out of habit

When I lived in the Chicago area, I had a friend who was always trying to get me to listen to Democracy Now!. I wanted to listen to it. I really did. It’s a great show, covering things that no one else is, in ways that no one else is covering them. I wanted to listen to it, but I couldn’t, because it wasn’t on any radio station I could get.

“But you can listen to it on the computer!” he said.

I tried. But I couldn’t.

I get my news from the radio. I listen to the news while I make and eat my breakfast and dinner, and while I’m doing the dishes. I tried listening to Democracy Now! on the computer, but it didn’t work, because when I am on the computer, I am doing computer things — responding to email, reading blogs, IMing, poking around, your basic web surfing type stuff. I can’t do those things and absorb a newscast at the same time. It just doesn’t work.

I try to remember this when I think about libraries. It’s all very well for your library to have a blog, but if none of your patrons are in the habit of reading blogs, it is probably not going to be very helpful to them or successful for you as a form of outreach. And for that matter, even if your patrons do read blogs, how many of them do you think will be interested in reading your blog? I can’t imagine, for instance, that I will ever want to follow ProQuest on Twitter, even if they do start updating their account.

The same principle applies inside your library. It may seem obvious to you that things should be done differently — that you should stop doing work on paper and do it on the computer, that an internal wiki will solve all your communication problems, etc. — but if the workflow that you want to employ is not one that your coworkers are used to, it won’t work very well.

I’ve spoken (softly) to other newer librarians on the subject of “what on the earth did librarians do on the reference desk before the internet?” We say this softly, of course, because we worry that our predecessors obviously did have things they did on the reference desk, and because we suspect that they think all we do on the internet is waste time. Clearly, there has been a shift of habit. I can’t imagine being a librarian without a computer: I sit at one all day long. One of my fellow branch managers, however, has a computer on a separate desk from the one where she normally sits. That seems impractical to me at best, and most days more like impossible. But it works for her. Listening to the news on the radio works for me. I try to keep those things in mind.

One thought on “out of habit”

  1. Well-written description of a concept I have to remind myself of … often. Just because I find blogs and other Internet-enabled sources valuable, many of the people I associate with do not. Laura, thanks for the blog post.

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