TTW Guest Post: Love thy Luddite

The Importance of the Non-Techie or How I Learned to Stop Pulling Out My Hair and Love my Luddite
by: Mick Jacobsen

My wife mocks Twitter thoroughly, “You don’t even know these people,” she repeats. She thinks Facebook/MySpace is weird. She considers online gaming to be silly.  She wasn’t sure about this whole “Blog Thing” and renamed my Google Reader an RSS aggravator (which I still find hilarious).  She doesn’t want her images on Flickr.  I think it is safe to say she pretty much dislikes any 2.0 technology on contact.

Last week she started a LibraryThing account and loves it.  She is now using my Facebook account to talk to friends.  She uses Delicious to bookmark webpages.  She has her own RSS aggregator (Google Reader) and iGoogle page.  She even created and wrote for a special interest blog on

What does this have to do with librarianship?  Well, doesn’t that first paragraph (besides the wife part) describe a significant portion of your coworkers?  Wouldn’t it be great if you could move them to the second?

Here is how I do it:

1. Listen.  Never dismiss what your Luddite says.  You may not see how it applies, but it surely does in their eyes. When, and it is most certainly when, not if, they have misgivings about a technology it may be necessary to move on.  You might be introducing the wrong technology at that particular time or you may need to reexamine the technology.  The Luddite may very well have thought of something you haven’t and it may not be as useful as you hope (I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me).

2.  Don’t push too hard (if you can avoid it).  Sometimes all it takes is talking to them at the right time.  Understand their schedule.  Some people are ready to play at the start of the day, some after lunch, some while eating lunch, etc. The first time I introduced my wife to LibraryThing she wasn’t interested.  A few months later she noticed me using it (looking at all my pretty book covers) and asked “What is this and why did you never tell me about it before?”  A minute or two of introduction and away she went. This also has proven to be true with a few of my coworkers in regards to the newly created blogs at MPOW .

3. Respect.  Their concerns are not generated from hate of tech. (well in most cases) or lack of intelligence; it is because they don’t see the point.  Show how you are personally using this new technology, how others are using it, and how they specifically could.  Hypothetical situations just don’t seem to work.

I am sure more techniques are available, but these three are the ones that have worked for me so far. What does everybody else do?

As a side note it is probably better not call anybody a Luddite.

Mick Jacobsen is Adult Services Librarian at the Skokie Public Library.

22 thoughts on “TTW Guest Post: Love thy Luddite”

  1. Great post. :)

    I think that the most important element, which ties in with everything you’ve said, is empathy. If they don’t see things your way, then chances are that you don’t see things exactly their way either. Librarians are already Empathy Champions in conducting reference interviews. The same should apply when promoting information literacy with new technologies.

  2. I asked a couple of staff here what a “luddite” was. We had to Google it. (neat, we rely on Google instead of running for the dictionary) Anyway, maybe the question is why do we so badly want to convert people?

  3. I <3 this post! Not just for librarians but for relationships! I’m slowly converting my loved ones to iGoogle, twitter, even slowly convinced my mother to start using IM. It’s so fun.

  4. Aw shucks Leah. I see you got your b-friend on twitter… What I really appreciate is that your loved ones will really tell you what they think. That is what the concept of this post originally was, the importance of the honest, pragmatic Luddite in life + work.

  5. I think that the most important element, which ties in with everything you’ve said, is empathy. If they don’t see things your way, then chances are that you don’t see things exactly their way either.

  6. I refer to myself as a Luddite, in both a joking and prideful manner. As with many older(58) folks, I’ve fallen behind in trying to keep up with the new technology and often find myself embarrassed by what I don’t know. Tech can be both very useful and very aggravating and intrusive. The constant chatter from cell phones, e-mail, facebook, etc. leaves little time to contemplate much of anything – only to respond to the characters displayed on the monitor or cell phone screen.
    So, it’s pretty much a combination of the fear of the unknown, ignorance of the technology, and the intrusion on a contemplative mindset that creates the Luddite’s aversion to (some) of the new tech. And that’s from a self-proclaimed Luddite.
    “A kind word turneth away wrath.”

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