Monday, November 14, 2005

Stephen's Big Ideas

Stephen Abram is a one-man band...more energy than whole cheerleading squads and more good points than the biggest box of Crayola Crayons. His latest article published at SirsiDynix OneSource is called "Five Big Questions to Drive Strategic Thinking." (All his presentations and OneSource articles are here.)

His five questions are:
1. Have our users changed in a material way? (Yes)
2. Can we relax a bit now that we've adapted to the last few BIG changes? (No)
3. Is there another big environmental or technological change on the way? (Yes)
4. Are we automating for the future? Or are we just automating 19th and 20th century processes? (Sort of)
5. Do we have the energy, resources, flexibility, and the money? (Of course)

Go read the whole article. Thought provoking, as Stephen's stuff always is.

I read this article a couple of hours ago, and question 1 was a timely one for me because I'd been musing over the weekend on the stereotyping I think we are all guilty of now and then, of "senior citizens" (a phrase I am not fond of). I hear from librarians frequently that "seniors" who use their libraries resist new technologies and offer this as reason not to change the status quo.

Well, my dad turned 70 this past June. I think he's probably pretty typical of his age and experience. He knows how to use computers because he's used them as adjuncts to his job in several different careers, and he's been using one for personal reasons for sometime. He is web-savvy because he discovered the web is a good way to find information and stuff (especially now he lives in Panama). And he's also broken most of the records on his Xbox rally driving game. I gave him the Xbox and the game as a 70th birthday present even though he'd never played any kind of video game. I picked the rally game because he used to be a rally driver, and he's driven several of the routes included in the game.

My point is that my dad learned about computers and the web and video because these technologies all had a context for him: part of a job, a way to keep in touch, and as absorbing entertainment. He has a lifelong habit of learning and it is this habit that defines people far more than their age. Older library users are not homogenous anymore than young library users are. But many library staff know very little about their communities of users beyond big broad cliches--a bad basis for designing services.

As Stephen says: "The general "public" just ain't so general anymore" and I'll bet there are quite a few "senior citizens" in your library's community like my dad.


Malcolm said...

Well; I'm Alane's dad and the first thing I have to say is "What the heck were you doing up at 1:35 in the morning?" There's nothing better for the amazing computer we call "the brain" than taking it off line for eight hours so that it can defrag and compress its files. The other thing to say is that I am computer literate, and still learning more all the time, because various people have taken the time to show or explain how they work and the best way to use them. I think lots of seniors have a fear of looking foolish if they are only presented with a technology and told what it can do, but when it is demonstrated to them in a patient manner, they will grasp it and enjoy it. I had a friend who, at 96, was proud of the fact that he was still learning new things, from the Internet. For a few fortunate people, their best teachers are their grandchildren.

Kim BB said...

In the 11/14/05 San Jose Mercury News Tech section there was an article on "senior bloggers" - a growing trend embraced by some of the new wave of lifelong learners.
My dad is also 70 - born in Viet Nam and a resident of California for 40+ years. He's on the internet everyday - sending jokes to his friends, emails and songs in Vietnamese to relations in several countries, stories of life to his grandkids, receiving family photos - it's a part of his everyday routine as much as golf, shopping at farmer's markets, helping collect food for a local food bank distributer and reading the latest stock news.
My dad frequently needs help with computer issues from my technology guru/librarian/consultant/patient man husband, but he asks for help, gets the problem solved and jumps back in.
I suspect Alane's dad and mine are more typical than we might think....