Mobile grumbling

I’m reading the twitter stream from the #qlmobile workshop on mobile services in libraries happening at Queens.

“You can’t leap the chasm taking baby steps. Baby steps will kill you” -Dave Genesy, library consultant, quoted by several folks.

Predictably, several tweets following this complain about librarians afraid of change and afraid of technology.  With the predictable undercurrent of ageism.  I really don’t think the “fear” of technology that people perceive is really fear.  Evidence-based librarianship advocates for decisionmaking on data. And that’s at odds with leaping on something because it’s shiny.  Especially when it’s going to be expensive to ramp up development expertise on multiple fast-moving platforms.  Especially-especially at a time when we can’t hire anyone!  There’s ample evidence that our users use mobile devices in their daily lives, but where is the evidence that our users would use mobile services from the library beyond the simplest things?  The only way we’re really going to get the evidence that would justify a leap is by trying things incrementally.

Here’s another quote from the same workshop:

“Mobile literacy is a core competency for information professionals” (

This is another tweet from the qlmobile stream – don’t know if these are the tweeter Andrea Snyder’s words or if she’s quoting someone else. I do actually agree with that (before you accuse me of being “afraid of change”).  So then, in an environment that wants data before investing, how is the information professional supposed to get this literacy?  By buying your own mobile tech of course.  A lot of librarians already bought smartphones for their own personal lives, but I know several folks (myself included) who have gone out and bought devices or software specifically because they felt they needed to get up to speed professionally.  My employer is not going to buy an iPhone for me, and if they did I would have to pay tax on it even though I wouldn’t own it. (Thanks, IRS.)  Think back along the timeline of library innovation.  Did you have to go buy your own personal web server to get up to speed on that back in 1994?  Your own personal OPAC?     So think about it – why is the cost of your professional competence in this particular arena yours alone to pay for out of your personal pocket?  


Posted on November 15, 2009, in Pearl-Clutching. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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