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This is to be a “best of” my blog entries, but it’s always good to close out the semester checking in with tech news from The Onion:
 

To me, this is what technology is all about: finding someone to talk to who actually understands.

This semester, I’ve been talking a lot to myself and anyone who reads this blog. What I now have is a fine display of many blog entries labeled as “uncategorized,” a terrible thing for librarians. We categorize everything, and no matter what a thing is, we can’t wait to stick a subject heading or two on it. In previous library classes I took in another institution and wound up with a different Masters degree (proving what others have theorized that I am not only insane by also enjoy pain and suffering way too much), I had a professor who said we should even be barcoding and cataloging our mops and buckets. After all, they could be checked out and we wouldn’t know who has them.  I suppose the subject heading in the catalog would read:

Mops–United States–21st Century–Biography

I think it’s a matter of comfort for people to organize things in their own place so they know what they are called. People like their clutter because it makes them feel secure in their stuff and wouldn’t know what to do without it.  It’s a threat to say everything is miscellaneous, chaos, or uncategorized. It means you’ve got to make things up as you go along…that there is no ultimate meaning or reality you have to follow but that you create what you want. But many, including catalogers, would be greatly disappointed  to learn there are more questions than simple answers, and ultimate truth just isn’t there, so we may as well get used to things that are uncategorized:

This for me is why the hyperlinked library is such a fascinating thing to explore.  There is no real model of what “hyperlinked” means because it is a fluid understanding of what the library is becoming. Once you define it, you stomp it down and  destroy what it could be. It avoids definition because once you think you know what it is, it has already changed. Probably the most redeeming thing to happen in my life was when the concept of postmodernism (as a philosophy), clicked on a lightbulb in my head and I realized there cannot be one big mega daddy meta narrative to explain all of life and instead we are surrounded by many mini narratives we use to make sense of the world.

We can say the hyperlinked library is not one meta narrative, but a collection of many mini narratives that focus on user experience, participation, community, engagement of the user, transparency, mobility, creating things, and reflection. There are many ways to do this through a storytime with kids, video with teens, Twitter feed with the public, Idea Box for anyone, or e-book instructional class for senior citizens. Hyperlinks keep going and take us to many places we would never have known.

Much of my reflections and ponderings have dealt with the big, ultimate questions of life and how I fit in it and the library world. Others made no sense at all. That’s life. But here are some highlights:

* At the beginning of my high school library school year, we had a guest speaker with many probing ideas to explore. One video he shared was one I related to our course:

I remarked then:

Much like the above people on the escalator, so teachers, and librarians tend to be. But our jargon is great. We talk 21st Century, web 2.0, technology, social networking, and all kinds of techie words, but we have no idea how to really implement them. So we make a blog that is updated every two years, a Facebook page with few followers, or other tools which are never utilized. Our speaker on that Friday also asked how many of us are truly prepared for students wearing Google glasses and accessing the web through their voice (soon to be available in contacts), or having a hologram-type keyboard emanating from their watch as they access the web. I can barely push the buttons now…no idea how I’d do that.

(the entire post is found here).

* I have shared a struggle I have with constant computing:

The constant computing thing though has me baffled. I have a Facebook page but little interaction. Many are former students. I have a Twitter I see no reason to tweet about. I follow library blogs, and have my own blog. I still have a flip phone because (and I have looked into this for a long while) I see no need to pay a ridiculous price for something I don’t even use now. If I use 300 of 1500 minutes for $30 month, that is rare. I know how to use smartphones, but see no need for one. Emails are mostly professional.

I seem to be missing something when it comes to this networking thing. There is a blurring now of personal and professional. I still have found teachers at school who don’t own any electronic devices or even have a computer or home email. How can you be effective? I am certainly not like that, yet in a constantly connected world feel disconnected often.

The personal and professional is a big struggle for me, conceptually if nothing else. But we have to “take it personally” because a separation of public and private life no longer exists for many people. That doesn’t mean we have no privacy at all or are transparent about everything, but it recognizes we can’t keep up with a job that is only a job. It’s nice to turn technology off regularly so we can unwind, but to separate completely keeps us out of touch. I still work with teachers who don’t use their computer at home or have a personal email address. How can someone be effective in their job like that? We live in a hyper-connected world that never turns off, so we have to somehow connect our lives to it.

You can read of my continuous computing rambles here.

* I rambled on about a typical day in my librarian life in which nothing works I find workarounds: everything from computers to TV’s and copiers. Not much of the “convenience and relevance” Dempsey wrote about. But this ramble is here.

* Oh yeah, I did a podcast book review of Daniel Pink’s book Drive: the surprising truth of what motivates us. What is significant is not the brilliance and intellect of my review. Actually it didn’t have those qualities anyway. But what it did have was me trying to get through the podcast with a string dangling from my tongue. This was on a Friday night. On the previous Monday I had a biopsy done on my tongue and it was now sown up with stitches. Do you know how hard it is to keep your tongue from playing with those stitches? Anyway, I should bite my tongue more, but on that night it hurt like hell. You can hear the podcast here.

* In dealing with technology being a connection, I posted this:

So I am thinking not only of my own identity, but also of the library as an institution and what the Hyperlinked Library means. I personally find all the trinkets and toys we call “participation” shallow and watered down. I have a Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc etc., but find little connecting or stimulation from them. Godin talks about how we can link ourselves to any possible group in the world. I must be doing something wrong.

It is indeed true technology is making us antisocial with our phones, tweets, things sticking out of our ears, and now Google glasses. But this has happened before, and people of an earlier age complained about this:

What’s the matter with these people, anyway? It’s not like the good old days when people talked to each other more.

* I made a post that pokes fun of people I used to work with because they illustrate perfectly why we need this class. THEY are still out there somewhere. Here is that post.

* YouTube is a great example of Seth Godin’s discussion of tribes. YouTube Channels are another social networking place people connect, so I did this for one of the assignments as an example of going where the users are.  I wanted to show how academic libraries can use YouTube Channels to showcase their stuff. I may have spent just as much time running around YouTube, however, looking for examples of college library channels and getting sucked in to retro 80’s junk I remember. But that was part of the point for me: other people like 80’s retro junk too, so someone out there understands me. Well, they follow a channel too. This YouTubing assignment was fun, and it can be read here.

* I examined a little more about privacy and online and offline tracks. We need to be transparent and authentic, which is something a lot of people are not doing, even though they expose a lot of their life online. It is still hard to find people being honest or authentic about things. We still, however, need to be mindful of people watching what we say and do online and in the sense of organizations, who we represent. Someone is always watching.

* I pondered how users are really just people with needs, including introverts and non-mobile people who feel out of place in society. This was further expressed in my post reflecting on technology & society in which all of this stuff is critiqued. This tech age shows our longing for connection, yet fear of true intimacy. Since the web is open to everybody, anybody can contribute (the “cult of the amateur”), and we find some amazing stuff but also some junk. Just like physical life, actually.

Social networking can be enriching or shallow, depending on the user. But no matter what we see, we can pretty much all agree that we have a longing for connection and community. This is where libraries do not change. We are here to serve the patron, the user, the human beings with needs who come to us. They need more than just a book, a half-hour on the computer, or a glance at the paper. They need to know they are welcomed and valued by someone, somewhere, and may only get it in the library. The younger generation uses technology to do that, but still the seeking is the same. Libraries cannot be measured by what we have or give out, but the community we build.

Based on the idea of the “Idea Box,” I suddenly realized the bulletin board in the children’s room at the public library I work at could have some potential. So I created a “Story Wall” that encourages kids and parents to write stories and draw pictures on different themes, which in this case is holidays:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=611081148951738&set=a.228399223886601.57291.130949140298277&type=1

So I guess you have to start somewhere.

* This was supposed to be a “best of” my blog but I’m not sure what it really is. But as a final thought: as classes come and go and assignments done, I find myself more reflective of the whole process. We come together and learn together, then go our separate ways to try and make libraries and communities better wherever we are. The people we meet and help are as varied as the communities we live in. We learn from each, and are better for the experience. It reminds me of the best final TV episode ever made: the final episode of M*A*S*H*, now thirty years ago.

Goodbye, farewell, and amen.

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The following is a fictitious proposal recommending the use of the LibGuides content management system for a college library. While budgeting would be a major consideration in any proposal, it has been left out here since exact pricing is not available publicly.

Director’s Brief  11/24/2013
To: Dr. Stuffee, Library Director
From: Bob Dreeming, Reference Librarian
RE: Implementing LibGuides into our library

Introduction:

I am submitting the following proposal for the purchase of the LibGuides content management service for our library as it will better serve the needs of our students and faculty.

LibGuides, used by many other libraries similar to ours, have found success using this platform. It is my intent to show you how LibGuides would work in our university library in an era of financial discomfort and constraint. While we have had numerous conversations over the past year on how to utilize web 2.0 tools (such as mentioned above), we have not yet discussed how a platform such as LibGuides can help us organize all of these other tools in one location.

What are LibGuides and what do they do?

LibGuides are the solution to the problems we reference librarians have been having. We know our print subject guides are not only outdated, difficult to maintain, and often incomplete, but also they are based on an obsolete model.

Over 1,700 libraries use LibGuides not just for content management but also knowledge dissemination. LibGuides can gather our research tutorials, connect with web 2.0 applications, and serve as what we once termed a “pathfinder.” (Roberts & Hunter, 2011, 68). LibGuides is tab-based with a variety of boxes and columns (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 2010, 642). RSS feeds, chat widgets, embedded videos, and pictures are just a few of the resources which can be places in those boxes. Everything can be shared with the social networking bar  to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Since we will always have staff not proficient in html code and web design, LibGuides does all the work for us with a simple interface. Also, by creating a template, we create consistency and can be more efficient with time (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 644), while also having the option of not using the template and creating a guide from scratch according to class needs.

Roberts and Hunter also break down the need for LibGuides in three areas: New Library; New Librarian; New Student. “The new library goes where the student is. The new student is on the computer. Librarians are aware of this and are working towards a better, more versatile library” (Roberts and Hunter, 70).  The breath of new life for the library is actually found in what we have always done: provide whatever the patrons need. As we seek to be an emerging library meeting patrons where they are, we can find a willing in ally in LibGuides to help us organize and distribute our content.

Ultimately the new library is adaptable. The library is not a lone silo relying on its internal staff to be experts in various fields. The new library allows for more collaboration amongst teaching faculty, students and librarians.                                                                                                       (Roberts & Hunter, 70).

LibGuides take us to where the college student of today is. We will continue our role of providing information in an organized fashion. Students need well-organized, easy-to-find guides for doing research. We need to connect with the user as they connect to everything else, mainly web 2.0 tools. LibGuides is designed to take us there. LibGuides is a system:

where students can submit links for classmates to review…Students can rate items and comment on boxes on any guide… Students appreciate this type of social networking where they can add to the discussion in a meaningful way…This creates a new type of online classroom where learning has no boundaries to a time and place. (Roberts & Hunter, 72)

LibGuides are a user-centered tool. They can be viewed on a phone or tablet, so students have access wherever they are.  Librarians have the ability to belong to the LibGuides community whereby we can copy (with permission) a box or page from another contributor and others can do the same with ours. We can also reuse our own boxes so that a box with “History databases” could be simply copied from one guide to another so that we don’t have to duplicate the same material.

What else can we do with it?

Indiana State University has a LibGuide designed specifically for distance learners: http://libguides.indstate.edu/distancelearning

Their page is a model we could use. They have several tabs which function as a library orientation for students who are not physically visiting the campus or library. The home page gives valuable information for getting students started and how to contact the library staff. Their purpose was to provide the same quality of information services to distance learners as on-campus students received (Arvin, 2009, 26).

screenshot1

 Gonzalez and Westbrock (2010) describe the influence LibGuides has had at New Mexico State University:

Using the LibGuides platform, guides can be created, updated, and changed relatively quickly. Since creating guides was becoming much less burdensome for librarians, they are able to create guides to meet specific, and often changing , needs of students and faculty. Without any input from faculty besides a syllabus or assignment, course/assignment guides can be created, shared, and used to open the door to future partnerships. These guides provide faculty with a vetted, organized set of tools to provide to their students (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 2010, 649).

The value here is obvious: we would not only assist the student-user but also the faculty-user who would see the value of the library staff and seek us out for further help.

screenshot2

Understanding how to reach our users is not as intimidating as we make it out to be.  Wayne Bivens-Tatum (2010) says all we really need is imagination and sympathy. “How many studies do we need to tell us people like ease, familiarity, simplicity, and quality and in that order?…Users want simplicity, ease of use, and quality resources. Well, guess what? So do I.” (Bivens-Tatum, 2010, 8). So don’t we all.  LibGuides can do a lot for us with simplicity and quality.

Schmidt (2010) uses “UX” to abbreviate the user experience, saying “UX is about arranging the elements of a product or service to optimize how people will interact with it. ” This is why our print guides need to be replaced with a more user-active system.

What do we need to talk about?

One issue we will need to discuss is who will have administrator rights.  Indiana State also cited this as an issue which needs to be decided upon before activation (Arvin, 2009, 24). Whether professors and/or students will have access to add boxes, comments, or other features will also need to be discussed.

Gonzalez and Westbrock (2010, 640) describe several practical issues that could make or break how effective LibGuides could be. The LibGuides must be easy to find on the library website and be findable to the user through several points of access. If LibGuides are buried, then we are wasting our time.

Gonzalez and Westbrock also found that course related guides were much more effective than general ones (Gonzalez and Westbrock, 640). Building a U.S. History LibGuide with several tabs and boxes would overwhelm users doing a specific project on the 1890’s. Not only should the LibGuides be course-specific but even some cases assignment-based. The user needs to see an immediate help and application.

To avoid confusion we would need to be consistent in what we call LibGuides, as some libraries choose “subject guides” “reference guides” or other various names. We would need to set a name and stay consistent (Gonzalez and Westbrook, 648).

McMullin and Hutton (2010, 795) describe their experiences with LibGuides at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. To get faculty involvement requires communication and collaboration, not to mention their individual personalities and your past relationship with them.  One way to do this is a “tips for faculty” page including screencast tutorials on how to embed the LibGuide into their own class website. An example is found here:

McMullin and Hutton (2010) go on to conclude that LibGuides “have allowed us to sort through and repackage our resources to suit the immediate needs of a group on our campus, and do so very quickly. They support the personalization of the research process and will help us to serve the new influx of distance education students” (McMullin and Hutton, 2010, 797).

Conclusion

LibGuides can greatly assist us in connecting with the user, especially the distance-learning user. We have great resources to offer but need a more attractive format with which to organize and allow them to be found by the student. LibGuides are exactly what we need.

Schmidt (2010) gives us a good concluding thought of users being people who have needs and are trying to accomplish goals:

People will notice, though not necessarily consciously, if we take the time to think about them when we’re developing our services. The secret here is not to think of library patrons, users, or customers: we need to think of people. We need to consider their lives and what they’re trying to accomplish. This act, which can only be done by cultivating the skill of empathy, is the most important—and perhaps the most difficult—part of user experience design.

As an institution which focuses almost exclusively on the needs of distant learners at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, LibGuides can serve us immensely, both in organization of library and subject content, and also as a platform for promoting our other web 2.0 services, such as embedded YouTube and other videos, numerous hyperlinks to other sources, RSS feeds, tagging, polls, surveys, sharing via social networking sites, as well as annotated bibliographies. LibGuides will help us utilize all these other tools.

I hope we can purchase LibGuides for our library and college community so we can do a better job connecting with our users.  I believe we would find success and higher usage statistics of our resources by having them linked on LibGuides. Other colleges such as ours have found similar success.  As we have watched the classroom change as more students are taking hybrid classes or even classes fully online, so the library needs to adapt. The classroom is emerging, so must the library (Roberts & Hunter, 2011, 69).

I hope we can consider the purchase of LibGuides and train our staff in delivering this content to our college community.

Bibliography

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This has actually been my favorite week of assignments for this class so far this semester. No, that’s not because there were no assigned readings. If anything, the four books Kyle discussed in the lecture have burdened my life because I now have 4 more books to try and read because they sound very thought provoking.  Somewhere down the line maybe I’ll read all the stuff I hope to read…as long as I don’t read their bibliographies. One book leads to another and to another…

I like doing this critical theory stuff, postmodern stuff, or whatever label you put on it. Critically analyzing the field is where I find myself at home. Having lost my faith and previous identity, my mom to breast cancer, and then my marriage, all within a few years time, the LIS world may actually be more of a refuge for me than a career. In many aspects, it is all I have left at this moment in time. And it is a world in which you are encouraged to read, think, discuss, and when you do that go back and do it some more. I like thinking big picture about whom we are and why we do what we do as it helps me do some of the same for myself.

So these thinkers have given me some things to think about and the way they have expressed these thoughts are unique ones I’ve never thunked before.

Sherry Turkle:

Some of her thoughts include:

The illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship.” I thought about this when I “unfriended” (a great word and idea someone should write a dissertation on) someone on Facebook who had over 1,000 friends. I’m sure he’ll never miss me. We go back to our college years and were one time colleagues in the religious world. How do you have a 1,000 “friends”? Social networking easily becomes a fraud or status symbol. Ironically, in the ministry we were encouraged to have such behavior because we the emphasis wasn’t on depth but gimmick. Bring people in, keep them entertained, and get them to be members and contributors. That’s how you build community, so the thought was. Mega church pastors from the Midwest were always the examples: “He preaches to 5,000 each week. What’s the matter with you?” So we were given the “add water and stir” instructions for how to do that in our church. It was soon apparent I would never be able to do this because I was not a cult leader who would draw people by my charisma and entertainment value. I wanted to ask questions and make people question and think. You don’t gain many “friends” that way, but the few you do are greatly enriching.

I think she is on to something. True friendship requires commitment and trust, and surely you can’t do that with 1,000, or even 300 people. But it seems maybe everyone is so alone because in society we are Bowling alone (to cite another book title I’ve never gotten to) that we have to have so many “friends” online to convince ourselves we are connected, or have “followers” so we feel someone is listening when we don’t have anyone in real life who actually will.

Social networking can be just the opposite. We can have fuller relationships we physically couldn’t have in real life, and more contacts than ever before. The strong relationships we have can be stronger because no matter how far apart we can still connect. But I wonder if this is the exception rather than the rule.

* “Being alone feels like a problem that needs to be solved.”

We are so used to the instant and the loud we don’t even feel comfortable in the alone, quiet, and reflective. Yet, it is hard to appreciate relationships and connections without realizing the opposite, and being alone makes us appreciate company. But our devices attempt to “solve this problem” and give us constant, continual noise, dribble, and nonsense.

Well, connection if you look at it positively.

But unless used properly, we can become a slave to our devices and feel we cannot live without a constant tweet or text.

* “We are using them as spare parts to support our fragile sense of self.”

This is pretty true. When we don’t have a sense of who we are, we let machines do it for us. About a year I dabbled into the world of online dating. The biggest struggle for me was in writing my profile so I didn’t sound like a stiff, although I most likely am one, and trying to sound real without really being real. I was depending on a machine with all of its algorithms (how exactly does someone who is a 30% “match” get recommended to me anyway?), swarming with other people playing the same game. Friends have told stories of others they know playing this game, never taking it seriously, but doing it for something to make them feel good. I probably spent more time playing with filters and seeing what resulted, fascinated by how the whole thing works. I have a disabled account now. Not good at playing games. But yet, here we are as living examples of letting machines support our fragile sense of self.

People often feel that no one is listening, really listening to them and who they are. So, Facebook and Twitter create automatic listeners to make us feel there is someone who cares.

*”Human relationships are rich and they’re messy, and they’re demanding, and we clean them up with technology.”

How true. Take the pic down, delete the posting. If only real life were that easy to manipulate. Why can’t I just create a different screen name for the rest of my life? Maybe I can go through life making anonymous comments. That’s much easier than taking responsibility, having commitment, or investing in someone or something.

Then there were the thoughts from Keen:

I found myself agreeing with what he was saying. Then I realized he is part of the problem because he is using YouTube and participating in the same “Cult of the amateur” society we all do. I know he would say he is giving content rather than dog’s farting, but it is the same freebie audience that is getting information and entertainment for free that he is attracting on YouTube.

One of my realizations in moving from the right wing of my birth to a more center, then to the far left, and now whatever I am, is that there are obnoxious fundamentalists on both sides who simply state their opinion as the unfettered truth. Keen is one of these. I instead lean towards the Robert Frost quote: “A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel.” We all have opinions and biases, but to present those in a superior way, is in Kyle’s words from the lecture when he said Keen is a jerk. I agree. If he wanted to, Keen could have demanded this video be available for a fee so pitiful folks such as ourselves won’t be stealing something.

Keen does raise good points, though. Imagine Cronkite saying “Let’s read some of the tweets that have come in about the moon landing…”

CNN has been broadsided reporting such things as “fact” and realizing it is some misguided fool. But these things happened in the old days too, despite Keen referring to the great institutions and establishments of old as guarding against such things. They were full of crap too, but you would never know it unless you were on the inside, and you didn’t have the luxury of it forever living on YouTube.

Meritocracy.

Today everybody is a doctor on the web, and Yahoo answers will help you diagnose your sickness. But who’s going to trust a government healthcare site that wreaks havoc on users, or what a politician says, or a company that makes its profit by destroying the environment? People are skeptical of the “grand institutions” he describes. While the great stuff does get “lost in the ocean of garbage,” we have access to great things we would not have before.

In a church history class in college, one of the few things I remember the professor saying was “Cream rises to the top, but so does scum.” He was referring to “cults” or erroneous teachings according to the established doctrine. I’m not even going there. But the key I remember was that because of so much other “stuff” out there, it helped re-define what it was they did believe. They hear a false teaching and say “That’s not right…but how do I respond?” Kyle said this well in that hearing these criticisms helps us in better articulating what we are presenting, and also helps us re-evaluate what we are teaching.

I think of an interview I heard on NPR this week with the author of the blog “Hyperbole and a half.” This was a great interview with a lady who shares her struggles through drawings, including describing her bouts with depression. Having had those same thoughts and feelings as her in a struggle with depression I’ve had, I found this interview and blog comforting. This is an “amateur” not a professional like Keen expects. The Idea Box is another example. But because of the free democracy of the web, this message can be sent out for free.

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Being from Maine originally, I know how people take pride in saying “You can’t get there from here” to tourists in an attempt to get them frustrated so they won’t come back.  Pretty funny too, since those tourism dollars are about the only thing keeping the state open.

I feel like that tourist, however, when it comes to the mobile device world. I’m one of the few humans left with only a flip phone. I pay $30 a month for 1500 minutes, of which I used 70 last month. I don’t consider myself alien to computers: in both libraries I work in, people depend on me to setup, fix, or explain computers. People ask me about apps on devices, ebook readers, and other web questions, and even if I haven’t used their device before, I can usually figure it out. So people equate me with technology.

Except I don’t do much of it outside of work.

I don’t really have any reason to text or call someone. The doctor’s office calls to remind me of appointments. My phone reminds me my $30 is almost expired. I am on Facebook, but see little reason to use it. Many of my “friends” are former students who don’t really keep in touch, nor would I expect them too. I’ll post about something during a Red Sox game or share an article, but not much else. I am on Twitter…didn’t use it for  year and no one messaged asking if I was still alive. I have Skype, which I only use now when I need to contact my ex-wife. I don’t get why anyone would use Foursquare and tell people where they are or what they’re doing. I just don’t see the fascination.  I do have an iPod Touch of which the battery runs down fast and many places don’t have free wifi so it isn’t that helpful.

There are times I wished I had a smartphone, but those times are few and far between. Did I really need to check email in the waiting room since I checked it when I got home and there was nothing anyway? I must be doing something tragically wrong in life because everyone else uses these things. I even went to the mall kiosk to ask them what I should get for a smartphone. He asked me what I do now, and I told him about very few minutes on my phone, few texts, no games, etc. and he said I didn’t need one. He may have been a lousy salesman, but I guess he was honest.

My friend Jack, who was nearing 80 at the time and now deceased, used to meet me for coffee at Starbucks. We would talk all things liberal politics and social issues, philosophy, theology, sociology, psychology…and smartphones. Jack always wanted to figure out if he needed one because everyone else did. He would drive to the stores just to ask the workers what their opinion was. They all told him he didn’t need one, but he wasn’t satisfied. He did the same with a Mac Book or other computer I’ve since forgotten. He found that after months of asking questions and reading reviews from everywhere, he would go and buy stuff…I remember computers, an iPod Touch (he seriously grilled me on), etc. But then he would never use them because once he realized what they did, he saw little use.

I wonder if I’m becoming the same way. In my case, it is career driven in that I need to know the latest stuff so I can help people with theirs. But what is wrong with me in that these things have no value for me personally? I’ve created accounts on Goodreads, Ning, wikispaces, Flickr, Picasa, Tumblr, Ebay, Scrbd, Feedly, and I don’t know how many others, and have rarely used them. Then there was meetup, which became a big disappointment. Unlike Jack, I don’t spend money for these things,  but do spend time on things I think will benefit my life, but find I never use them. Don’t even remember most of the passwords.

Perhaps I am just a curmudgeon after all. Perhaps it is because I really don’t have anyone to share anything with anymore. But there are those on the opposite extreme with 700 “friends” on Facebook whose lives are shallow and need the confirmation of people clicking “like” about their posts and all that stuff that makes me gag. Maybe they really do know all 700 of them, and could sit down like Jack and I and say exactly what you think and feel about anything. But I doubt it.

Perhaps this social age is shallow, as people realize they really don’t have true friendships or relationships anymore and this facade makes them feel good. Or maybe it’s just the opposite. Maybe social relationships are that much better now because of different avenues of connection, and connections which were never possible before this era.

I don’t know. I just know I find little connection with all of this. I can tinker with things and get others connected, but I find very little for myself to connect to. I guess I somehow need to become mobile and relevant and have reasons to text and post because you can no longer separate career from personal life. So I guess I’ll stop and ask directions and hope someone points me in the right direction.

I must be somewhere between a curmudgeon and technolust. My cell phone story is probably my technolust- thinking I need one because everyone has one, and to understand the LIS world I need one too. That could be true, but when you don’t use what you have because it really doesn’t impact your life, then I guess you are a curmudgeon.

I like Michael’s discussion of “learning everywhere”
http://tametheweb.com/2012/11/29/learning-everywhere-a-roadmap-article-from-access-australian-school-library-association-2012/

http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2012/04/opinion/michael-stephens/learning-everywhere-office-hours/

and a couple of things stood out. In the comments section of “learning everywhere” he said this in response to a commenter saying she was an introvert:

My other comment is something that has been on my mind a lot. Introverts may find less opportunity for individual work in current and future libraries. I want my graduates to be versed in interpersonal communication, collaboration of all kinds and teaching (from groups to individuals). I’m believe the jobs that include solitary work cut off from the public will dwindle.

I work with people all the time in teaching and assisting in the library and classroom, so I wouldn’t consider myself Grizzly Adams living alone in the wilderness. But having recently read a very accurate, in my opinion, Huffington Post article on 23 signs you are an introvert (and realizing all but 2-3 don’t apply to me), I am confused in how I fit into this constantly connected “learning everywhere” society. One statement from the article stands out particularly in regards to our class/career:

Networking (read: small-talk with the end goal of advancing your career) can feel particularly disingenuous for introverts, who crave authenticity in their interactions.

The solution, the article states in the next paragraph is that introverts need to “network in small, intimate groups rather than at large mixers.” I am not opposed to networking, but it does, as the article says, feel phony. It would be like me texting someone completely out of the blue right now. Why would I? What would I say? What would someone say if they texted me? I have very few with whom I do and even then it takes me by surprise. I’m not sure what to do about all of this.

I know a PLN is based on your own uniqueness and I should work more at building one. It just feels foreign to me to be “connected” to hundreds of people I really don’t know. But the same feeling happens in “real” life as well. It amazes me how just recently a friend was asking me where my wife was…nearly a year and a half after the divorce. This person has seen me several times a month at gatherings, and even spoken to me several times, always seeing me alone. She may as well be a screename of someone I have never met for as well as she really knows me. Maybe I should have texted everybody and used up my minutes.

Can I grow into this, or will I always be the red shoes in a closet of white ones (#3 on the HuffPost article), trying to fit in to something alien to who I am? In any event, I have a long way to go in learning and applying these ideas of the mobile, the creation creators, and the new literacies we need to embrace.

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We fake it for a very simple reason. We don’t really care about people. If we cared about them, we wouldn’t offer them preconceived ideas. We wouldn’t treat them like abstract users. And if we cared about people, we wouldn’t fake anything. So yes, you do actually have to care for the people who use the stuff you make. Really, you should choose to love them.

Dean Schuster

That quote sums up much of our society. I am glad Shuster admits he hates using the label “user” and acknowledges we are talking about human beings after all.  No matter what career or subject you are talking about, what business you run or whatever, there is always the tendency to treat people as inanimate objects and subjects to study. In my religious career it was “adherents” and we were always talking about Barna research and Pew Institute studies. In education we use buzzwords and recycle old concepts with a new shiny book for $75. And now that I work in libraries it is scratching off numbers of reference questions every time someone asks where the bathroom is. I know the business world sees us all as trends and they pump their advertising dollars into what they know we watch, eat, buy, and go to on vacation.

Schuster says we have to un-learn what we have already learned. We think we’re so smart because we can code, cite Dewey numbers, or how to save to a USB. Our patrons often know less than we do and we seem to enjoy that. But, as with previous discussions in this class, we are becoming more transparent so that everyone can see how little we know…but maybe they’ll see how much we care.

The beginner has endless possibilities, while the expert, one or two, he says. The more locked in stone we become, the fewer good we are to society. Instead of the big picture of discovering what our patrons need, we focus on what gimmick will bring them in the door. So gimmicks drive the programs instead of finding out what patrons would want. And the gimmicks don’t work so we have to go to conferences with speakers who come up with radical ideas like “people talk on telephones. Your library should have a telephone. They use computers, we should have some.” But it doesn’t take a genius to get into the minds of library patrons. They are like us. If there’s a long line at the gas pump, unless we are desperate we drive off looking for something more convenient. If a store has no parking, how long do we drive around looking? How many times will we go to a restaurant with lousy service? How often do we use a website which is not responding or we can’t find an easy way to navigate?

We can’t empathize with users, but we can with people. And we know what people expect from us. They aren’t statistics, users, trends, or opinions, but real people with real needs who seek out the community the library provides.

We should see them at least as almost human.

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Wanting privacy is not about needing something to hide. It’s about wanting to maintain control. Often, privacy isn’t about hiding; it’s about creating space to open up. If you remember that privacy is about maintaining a sense of control, you can understand why Privacy is Not Dead. There are good reasons to engage in public; there always have been. But wanting to be in public doesn’t mean wanting to lose control.

-Dana Boyd “Making sense of privacy and publicity.”

I liked the article by Boyd and especially the video chat of Michael and Kyle.  I find a lot of connections between transparency and authenticity. Michael said one of the barriers to transparency is fear. Boyd says privacy is about control. I find both are true.

Secrets are held because people want to hold some type of power over another, or fear what may happen if those secrets are revealed.  Some hide because of those secrets, many times out of shame or guilt. That doesn’t mean we all post our Social Security numbers on the web. But I have seen situations where people lie on a resume because they are embarrassed about their age, previous employer, etc.  When we become transparent we give up power and control and become on equal footing with the other.

If we sit down in a coffee shop and I share my life with you, you now know me better than you did before. Many people wouldn’t risk that encounter. Maybe you now know my childhood and struggles I have had in my life, and will forever see me in a different way than you did before. Whatever power I may have had by this secret (and it may just be my perception) is now over and I could be considered vulnerable. No wonder people joke about so-and-so going out for drinks with friends and by the end of the night in a drunken stupor tells things they wouldn’t have. We want power and control over relationships…only giving out information as we see fit.

I remember reading the book Freakonomics, a great read. I remember one section where the KKK are compared to real estate brokers. Huh? How can such a comparison be made? But the comparison was made because both (very different) organizations have been altered by the influx of information available. The KKK thrived on secrecy, and those white hoods kept a mystery active about who they were. Once information became available and the KKK were exposed for the scum they are, people no longer have the same fear. They are no longer a secret organization because now their secrets have been revealed. A much less extreme example is real estate agents. When you went to buy a house 30 years ago, you depended on knowledge only the real estate agent had. But now, you can do your own research and find similar information. You don’t have to accept the agent’s words as truth. The mystery of home buying is gone.

In both cases, transparency has changed the rules. Knowledge, which should create freedom, is usually abused and becomes a source of power. Knowledge becomes power in the hands of the few. Think about the Middle Ages where only men were able to make decisions, or even to read. The church controlled people’s lives and enforced rules and regulations, and people who had no access to literacy or education were subjected to them. Martin Luther and the Reformation of course changed much of that, and the emphasis of “the language of the people” put people in charge of their own believing, living, writing, learning, etc. Now knowledge was used to create equality, or at least it gives everyone a shot at bettering themselves and their world.

A former principal of ours used to have our free newspaper copies in the library confiscated at various times. If there was a story on there of a student arrest, an accident, or some other event he felt was not appropriate for students to read, he would pull them thinking they would not find out the information. Since there has been such negative press about the school during his tenure, teachers would try and grab these papers. This newspaper has an awful website which often doesn’t even have stories from the newspaper on it. Since there was so little communication, we would have to read these articles to find out what was going on in our own school. Since those papers were sometimes confiscated or we would run out because of the popularity, I would often scan off the article and email it to teachers who wanted it, using a phony title for the document because we didn’t trust who was watching and who wasn’t. You can’t make this bleep up. I decided I was going to allow information to get out no matter what. It was the newspaper for crying out loud.

People often remark at how unique I am in terms of transparency and honesty. My counselor says it is because many people are intimidated by someone being upfront and honest because they are fearful of being such. Many people don’t feel so comfortable at sharing who they are and where they are from. I used to be like that. I grew up in a dysfunctional home with a father who didn’t want anything to do with me. We lived in the biggest eyesore in town. When I would get rides from friends because we often didn’t have a car, I would have them drop me off down the street and would walk home. I didn’t want them to see my house because I was ashamed. It took many years to get over these feelings of low self-worth, anger, and utter frustration. Today, I use these stories to connect with other people, particularly high school students who come into the library and tell me how tough their lives are. They recognize transparency when they see it, and I don’t claim any skill or expertise other than talking honestly and listening to what they have to say.

I find the only way to be authentic is to be transparent. I find I can laugh at my flubs. Last summer when my wife got a divorce, I noticed how people acted so hesitantly around me, probably afraid to say something hurtful. I don’t find hurt in discussing, but rather comfort. And in the midst of this sharing with people, many of them opened up to me about either a divorce they went through which I never knew about or a similar situation within their family. It almost seemed as if it was a relief to them to have someone to tell their stories to.  It also seems as if the sense of having to control that part of their lives gave way to the relief of having someone to share with.

I am supposed to be talking about libraries and transparency, and I feel this all relates. We have to be honest, keep away from the guardian mentality, trade secrets and jargon, and focus more on seeing the patrons as human beings and not chicken scratches. Some of the things mentioned are helpful: get input from the town before a major project. Get feedback from the patrons as much as possible. And patrons remember the librarian who finds the time to talk with them about their lives. Despite the tweets and status updates, it’s hard to really find someone to talk to.

Reputation Defender offers a service whereby you can delete the less-than-flattering online tracks and fingerprints you leave along the web. And no doubt, students need to be taught how to be smart and safe online. But life is a journey and these journeys are full of plenty offline tracks we wish we hadn’t made. Like building a collection, we realize some things need to be weeded out and new things are needed to be brought in so we have a fresh new perspective on things. The tracks are still there but we can be transparent enough so that they just become another part of the story.

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