What is the cost of using technology


(Image taken from http://scommerce.com/trials-for-new-technology/)

As always when I visit my friend’s university (which has actually only been twice) I became part of an interesting discussion where we discussed a real world issue. In this case it was technology and particularly the use of WhatsApp and social media.

When I use WhatsApp I understand that my data isn’t really private even though I assume I’m probably an anonymous entity. However the questions that had been put forward really made me think of the use of just a mess engine service in a different way. 

These were: 

  1. What are the environmental and economical implications of using WhatsApp?
  2. What does WhatsApp actually look like and where is it?
  3. Are we being controlled by the speed in which technology is progressing?
  4. For people who don’t have smartphones, are they being left out of the loop and should they be forced to go along with the flow?
  5. Are people addicted to using technology because it satisfies one of our basic needs, which is connecting with people?
  6. Will we all become robots as technology gets smarter and continues to tailor our news feeds and search results?
  7. What are the implications of using technology for those who are using smartphones and tablets from a very young age?
  8. Are we within a transition period where we are trying to figure out how our human selves can deal with new emerging technologies and will our our fears be for nought as the rapid pace in which technology is progressing forces us to give up trying to keep up?

These were only a few questions that came out of the discussion and they are very thought provoking as they are very BIG questions. Big questions that can’t be answered simply as they involve an array of complex networks that feed into who we are as humans and how we evolve in changing times. This includes are relationships with our family, friends and work colleagues etc., how we as individuals perceive and interact with the world and what we want to get out of life (in terms of accomplishments, money etc.).

For someone who loves technology and what it can do and has done for people around the world, I don’t want to believe that technology is ultimately bad and will completely change who we are as people. I believe that there is a place for everything in this world and it is hardly ever about choosing one thing over another. However it is important that we broach these questions and discuss the different possibilities.

Finding the best place for you

When I first started applying for jobs when I had completed my undergrad, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do and was thus applying for anything that sounded ok. And so, when applying, it was just about getting the interview and trying my best to sound right for the job so that they would like me.

But as I have found the career I want to pursue, I started putting more thought into where I was applying to, who I would be working with and particularly, the role I would be taking on and what it would entail.

There are many jobs that have the same job title, but the roles themselves can have slight differences. This will be because of the size of the team and the kind of organisation it is (e.g. a university, law firm or business), which thus changes what tasks and duties you’d have.

I’ve had 4 different library assistant roles in 4 different places and each one has been different. In one, I solely dealt with enquiries and in another I just shelved. In one I dealt with enquiries on different floors but the range was quite broad (from finding a book to helping format documents). In the last, I dealt with enquiries so broad, some really had nothing to do with what normal libraries deal with. However, in only one of these was I allowed to be truly creative in developing ideas and resources for library users.

Having been in these positions, I realised how much I value certain things in a role. I love variety, I love dealing with quirky people and I love small teams. Also, my ideal job would allow me to be creative in developing ideas and allow me to have a say in any changes or developments that would be happening in the service.

My lastest role has proved to me that I can no longer be just a library assistant because I have so much to give. There’s so many things I want to do and so many many things I want to try. Within a library assistant role, there is no room for me to thrive and showcase my abilities.

That is why after looking at the job description and deciding ‘ok, this looks interesting’ and applying,  the interview is very important.

Interviews are a great and interesting way for you as an individual to get to know the organisation and for the interviewer to get to know you. The real you. You don’t want to be faking it from the get go, because if you get the job and you’re someone different, I’m sure you will encounter a lot of difficulties in the future that could definitely have been avoided. 

The interviewer(s) can give away so much about the role and the organisation if you’re really interested in paying attention. I found this out recently, which made me realise how much I was actually interested in the role and the people who I would be helping. 

Thus, the interview itself wasn’t boring and I found myself taking a way a lot more than I thought I would. In addition, I thought that even if I didn’t get that job, there was so much I learned from the engagement I had with the people of that organisation that I could take away with me. 

The best advice I ever received about attending interviews was don’t spend an excessive amount of time researching the company/organisation because the interviewer won’t be quizzing you on every aspect of the organisation. But do some research on yourself – who you are, what you can bring to the organisation and what you want to gain out of being there. In this way, you can find the perfect role and place for you specifically. Somewhere where you can really enjoy your work and the people you work with. Better now when you’re young but also so important when you’re not so young.

Are we really doing it for them, or for us?

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Having been in my current post for a while and looking back at my previous positions, I have been wondering whether the things that my colleagues and I do to promote the resources and the way we go about doing it, is it for us or is it for our patrons? One particular area of concern is:

‘Are we fully understanding what it is the patrons want from us?’

I think that a lot of librarians and information professionals tend to assume that they know what is best for their patrons. But I don’t think that’s always case. For example, some patrons couldn’t care less about what each month represents, about using the various options (such as limiters, sharing and saving to folders) that are available (as most don’t even know that they’re there or how to use them), what the the discovery service is called or even what it is.¬† Most patrons just want the ability to find the information they need as quickly as possible and if the library is promoting something it has to be relevant to them and what they are studying/interested in.

In addition, is the way in which we promote information useful for our patrons? Do certain things need to be put in A4 guides, or could they be condensed to a sentence and a diagram? Are we utilising our online presence enough or are we using it too much by putting everything on there?

It has been proven that our attention span is a lot shorter and long paragraphs and essays don’t work. In order to grab a person’s attention, the information needs to be presented in a way that is eye-catching¬† and memorable.

I recently had to persuade my manager to make harvardguidehis guide more colourful instead of the normal black writing, white background with maybe a little grey for colour. It was good that I spoke up because the guide looks absolutely amazing (I hope they don’t mind that I’ve put it up :S).

Whether this is more helpful or not was shown by the amount of people who have picked up the guide. More copies have had to be produced, suggesting that the simplicity of this guide makes it easier to understand and does the job it is meant to do.

I have no right or wrong answer about how we should produce information, what format it should be in and where we put it as it should be considered on a case by case basis. The above example is good as a leaflet guide as it can just be handed out. But it could also do well if put onto one of the library pages as it could be easily accessed and copied and thus downloaded. But the reason it did well was because it was available to the patrons where they frequent everyday – the library.

Thus, I guess what I’m trying to say is that as long as the information is relevant, easy to understand and put in a place where patrons are most likely to take note of it, they will acknowledge it and use it.Having excessive amount of limiters, promoting a topic that is not relevant to the daily interests of the patrons and having information online that is hard to find (even if anyone knew it was there), amongst a whole host of other things, is not helpful or useful. Just because we understand, know how to use and/or find it, doesn’t mean that our patrons will.

Within this transition period where we as information professionals are taking more note of what our patrons want and how the online world can be extremely useful in sharing information (especially those libraries that are not traditional libraries which house print materials), we need to think more about how we do things and whether what we do is really for our own benefit or for them.