Yet, this is how some (many, most??) of our patrons are interacting with the world around them these days, so I'd better get onboard with this New World Order in order to be more effective in my chosen career!
So, finally, after several days of digesting what the GenTech speakers had to say, here are my impressions.
We all know libraries have been facing incredible changes and challenges in the past decade or more. Defining and then accomplishing what we do, how and for whom, not to mention why seems a Sisyphean task these days -- at least since 1993 & Mosaic/Netscape/GUI. Technology is the culprit in making this task so difficult, but it can also be an ally.
Adapt or die. Is that our only option? Marketing seemed to be the overarching theme -- or at least some kind of image-realignment for libraries (public libraries were the main focus).
GenTech 2007 kicked off with Michael Wesch's thoughtful & insightful piece on Web 2.0
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6gmP4nk0EOE ) & from there the conference was off & running, exploring the new opportunities available as well as looking at existing resources for expaning & redefining libraries & the central role they have (or should have) in their communities.
Some of it was overwhelming.
Michael Porter's presentation offered so many insights as to the kinds & amounts of technologies in use today that it was hard not to hear that
How can libraries possibly compete with that much $$ poured in by the private sector to attract people's attention as well as their time & money?
What it takes is the will to invest the staff time & energy to engage in those activities & spaces where many of our patrons (or potential patrons) spend a lot of their time -- not just by being physically out in the community, but also virtually by blogging, social networking & other online activities. And not just being there, but touting what libraries are, have & can do for them.
Library outreach really needs to be *OUT*. Another point MP made was that libraries should not necessarily be looking to convince people to come *INTO* the library -- that virtual visits can be just as effective & informative & service-driven as in-person interactions. Personally, I think just organizing local & state government info & services into a simpler online pathfinder or database would have patrons weeping with joy.
Dell Jacoby was reassuring in her assessments of the "Gen" aspect of the equation -- the incredible synergy residing in our greatest resource: our staff. There are 4 generations of workers currently in the workplace today & each has its strengths. Listening & learning between and among generations needs to be a two-way (or more) street. I know I will be asking a GenX or Millennial for help with blogging & the rest of this Web 2.0 world just as I will be listening to the Traditionals & Boomers for past practices that succeeded (or failed!). We need to make the most effective use of our respective talents.
Analyzing & rearranging the physical library space as Anne Marie Luthro suggested is a wonderful idea, but it's something I'm sure many of us have already pointed out to our respective Admins & how many of us have actually been succesful? Really -- if you have been successful, please let the rest of us know how you managed it!!
I think we all have pretty good ideas of what needs to be done. The main problem, IMHO, is with bureaucratic, public institutions & the ponderous ways in which they work, not to mention the limited resources available & the limiting policies & procedures in which these resources can or must be used. By the time we get approval for anything, the next version is out & we're behind again... Change is good, but frequent change is really hard to keep up with!
Good luck to us all in finding strategies to cope with these Interesting Times that we're in!