Go Where They Are (And Go Now!)

I’m pleased to share this post from our guest ALA Conference blogger, Kim Leeder. Kim is the Special Assistant to the Dean at the University of Arizona Libraries. She also maintains her own blog, Park Ranger for the Intellectual Commons:

Library news delivered to RSS feeders. iPods loaded with course reserves. Library profiles on Facebook. As academic libraries scramble to keep up with the technologies so effortlessly adopted by their students, the University Libraries Section gave librarians at ALA Annual an opportunity to pause and reflect on the issue. At the ULS President’s Program, “Use What They Own, Go Where They Are: Plugging the Library into Student Gadgets and Habitats,” Nancy Davenport and Lynne O’Brien addressed the topic before a packed room.

The two speakers expressed great enthusiasm for the ways libraries can take advantage of new technologies, peppered by the concern that libraries shouldn’t use technology for its own sake. Davenport, President of the Council on Library and Information Resources, emphasized the fact that students are becoming increasingly wired and that libraries need to meet them on their own turf. When looking at ways to use technology, she explained, librarians should be trying to bring content to the places (and the media) where students feel most comfortable. O’Brien, Director of Duke University’s Center for Instructional Technology, reviewed Duke’s digital initiatives (such as their iPod First-Year Experience program), which have been created to spur educational interest in new technologies and foster instructional innovation.

Overall, the message from both Davenport and O’Brien was that libraries should be moving ahead quickly to provide content in formats that students can easily incorporate into their wired lives. Despite the repeated assertion that libraries should not use technology for its own sake, and that we should ensure that it furthers educational goals, this cautionary message may have been lost in the sauce. The issue of how to assess the effectiveness of technology in delivering content and advancing students’ education was not addressed during the presentations, and received only a brief nod during the Q&A. So the question we are left with is this: ARE libraries using technology for its own sake?

The ACRLog blogging team thanks Kim for her excellent post.

One thought on “Go Where They Are (And Go Now!)

  1. Thanks for the post Kim! While we don’t want to be whipped around by every new technological fad (especially if they involve a lot of staff time and money) perhaps it’s not so terrible to use technology for its own sake. It conveys to users that the library is staying relevant, it gives librarians a laboratory to experiment. Experimentation, even if it leads to a few duds, can help you figure out which technolgies might be useful for your specific library and which it might be better to avoid.

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