outliers, are advocating that we drop everything in favor of buying the latest and greatest technology or that we abandon books altogether.

In some ways my irritation hearkens back to my thoughts on how librarians (or at least the slice of Libraryland I happen to follow) like to predict the next big thing in technology. That isn’t our job, though. And neither is going bookless when that isn’t a fit with your institution’s mission. I’m 100% for being innovative and looking ahead to provide services your patrons couldn’t even articulate a need for. But at the end of the day you need to take into account your community’s or institution’s culture. Know thyself.

In fact maybe this ties in with the blog post I read about on Hi Miss Julie about recognition and outrage at people getting lots of it for shiny new ideas that don’t really relate to the day to day literacy that goes on in libraries. I get irritated when people try to argue against the (imagined?) bookless revolution, too, by essentially saying that libraries are all about books and how can we even think about implementing technology? I understand that Miss Julie wasn’t really making that argument (in fact her point had nothing to do with the future of libraries debate at all) and that she is in a unique position as a children’s librarian. But we also need to recognize that we are living in a digital age. Even children will have some exposure to technology and need the skills to cope with a digital world. It doesn’t really matter if we personally like the idea of using screens and gadgets. They’re going to, and if that is what we need to encourage their literacy and build their information literacy skills, then that’s what we need to use. Especially if that’s what our institution’s or community’s culture demands.

I touched on this a bit in my piece about crossover from my parenting research. The thing about our patrons these days it that they are becoming as much creators of information and content as they are consumers of it. In Brian Mathews’ piece on The Ubiquitous Librarian he says:

At Virginia Tech we’re positioning ourselves to not only provide content, but to support content production. We think of this as not only about access to information, but also about enabling the creation of new knowledge. We’re evolving from a warehouse model toward a studio model.

And this is what we need to take into consideration when we add gadgets, books, and anything else to our library space and collections. This is how people interact with the world these days- through books, through the Internet, through Facebook, through crafting, through Tumblr, and through a million other content creators and aggregators.

I guess the crux of all this is that I believe libraries are more community hubs of learning, and always have been, than they are bastions of literature. Sure we offer books. But that isn’t the only way people learn and connect, now or in the past. Despite all the heated arguments for libraries being 100% books or 100% technology, no library really is. We all fall in the middle. With the exception of that one in San Antonio, of course.

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07

Jan
2013

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Patrons vs. Customers

On 07, Jan 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I know there’s an age old debate in Libraryland about what to call the people who visit our libraries. There was recently an excellent post about it on Designing Better Libraries and I totally agreed with the ideas in it. But the debate came up again, for me, in this recent piece in the New York Times about libraries and bookstores, so I thought I would add my two cents.

I don’t think it matters what we call those people who come through our doors (virtual or real). What matters is that we give them a great user experience.

I’m a strong believer in customer service be it at a store, a restaurant, an airport, where ever. I have expectations for how I will be treated when I go somewhere, especially where I am either paying for the service through my taxes (e.g. the sheriff’s office, the library, etc.) or where I will be spending my hard-earned money. I want to be greeted and acknowledged, not ignored. I want to feel welcome. I want to be treated fairly, politely, and respectfully. I want to be asked if I need help, especially if I am standing near an employee clearly waiting to be helped. I also want to be apologetically told if you can’t immediately help me or serve me. I want to be thanked if I am kind or spend money. I know this can sound demanding, but for the most part, I’m low maintenance. I don’t expect groveling or great shows of gratitude.

The thing is, I think librarians need to realize that we are in customer service. We are there to serve the people who come in and wouldn’t be there if not for them. We need to be friendly and helpful. Librarians love to talk about how we have knowledge and skills in all different areas that we want to share with people, so we need to make sure those people want to come to the library and learn from us and use our collections.

I do understand there are always people who are rude and undeserving of politeness. I like to call them jerks (or worse), not customers or patrons. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your composure, but if you do they look all the worse for being out of line. Keeping customer service in mind doesn’t mean we need to let people walk all over us or carry on deep conversations with people while we check out books. Just that we need to remember why we got into the profession.

So, as I said, it doesn’t matter what we call the people who come through our doors. If it helps you to think of them as customers so that you remember to give them a positive user experience, then you should. If you already know and think it sounds too insulting to call them customers, then don’t. Just be sure everyone is getting what they need with a smile or at least a polite and respectful attitude.

 

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24

Dec
2012

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Instagram and Privacy

On 24, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

Just FYI for anyone interested. Here are some amusing responses to the Instagram debacle. On Gizmodo and on ReadWriteWeb.

I do think this whole Instagram maelstrom has raised some interesting issues about privacy and ownership on the Internet. Although I am considered a part of the Millennial generation, I did not grow up with Internet or even a computer in the house until I was older. And our setup looked nothing like the setup of kids a good 10 years younger than me (who are also lumped into the Millennial generation). That being said I do share more characteristics and opionions with a younger set when it comes to the Internet and privacy. I really think there is a generational gap in regards to these issues.

Let me begin by sharing what practices I think are not okay, because I know my feelings are not what everyone in Libraryland agrees with. I disagree with the implied idea that Instgram can use and profit from someone’s photos without compensating them. I don’t think children should be targeted. Prey on those of us who are capable of understanding what you are doing with our information and can make more informed decisions. I don’t think publishers are being reasonable in their “agreements” with libraries. Help libraries out by providing them with sustainable models that protect their investments (i.e. possible ownership of electronic materials or continued access to what has been paid for). They are some of your biggest, or even only, customers.

But really when it comes to ownership of things like eBooks I am lax. I understand that libraries feel the need to own their collections. I understand that there are weird gray areas because of the possiblity of losing access to things you have paid for.  Personally, I purchase  physical copies or download (and occasionally print) electronic copies of articles and books I really want to have access to in perpetuity. I think publishers are preying on people, but I also think we need to begin looking at digital content in a new way. I remember balking at the thought that I would have to buy a new computer every few years or upgrade my software, but I no longer bat an eye at that. I think in part this is because I have adapted to a new way of thinking about technology. I’m not saying we need to accept what the publishers are offering in terms of licensing agreements, just that we need to think of eBooks and eContent as different from physical books and physical content. Do we really need to hang on to Fifty Shades of Gray for the next fifty years? God, I hope not. Weeding could get a whole lot easier.

In terms of internet privacy I have read quite a bit about the information being collected on me. I have also read about how companies use that to market to me and to others like me. But all things told, I don’t worry too much about it. Not yet. I am not opposed to targeted ads. If you’re going to give me coupon I would prefer it be for something I would want to buy. I can always ignore it. The quantity of data collected and my own obscurity also reassure me that I am not being singled out. Google collects a lot of data, yes. So do Facebook and Amazon. But they collect it on millions of people. Millions. I don’t stick out in the crowd. It is unlikely that, currently, I will be singled out. I think the possibility of my wallet being stolen and credit card being used as more of a threat. I believe my generation is much less private (as evidenced by Facebook) than generations before us. Is this good or bad, here or there? I don’t know.

There must be a line somewhere and I don’t want companies to cross it before we can ensure our safety and well being. Obviously ownership, eBooks and privacy are things that are huge in libraries and in other circles right now, so I’m keeping my eye on the situations. I’m even following privacy legislation and law. As things develop and change I’m sure my opinion will too. For the time being I just don’t worry about it. Not to mention I’m not going to stop using Google, or Amazon, or Facebook. Sorry if I sound like something out of Tron, but we live on the grid now.

 

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21

Dec
2012

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Thinking Outside the Binding

On 21, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

I hopped on the eBook bandwagon about five years ago when I purchased my first Sony eReader. I was curious about the technology and had a lot of free time to read (i.e. no kids), so packing fewer books in my purse was very appealing. I was a little irked that the books weren’t cheaper than their print counterparts since I was funding the reader too. But who was I kidding? I was going to buy the books regardless. What was a few more dollars to pay for the reader.

Now my family has that old Sony, several iPads, and a Nook. Not to mention the Nook app on our iPhones. (Hey, my husband is a technology director.) As much as I enjoy reading the occasional novel (mostly YA) on it, I haven’t been super impressed with eBooks.

The technology has improved drastically since I bought that Sony. But to me, most eBooks aren’t any different than what Gutenberg was turning out on his press. The problem with this is is, eBooks are technology. They aren’t bound (ha!) to the physical page. They can and should engage you in a different way.

I remember when the magazine Project came out on the iPad. (See here for a video walk through from Tech Crunch.) That to me was a huge step in the right direction for what eBooks should be doing. It utilized some of the many things that made the iPad unique- touch, animations, sound, color display, etc. Now many eReaders have the same features, so use them!

I remained unimpressed, until the other day when I downloaded the Charlie Brown Christmas app as well as Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. Both were books for my daughter. It suddenly dawned on me that children’s eBooks have actually been quite innovative in an attempt to engage those squirmy little beasts. We have Pat the Bunny, Pete, and Nighty Night on our iPad and all of those books make use of the broad range of iPad/eReader features.

I would like to note, at this point, that my daughter has an enormous personal collection (we’re talking hundreds strong) of print children’s books. I don’t think eBooks for children will replace beautiful copies of their most beloved books (although…if I have to read Happy Hippo, Angry Duck one more time…), but I think it’s really wonderful to see that someone out there in the land of publishing is thinking about more than just scanning the print version of a book. I would like to see this for textbooks, non fiction books, and even fiction novels. How about special features like on DVDs, like author interviews, different versions of the cover, interactive drawings (I’m thinking of you Leviathan!), etc. So, let’s start thinking outside the bound book.

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19

Dec
2012

In Remix

By Elizabeth Wroten

Remix: Judging Books by Their Covers

On 19, Dec 2012 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten

I just read this article about the racism that is rampant in YA book covers. It was such an informative post and I for one will admit I was only partially conscious of the state of YA covers.

What I wanted to add to this article was something I became acutely aware of after becoming a mother to a girl. These YA covers are detrimental to white girls, too. Notice that the girls on the covers shown (and the many more put on display in libraries and bookstores) are very airbrushed? They have flawless skin – not a pimple, red spot or freckle in sight. They are wearing sexy clothing. They are very thin and mostly tall. How many girls of any color do you know that are naturally built like that? I only know one, maybe two. Lucky her. Unlucky the rest of us who are told to make our bodies conform to that ideal. No matter how accepting we are of how we look (tall, thin, short, round, busty, hippy, brown, white, etc.) we still feel the pressure and still have moments of weakness where we look at ourselves in the mirror and wish we were just a little bit thinner, a little lighter skinned, a little taller.

And it isn’t only girls who get bombarded with impossible body ideals. Boys get it, too. Not every man has a rippling chest and six pack. Not every man is tan with perfect skin. I feel for the boys too.

Now it’s creeping into our books. A place that should be an escape. Especially since so many books do such a good job of putting girls of all stripes up on a pedestal. How about Katniss? She wasn’t much of a “girl” but she still kicked some serious ass. How about Ismae from Grave Mercy? She’s got some serious scars on her body, but she also kicks ass. Even Bella from Twilight is supposed to be plain, not some great beauty. I like beautiful book covers and I frequently pick up books where the cover has caught my attention. But I think you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have normal looking girls, girls who match the character in the book, and a beautiful cover.

So it comes down to the question, what can we do about changing or at least impacting bad body image as librarians? I don’t know. I really don’t. As a parent I will be doing my utmost to ensure that my daughter has a healthy self-image and understanding that Hollywood bodies do not equal normal. We don’t talk about weight in a negative way. We don’t hold up images of women as an ideal. I try to show her diversity of all kinds. I tell her she is beautiful. Did I mention my daughter is only 16 months? It needs to start early because the media gets to them early (Pink Legos? That make tea parties? As if girls can’t play with “boy” colors and don’t want to make their own forts, planes, trains, etc.). But as a librarian, I just don’t know.

I have seen an activity that could help to combat some of this negativity. It might be worth a try and if nothing else, it would be fun. Have either a book club or TAG or English class read a book with out seeing the cover (enshroud it with kraft paper), then create their own cover. I know a lot of kids might shy away from this. Especially, if they felt they had to draw a person, but I would encourage them to take their own pictures or find images online. This doesn’t have to be a super-slick, publisher-quality cover. Just a good representation of what they think the cover should look like. Then do a big reveal of the publisher’s cover and compare and contrast the two. I’d be very curious to see what happens if you use one of the books where the picture on the front doesn’t match the words in the book at all.

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12

Dec
2012

In Redux

By Elizabeth Wroten

Redux: Requiem for a QR Code

On 12, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten

QR codes have been around for awhile now and I am here to ask that they please, please just go away. I know they seem like they have such potential. Brick and mortar stores use them. Libraries love them. Even magazine ads print them. But really, they’re just a nuisance.

What initially rankled me about them was the UX process. I have to get out my iPhone. Unlock it. Find the screen where my QR code reader app is. Launch the app. And then, and only then, can I scan the thing. Seriously, five steps to be taken? And all to take me to some advertisement?

Beyond that, advertisers (and others who employ them) seem to misunderstand what they are. They are barcodes with an embedded URL that will take you to a website or webpage. So the QR code Whole Foods put out on its sandwich board on Saturday morning took me to a special, early bird deal. The QR code on the strawberry container I bought took me to the company’s website. Great. I hate ads, but I knew that was probably what I was getting myself into. But what about those people and companies that put a QR code on their website? Just think about that for a moment. Why didn’t you put a link? I am not going to get out my phone and go through all that rigamarole to be taken to a website. On my phone. While sitting at my computer. This is an extreme example, but start looking around at QR codes and how and where they are used. You will find lots of weird little placements and uses.

As ridiculous as those things are, I think the final nail in the QR code coffin is that I never see anyone scan them. Never. Have you? Most of our friends don’t even know what they are and we hang out with a mostly tech savvy crowd. My husband and I are the only two people I know who have actually scanned a QR code. And I certainly don’t know anyone who has a QR code reader installed on their phone. In fact, those two examples I gave above are the only two QR codes I ever scanned, after which I deleted the app. That was over three years ago.

This is the point where the librarians reading this throw their hands up and say, but I do totally awesome scavenger hunts with them! I’m sure you do, but consider this. I think QR codes are emblematic of what libraries do wrong with technology. We’re so excited to use technology and so ready to find a place for it that we will adopt gimmicky technology without thinking about the applicability and practicality of the technology. (I think this stems in part from our desire to predict “the next big thing”, see my post here about that.) If we want to appeal to our customers and show them “the way” with technology, the application of if needs to be organic. It needs to be seamlessly integrated. It helps if it looks slick, too. Technology use that is forced just won’t catch on. No matter how excited we get about it. How long do you spend explaining what a QR code is and how to scan it before your patron (frequently a bored kid) can get on with that totally awesome scavenger hunt?

I’m not trying to be overly critical, at least not of libraries. I know there are people out there that use technology beautifully and show their patrons how to as well. I read their blogs. I do! I think our work in preaching the gospel of technology is very valuable and worthwhile. I just would like to see us employing technology that is useful and that people truly connect with, find useful, and find themselves wondering how they lived without it. And when they don’t, as with QR codes, move on.

-Update 12/18: Gizmodo agrees, QR codes suck.-

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