Technology is a difficult thing for many people to grasp, especially the people who grew up in a world where computers, the internet, and mobile phones did not exist. A lot of folks these days say “oh kids these days, they can pick up technology so easily…I wish I could do that!”. The reason that kids these days can pick technology up so easily is because it’s all around them in their day to day worlds. It wasn’t around the older adults and seniors of today and that’s a big reason why picking up and being fluent in technology doesn’t come as naturally for them.
The public libraries of today are in a very unique position when it comes to technology and the gap between those that get it and those that struggle to get it. We’re seeing our worlds reshape and reformat themselves right in front of our eyes because of technology. Older library buildings were spaces built primarily for books. Over the years they’ve grown to include magazines, vinyl records, have become spaces for events, and a lot more. All of these changes have had huge impacts on public libraries, but nothing has had the impact that technology has had. We’ve had to reshape our buildings, rewire everything behind our walls, and most importantly reformat our services.
When technology became such a big player in our day to day world, libraries had to stop and think about who they were and what they did. No longer were we the real life Google that could answer your questions. No longer were we the place that everyone would stop to get information. Who would we become in this new technology driven age? We’re still discovering the answer to those questions, but we’re almost there. We’re now community leaders. We’re now seen as individuals who the community knows and trusts to lead them the right way. Information sherpas is a phrase that was kicked around ten or so years ago and it still holds up a bit. We are the people in every community that will be there for the others. We are here to help you answer questions, connect you to the resources you need, to listen to you talk about your life, and ever increasingly in this technology driven world, help you figure out how you can best use that technology in your life.
And that’s where the topic of this post comes from today. Our recent efforts around local history & genealogy at my library have been very technology driven. When you’re dealing with one of a kind documents and physical items from years past you really don’t want to be handling the items too much. Technology, in my opinion, has allowed libraries to be a part of a golden age of local history & genealogy. Nowadays with the aid of technology, we’re able to bring the past to the front of people’s lives with greater ease. You can see those old photos and videos without having to wear white gloves to protect the items from the oils on your hands. You have a closer connection to the past without all the hassles. Technology has made that possible.
Technology is scary though, and what we’ve found with our Scanning Station and our VHS Digital Conversation Station was that people didn’t want to go hands on with it unless there was some guidance from a library staff member. I get it: no one wants to break the thousand dollar scanner and heck even when everyone had a VCR they couldn’t even set the clock on it let alone use it to convert those VHS tapes to digital. What the people wanted was an information sherpa to help them uncover history.
Our Local History Days program was our opportunity as a library to be there for our community and help them hands on with the technology we have. For three days in June (and coming up in July) our staff Historian Jess Hilburn sat in our Local History area and worked one on one with patrons to scan photos, convert VHS tapes to digital, learn how to use a microfilm machine, and more. This was the key to unlocking community interest in this technology and these library services. Once we set up camp in the area and offered our help, the community came out to use the services. In three days, 43 community members used these tools to preserve their past. This was quite a wonderful achievement and we hope the positive experiences that came out of this program will spread through the community and lead to more.
When it comes to technology, we want to hold your hand. The modern librarian offers community members a patient and kind approach when it comes to technology. We’re all learning how to live in this new world. Let’s learn something about technology together.