Competency H: demonstrate proficiency in identifying, using, and evaluating current and emerging information and communication technologies.
Meaning and Importance
Information professionals are generally expected to know a lot about technology, as their patrons depend on them for tips and tricks on using everything from Facebook to smartphones. Libraries also want to provide excellent services for their patrons, and so many have taken to trying out new technologies, such as 3D printing, and seeing how they can be useful for the library community. Information professionals must be able to identify current and emerging information/communication technologies, figure out their potential use, and evaluate that usefulness in the context of the library setting.
It’s easy to be ignorant of something that you don’t interact with, and so it’s imperative that modern information professionals be comfortable and knowledgeable about technology, even if they don’t want to use it themselves. There are several ways that information professionals can identify current and emerging technologies: by reading professional publications, by participating in webinars and conferences, by listening to what their patrons are asking for help with, and by using new technology themselves.
Using and Evaluating
The only way to really properly evaluate a new technology is to try it out, though it’s also possible to use references and recommendations from experts and technology professional to supplement. Information professionals should make an effort to try out as many new technologies as possible, in order to learn a) how to use the technology, b) how their patrons would use the technology, and c) how the technology could help their library as a whole. Combining their own experiences with the technology with the expert opinions and guidelines provided elsewhere in the technology information field is a good way to properly evaluate new technology.
This is a topic which interests me greatly, as a child who grew up right as home computing was becoming more popular and accessible, as as a young adult who saw the advent of smartphones, tablets, ereaders, and social media. Therefor, I’ve taken several classes which discussed current and emerging information and communication technologies. The class which I will be using for my evidence is INFO 210 REFERENCE IN THE AGE OF GOOGLE, where our weekly discussions centered around the use of technology and the global community. In particular, I’ll be using my discussion post where I discussed the use of online reference services in the academic and public library.
As the library I currently work at doesn’t employ or engage in Ask a Librarian services, these issues have never come up for me. However, I have noticed an increasing amount of libraries extending their reference services through some form of technology. In order to write this discussion post, I researched academic and public libraries to see what sort of online reference services they offer to their patrons. The first library I checked was SJSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. SJSU has an “Ask a Librarian” chat feature, as well as direct access to subject librarians. This is pretty typical for academic libraries, though it differs whether libraries outsource their “librarian chat” features or do it in-house.
Online reference help is an emerging technology that has no doubt helped a lot of patrons– ones who are homebound, for instance, or unable to get to a library in person for whatever reason. Other patrons may be in a time crunch and want the convenience of asking for reference help from their own home. It also allows the library to extend its services beyond the physical borders of a building and the hours of available staff. The physical library may close at 6:00 p.m., but the Ask a Librarian Chat could be 24/7!
As is always the case with technology, there are some negatives to go along with the positives. Online reference staff are often not working directly for the library that uses them, as often there is not enough in-person staff who can dedicate time to answering online questions. Third-party companies (such as OCLC) have popped up to fill that gap, but it’s also created a worry among professional librarians that depending on third-party online (potentially non-professional) staff decreases the perceived value of having reference librarians available in person.
Having taken this class, and from my own life experiences, I understand that emerging and changing technologies can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Information professionals are expected to keep on top of the changing technologies, which also being able to explain to their patrons how to use them. In my career as an information professional, I will be sure to keep trying out new technologies, consider their potential use and impact on my patrons, and incorporate them into the services I provide.