Thursday, April 30, 2009

TTDNTMiLS: Digital... Everything

When I graduated from library school in 1996, the Web was just starting to get into the picture business (most of the sites were text intensive, with maybe a few small graphics). Connection was still via phone line modem dial-ups, and if you could get 56K transmission, you were flying! The paperless office and electronic book were on the radar screen, but wayyyyy off at the edge. Somewhere close to the second star on the right.

Consequently, my education at library school did include some training in office suite software, html (yes, with the hard coding of tags), online public access catalogs (OPACs), and CD-Rom software for patron use. I don't think the word "downloadable" occurred, or if it did, as a passing reference and of little import. Scanning documents, photographs, and maps was in discussion, but the technology was large, clunky and expensive and the resulting digital product was limited to in-house use. The files were simply too large to transmit over dial-up modem connections.

Fast forward to 2009. Everything (nearly literally) is on the web. High-speed internet connectivity is the norm. Scanners have come down in price and are much easier to use. The typical distribution point for music is shifting (may already have shifted) from the brick and mortar record store to the downloadable web store. Books are available on mp3 players and i-phones.

It is not a stretch to say that the way society disseminates, accesses and manipulates information has been transformed. So, while books remain a staple of the library, and shall remain so for quite a while to come I suspect, much of what the library is about is completely different from what library school taugh me.

In this case, I can't blame the school-- it would be quite a challenge indeed to teach us and train us in technologies and service paradigms that had not even been conceived of in 1996. But it is interesting to step back from time to time and see how much my profession-- our whole world-- had been transformed in less than 15 years.

Change-- it's the new constant.

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