This blog was originally created as part of an assignment for my LIBR 105 course, but I have somewhat enjoyed utilizing it over the course of the semester – and what a semester it has been.
With more and more information now being available electronically / digitally, libraries have had to change some of the ways they provide information to their users. Users are demanding immediate access to catalogs and information and libraries have had to meet those needs: sometimes subscribing to electronic databases such as Gale, sometimes belonging to a e-material consortium such as Overdrive. Additionally, library staff also find themselves instructing users on how to access this information. After all, what good is having the information available if the users don’t understand how to access it.
Libraries have also had stay on top of current technologies as well. This insures the users that they can access the information quickly and print or save it to flash drive if need be. Up to date software is provided for not just the staff’s use, but the users as well. Networks must be configured with the proper hardware and software, including firewalls, which not only further ensures quick access to information, but safe, secure access too. Dial up modems are a thing of the past. T1 lines providing larger bandwidth as well as a secure servers further enable users to access the information they want and/or need. WiFi allows users to use their own mobile devices in the library – and it seems everyone has a mobile device of some fashion, whether a smart phone, tablet, or e-reader.
How this technology is used can vary from library to library and person to person as well. Some offer assistive technologies: technologies that allow the blind to listen to the text on the screen; technology that enlarges the print on the screen which allows the person with poor vision to read; controller balls and on screen keypads help those who have trouble using a standard keyboard. Just as with print material, libraries want to ensure their users can access electronic information as easily as they can the print version.
Trouble shooting any technology issues can be, well, trouble. In most cases, merely restarting the device that is ‘acting up’ clears up the issue. Sometimes it may require making sure cables and cords are connected properly. Removing paper jams in a printer or copier may sound easy, but how many times have you seemingly pulled all the jammed paper out only to see the lights still blinking informing you that you missed something somewhere. More importantly, you need to know what your limits are when trouble shooting problems with technology. There are times when your local IT needs to be contacted, and there may be times that an actual repairman needs to be called to fix the problem.
With any new technology, staff as well as users need to understand how to use it. Many vendors of technology offer training to staff, and there are instructional videos on You Tube that can be viewed as well. The staff must understand the new technology concepts so that they can instruct users who may not know how to use it. As part of this course, I created a brochure that could be used in the library that explained some apps that were offered by academic databases and how students could access them on their smart phones: it’s one thing to know they are available, and another to know how to utilize them.
Knowing the databases that are available to use and understanding what can be found in them and how to search them can also be challenging to those who have never used one. Having used different databases for research and projects in other courses, I am familiar with where and how to find peer reviewed articles, how to select the database and publications I want to search in, how to modify search terms and use Boolean to retrieve the most relevant results. The same holds true for internet searching as well: understanding how to tell if the information on a site is reliable by looking for sources or references, and knowing that .edu, .gov, and most .org sites are going to have more reliable, factual information that what can be found on other sites is important in conducting a productive search.
At the end, I feel I have met all of the objectives of this course. Not only am I comfortable with using technology, I am comfortable instructing others on how to use it as well, be it to help someone navigate the internet, search a database, or download an e-book. I learned more about the usefulness of some Web 2.0 technologies and how the use of some, such as Facebook or BookList, could benefit libraries. In whatever place I find myself upon completion of my degree, I know that what I have expanded on throughout this course will help me in whatever path I decide to take.