Category Archives: TTW Guest Posts

Generation Jones

Hi Everyone, my name is Michael Colford, and I am the on the Senior Management Team of the Boston Public Library in charge of Regional Services.

When Michael asked me to guest blog on Tame the Web, I was both surprised and honored. I’ve done a fair bit of blogging, but not a whole lot in the library profession. That said, in my position at the BPL, I do a whole lot of talking up of using technology in the support of public service, and meeting users where they are using Social Networking and other Library 2.0 tools.

I thought for my first post here I’d share my musings on something that’s been on my mind for the past week orso. We all know about the Millennial Generation, and we’ve been hearing about their traits and how most libraries are failing to appeal to them. Most of them adapt to changing technology easily and are comfortable interacting socially online. We also know all about the Baby Boom Generation, many of whom are nearing retirement and who for the most part, shaped the library world into what it is today. The Baby Boomers aren’t known for a rapid embrace of the recent online social networks, but of course, there are exceptions.

My question revolves around the generation between, a whole lot of Generation Xers and the little heard-of Generation Jones, those of us born between the mid-1950′s and the mid 1960′s. What makes some of the people born in these generations embrace the recent developments in technology and online socialization, while others simply have no interest?

I am part of that elusive Generation Jones, and I have to say I’ve pretty strongly embraced the Web 2.0 concepts, and use them pretty regularly on a day-to-day basis. I dial my cell phone with my thumbs (a signifier of the digital native, which I am not) and I am an Omnivore according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project (a group whose median age is 28 — I am 44). When I think about what makes me different from my contemporaries who do not, I can trace some behaviors back to some pre-Internet activities. As a younger person, I was into science fiction and fantasy, comic books, and alternative music. These were niches that tended to spawn fans groups. I was a member of several musicians’ fan clubs, and corresponded with other fans through letters. Similarly, if I wanted to interact with other like-minded comic book geeks, I either had to hang out in comic book stores, which weren’t the most welcoming places back then, or read the letter pages in the back of the books (and write letters, some of which would occassionally get published.) When the Internet arrived, I immediately found uses for Gopher, Archie and Vernoica becoming active in interest groups for such figures as Neil Gaiman and Kate Bush. Now I read Neil’s blog, and I am a member of a (astoundingly) old-fashioned e-mail discussion group called Ecto that revolves around female singer/songwriters.

I also run an independent film society, the Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film that involves a nationwide group of indie film buffs. When these social networking tools started to pop up and be discussed in the library world, I took an interest because I knew I had an immediate use for them… with my film group. Becoming familiar and comfortable with them quickly translated to using them (or wanting to use them) at work. Hence, I have become a proponent of using these tools in the library. Many of my similarly-aged colleagues just don’t have the time to branch out or they find tangible media sufficient for their needs. They may even know that they need to be aware of newer web-based tools because a large part of their customer base uses them constantly.

So what do you think? Why do some people take to emerging technology trends and ways of interacting while others do not? Do you have any thoughts?

By the way, I am also the Conference Chair for the Massachusetts Library Association, and we were fortunate enough to have a whole host of library luminaries at our recent annual conference such as Jenny Levine, Stephen Abram, Jessamyn West, Karen Calhoun, Sean Stewart, and Nancy Pearl (to name a few). Check out the amazing conference blog to see what went on.

Library Books versus Gaming

A blog post describing a teacher’s personal reservations about allowing students certain types of technology use, on a blog site that promotes technology and libraries may seem paradoxical, but here it goes. By the way, my name is Michael Westfall and I’m a media information specialist in a Chicago public elementary school and a Dominican University LIS graduate student. A big thank you to Michael Stephens for allowing me to get my voice out there. So here is my issue: I don’t like kids playing games on the computers in my library because I feel it is at the expense of the reading of books.

I’m not anti-computer, a killjoy, or a raving modern-day Luddite. I will admit to a little technophobia, but I really do enjoy working with my students on computers. We’re very fortunate to have a fully functional computer lab within our school library, and this year we’ve learned to make Power Point presentations in fifth and sixth grades, used clip art and word art in documents starting in third grade, and have begun typing in first grade. This type of engaged time on a computer is different for me than playing games because working in Power Point, Word, and Excel produces tangible products, something I can view, enjoy, and assess. The tangible product doesn’t exist after playing a game. In the give-and-take spirit that pervades modern day teaching, I have begun to allow game playing as a reward in the last few minutes of library time. I don’t force kids to check out books, but encourage it as strongly as I can. But frequently those books still sit there, ignored and untouched (especially by those in fifth grade and up), waiting for the attention I so strongly feel they deserve.

At heart I am a book person. It’s why I chose to leave general classroom teaching and become my school’s librarian. I’ve worked hard to find and add to the collection books that kids request or show an interest in, and I have been heartened by the reactions of many students to this throughout the year. But beneath my game racism – my gamecism – is a fear. What frightens me is that many of my students have significant difficulty reading and comprehending text online, whether it’s a Wikipedia entry, an advertisement, or even detailed directions for a game. Many of them just don’t seem to get that to use the internet you have to read. To me, this is life skills reading that in importance resides alongside being able to read street signs, food labels, and directions for how to assemble furniture from IKEA or Target. I believe my personal conflict raises a serious question: how to fully use limited school library time on two very different activities – building reading comprehension skills through engagement with books, or fostering the strategizing, problem-solving, and collaborative skills that gaming is supposed to aide in developing.

Minds Turned Off

Who knew guest blogging could get the blood rushing so much? When I got Michael’s e-mail about a week ago I was, well, surprised but pumped. I’ve been chilling out over at my own blog, The Corkboard for a few months doing some random musings, reflections, and the occasional techy DIY posts that were typically non-library related. I’m a senior undergraduate at Elmhurst College studying English and secondary education and I’m currently student teaching at a west suburban school outside of Chicago. I’ll be attending Dominican University in the fall for my masters in library and information science.

Want to know more about me (or at least my virtual life)?
The Corkboard (Blog)
LibraryThing
Del.icio.us
Last.fm
Slideshare
Also, check out the major Ning networks and I’m there as “thecorkboard”

———–

In three short weeks I graduate. Wow. Time has flown by, my life has changed in different ways, and, more than halfway through my student teaching semester, I’ve discovered that I don’t want to teach high schoolers. Bless their little child hearts, I love ‘em, but they’re not for me. I’ve found that my passion is in the technology and, specifically, the ever emerging possibilities of this “small” little phenomenon we all call Web 2.0.

Over the past year I’ve had the opportunity to spread the good word about RSS feeds, blogs, wikis, and their brethren to a broad range of individuals: my peers, grad students, and the occasional adult who will sit long enough to let me tell them how RSS feeds will absolutely change their life. So it was in these teaching experiences, classrooms and conferences, where I found that teaching tech seems to be my calling (and a bit of a focus over at my blog).

Through my professional metamorphosis I’ve realized that the public education system has me a bit perplexed in many ways that I won’t bore you with – except for one. Specifically speaking, I’m frustrated with public education’s views of technology; to them technology is simply a tool. A program. A box with wires. A gadget. Good luck Will Richardson and David Warlick, but you’re climbing an iced over Everest that needs national reformation.

You’ve heard it hear at TTW and in many other formats and venues that the way information is disseminated is shifting; and if information is shifting than no other discipline is affected more than that of your own – librarianship. The cool thing is – you get it. You understand that if information shifts, you must shift. And, if you don’t, your patrons will go elsewhere. Sadly, public education and the needs of its “patrons” has shifted, but public education has failed and will continue to because it fears change. My students arrive at my classroom door with iPod earbuds in and minds turned off because they know that the engagement they seek won’t be found in the classroom.

So I’ve come to join the happy throng of librarians who, I believe, know it’s time to adjust to the new digital world that we all live in. To you, the shifting librarians of the world, there are no castles in the sky, just plots of land on which you’ve begun to make dreams and theory into reality. And I salute you for this.

Information is Not Sacred

Hello. Jeff Nowak here. I am a first-year library school nube who got into this whole library thing because I was a literature freak and a book fiend. I am currently the editor of something called Any Four Words.

What amazes me about our Web, Library, or Catchphrase 2.0 era is the game it plays with information. The 19th and 20th century public library phenomenon helped take the book off its pedestal by opening up its shelves to the proles. When large amounts of people really started putting books to use, it suddenly dawned on these people that books were to be used. Not stored, not cherished. Used. John Cotton Dana (one of my favorite people) could dare to say, “A book is not a sacred thing.” And today the same thing is happening to information. When a person can find out how to get where he’s going without having to open up a road map, and when he can then add notes and pictures to his itinerary for everyone to see, cartographic information is no longer a far-off Mystery but something he can cut up, manipulate, and distribute to his heart’s content. Information is no longer sacred material to be stored, cherished, and hoarded by a professional elite. It is to be used.

So what does this mean? If audio information can be freely shared from person to person (DRM be damned), what does it mean when people buy music because they want to support the band and not because they have no choice but to pony up the dough to the professionals of the music industry? What does it mean when people can manipulate their own personal information to create entire pseudo-selves who exist only so that those people can say and do what they want without professional or familial repercussion? What happens when false information (which can be honestly defended so long as you call it fiction) holds just as much sway as information the experts know to be true? What will be the result when people use information?
Damned if I know. I’m barely into my first year of this stuff. I’ll have to let the professionals figure that out.

Open post to the unappreciated Library

The Indomitable Michael Stephens is giving me a shot at guest-blogging. I wanted some guidelines from Mike, so I typed this response up to his offer. Michael seems real cool; I wanted to confirm that before I started blogging.
Me:
Give me the particulars of what not to say. It’s cool; be frank. Say things like, “Feel free to cover anything as long as you speak ethically, honestly, and true (cite your sources) -above all else relate it to libraries or the world of information. Be fair. Treat this information space as you would an honored guest in your home: don’t insult, don’t pontificate, and remember above all else treat others better than they want to be treated. Enlighten & engage yes; exacerbate & enrage no.”

Michael Stephens:
“this rules
M.”


This offer came about because of this. I started talking to Michael about some pretty serious (serious to me that is) ideas I have about libraries, information, college students, and leadership. Maybe he saw this too and thought I might like the challenge of a serious blog entry. I live in Ft Myers, Fl. I do work in a library. I’m a hybrid: I work reference and I work on the technology side of the Library house. It’s a very sweet gig. With very cool bosses.

More info about me:
last.fm/user/iblee
Bibliodox
iblee.smugmug.com
iblee’s on flicker too
and I’m an online student who works a solid 40hrs a week (whew), does Aikido, and I’m racing here next year in 2008 on my trike.

Open post to the unappreciated Library

You are a great and powerful friend my Library. I am concerned you have forgotten how great you are. Many times I have thought to myself: how you would go about answering my most serious questions: what knowledge did you add to the world today -because you do every day; what thing that you do so well to enrich others lives, can I do; “why not” is what you say -so how I can find that answer and many more; how do I become as creative as you -do I write more, read more, play more, dance more, find more, explain more; how am I going to be peacefully inspiring today -giving people the room they need to learn about their self? Over our several years together with me walking-rumbling-stumbling through you, the better ways of living you have taught me to weave into my being go not a day unused. In my darkest, surliest hour, I came to find peace and it was there. I am fortunate for you Library.

Life is big and simple. At times life can be very hard for people though. You, my Library, can be a special place invoking unimaginable wonder. The engines of creation become ignited through your presence. Even when we get dragged down into the smallest, suffocating space there is always room to turn around, down, inside-out or whatever it takes; you’ve shown me that through books and chats and questions and time and coffee. Maybe just sitting too -shikantaza.

Another opportunity awaits for you to teach me. I see this as a great time in your life where gigantic opportunities flood in. You become rebuilt from spaces not yet known. Instead of being consumed and cannibalized, you ride that wave for the long throw. Standing on the the peak of that wave you then will look back on this time laughing and laughing and laughing at the insignificance of those who could not see how your great intelligence and heart changed the world. Yet Library, you will be humble about it too; you will just shake your head as you help another person see clearly into their own nature. I look forward to the day when I attend some remote place and see you standing there still doing your mission: a great welcoming edifice who holds the keys for how to effectively change the world.

Lee Leblanc