Librarians, Technological Literacy, and Those Who Get Left Behind

by Marian Mays, Former Senior Editor, INALJ UK, Nunavut, Yukon, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

Librarians, Technological Literacy, and Those Who Get Left Behind

marian_maysThe common person would assume that all librarians are extremely tech-savvy. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. This weekend, I attended the Montana Library Association’s Annual Fall Workshops. While there, I overheard many librarians laughing about their complete lack of technological literacy skills. Surprisingly, one of these individuals was even a library director. I bit my tongue, but I was tempted to step in and suggest that these librarians take steps to improve their skills. It’s no doubt that everything public librarians do requires an intermediate level of technological literacy. Most positions in special libraries require an advanced level. Are we, as a profession, leaving some librarians behind?

The question that I pondered after my initial surprise at these comments was one of responsibility. Who is responsible for this lack of technological literacy among librarians? Is it the individual, the workplace, or the professional association? I don’t believe the answer lies in one place. Instead, I think that we, as librarians, must take shared responsibility to ensure that our colleagues can adequately serve their patrons.

The technology illiterate librarian should not be ashamed about their lack of skills, especially if they have practiced librarianship before the digital age. However, librarians should not take pride in their lack of skills and stubbornly refuse to improve. Those who seek out professional development generally take pride in their work and are searching to improve. If this is not the individual’s motivator, then the librarian should reexamine their career choices.

The librarian’s workplace should also take steps to ensure that all librarians are kept up to date. If a staff member’s lack of technological literacy is affecting their productivity and reference services, then technology training should not be optional. If the workplace observes that the employee is struggling with a certain type of device, such as tablets, then this workplace should provide the funding for this employee to received specialized training. If the technologically illiterate individual is a library director, then they must acknowledge the example this sets for their staff.

Professional organizations such as the American Library Association or state library associations should also make efforts to ensure that the quality of the individual librarian’s technological skills is high. Most conferences offer a wide variety of technological workshops, but workshops centered on basic skills are rarely presented. Professional organizations must begin to offer more foundational, basic workshops that ensure a high level of technological skill among their librarians.

It takes a village to raise a librarian. Technology helps provide open access to information, which is a fundamental aspect of the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics. No one is required to use technology at home, but it should not be questioned in the workplace. Our patrons need the skills of individuals who can help them navigate the waters of the digital age.

Basic Technology Resources:

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