Saturday, June 30, 2007

The 1% effect on libraries or the slow boat to public libraries

A recent pew internet study further broke down and earlier study on the different types of internet users.

This quote in particular resonated with me the most:

Finally, it is important to remind ourselves of a truth understood by scholars of technology: It
takes a long time for new innovations to diffuse deeply in society. As Paul David has noted,3 it took 30 years for electricity to truly transform modes of production and begin to impact people’s everyday lives. Historian Carlota Perez points to the lengthy phases of technological revolutions, with as many as 30 years passing from invention to the beginning of a stage of widespread installation in society. With the dot-com bust of the beginning of this decade, we are still early in the installation phase of ICTs in society -- a stage that may take years to complete.4


So technology hasn't and won't reach about 50% of our society for years to come. Public libraries will actually be at the forefront with this population in teaching this new technology. However, a problem exists whereas libraries cannot move too fast for the public, or risk not serving them properly. Often, we wait for the public to demand it in order to know it is safe to proceed.

Further, this problem also exists:

Our past research has shown that those who do not use the internet perceive it as a place with
inappropriate content and carrying other risks. Non-users are less aware of worthwhile online
applications, such as educational opportunities, health care information, and ways to pursue
hobbies.2 Programs where clients receive a large dose of one-on-one attention are likely to have
the most promise in breaking through to these groups.


So introducing technologies in a way that relates to them works. However, by getting too far ahead, one looks frivolous, or even encouraging dangerous behavior as the internet as perceived by a large part of the population. How many news stories have been created showcasing dangers of the internet?

I have stated before that libraries provide good services cheaply, but not fast. This graph best illustrates how technology trickles down to public libraries.

Technology ideas are created and spread by the 1% people. Those who are always on the cutting edge. Playing in realms where technology for technology's sake is a fun venture.
From Church of the Customer Blog:

What they do is beyond the norm. Sometimes there is little recognition, but they are dedicated to and protective of their work and the community they're involved in. They excel on the edges of culture even if their percentage as content creators is little more than a rounding error to some companies. Numbers-wise, they are not huge, but the impact of their work can be.

The sticky stuff trickles down to the rest of us in stages.

First, the idea goes through the major industry players and through the blogger echo chamber. Then it catches on to the regular tech people and teens.

Next the mainstream media picks it up. The rest of us experiment and catch up.

Finally, that population tells the library they should have it. After some meetings, the library will implement.

It isn't such a bad thing that libraries operate in this way. Their funding comes from the general public. If you are a library that can decipher all this change and technology and make it digestible for the general public, you are indeed creating a great service.

Technology can come faster to libraries by raising it's importance in the budget. Having a technology plan tied to a dedicated budget in a general way.

Also to consider setting money aside in that budget for new technology experimentation. I know Pima Public Library has a break box to test new technology.

Lastly, a great tool is using techatlas. You can take a survey, enter your inventory and what you you are doing technology-wise. It will also incorporate best practices from other libraries and top tech trends to remain relevant in technology.

One thing when trying to sell technology. Don't use the techie terms. Explain what it is in lay terms. A blog is a newsletter, youtube is a way to put programs and psas online, on myspace is an ebranch. Your idea will immediately be shot down because someone who still watches mainstream network television have heard of these terms in a negative way. It just works against you.

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