Thursday, March 22, 2012

When Your Technology Dance Card is Starting to Get Full, by Heather Moorefield-Lang

I work with a lot of technology. Before becoming a librarian, I used to teach theater and even then I loved working with computers and learning about new tech. Once I moved into library science I knew that technology was going to be a large part of my job. Technology in our schools and libraries brings so much to the table. One of most wonderful things about computers, tablets, and all of the other cool toys, is what these items can bring to the learning of our students. Two out of my three degrees are in education, and I focus on differentiation of instruction; new tools equal new ways to deliver or enhance instruction. So when new sites, apps, or tech that can help students learn and teachers or faculty instruct comes along, then I love to share. And that’s the other great thing about all of our social media today: it makes sharing really easy. If I want to learn about new sites or apps I search online, read professional blogs, or follow folks on Twitter. I can check out peoples’ Pinterest boards or see what they are sharing on and more. There are so many ways to contribute.

But… On the flip side I also know I am getting overloaded. I work with technology during the day; teach students and faculty how to find their research, how to work with the best web 2.0 tools, or how to identify the best apps for their mobile devices. I also teach qualitative research and appropriate software for that field. For “fun” I search for new sites and apps for the ALA and AASL committees on which I serve. Is it fascinating and fun, sure it is, but there is so much out there. I am looking and searching off and on all day. Next day, wake up, wash, rinse, repeat, and start all over again.

So many of my conversations also take place online now, either via email, Twitter, Skype, or Facebook. Which is great and fast, but I do wonder if we are losing our connectivity through this virtual world. I am in the process of reading Ellen DeGeneres’ book, Seriously…I’m Kidding. It is a wonderful book, and I bring it up here because there is a chapter, “Social Skills”, in which she addresses this issue. She writes, “Now when you see someone there is nothing left to say. You’ve seen the pictures from their trip to Rio on Facebook. You’ve read their tweets about the latest diet they’re on. And they already texted you about the pregnancy scare. So you end up sitting and staring at each other until you both start texting other people.” Now while this is an exaggeration it does take a look at the connectedness that we are losing, that humanness that, I feel, we cannot afford to lose when it comes to teaching, instruction, or librarianship.

So in reality this blog post is supposed about my philosophy of technology in libraries. Took me a while to get to it, I know. Technology has its firm place in libraries. It is important for us to know about it, learn as much as we can about it, and share. We have to help each other out. Virtually is fine but if you can buy a cup of coffee at a library conference and sit down and talk to people then even better. We should never become so immersed in all of the tech stuff that we forget to look up from the phones, laptops, tablets, and various other gadgets and interact with people. The peopleness of the library field is why we are here in the first place. Whether it’s to share a good book (e or print), recommend a great movie, talk about a useful app, show off a great database for research, catalog the next record, or check out that final book. We are still working with people.

Heather Moorefield-Lang is the Education and Applied Social Sciences Librarian at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA. She has worked as a middle school theater teacher and school librarian before moving into academic librarianship. Her research and writing focus in technology and arts in education and libraries. If you would like to see more of her work visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @actinginthelib

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