Taming technolust

Taming Technolust: Ten Steps for Planning in a 2.0 World

This quarter, Michael Stephens of the popular Tame the Web blog offers advice on dodging “technolust” and how to recognize and deal with “technodivorce.” It isn’t all avoidance, though, as he provides ten positive steps for your library’s technology planning. Michael has a pedigree in technology planning as the former Special Projects Librarian at Saint Joseph County (Ind.) Public Library. He now teaches in the LIS program at Dominican University and recently authored two Technology Reports on Web 2.0 for the American Library Association. If you’ve heard Michael speak, you will recognize his straight-from-the-hip style. –Editor

Back in 2004 when I started writing and speaking about technology planning, I urged librarians to be mindful of letting a desire for flashy, sexy technology outweigh conscious, carefully planned implementations. Over the years, I’ve returned to the topic of wise planning and “technolust” on my blog and in various publications. Simply, technolust is “an irrational love for new technology combined with unrealistic expectations for the solutions it brings.”1

While the emerging technologies of 2004 seem quaint when seen through the lens of 2008, the issue of technolust remains. Call it a 2.0 world, the age of social networking, or whatever you’d like, but now more than ever librarians are finding themselves in a position to make decisions about new and emerging tech—when everything is in beta version and “nimble organizations” are the words of the day.

A fact: new technologies will not save your library. New tech cannot be the center of your mission as an institution. I’m still taken aback when I hear of libraries spending money for technologies without careful planning, an environmental scan of the current landscape, and a complete road map for training, roll out, buy in, and evaluation. When the latest technology hits, are you keen to add it to your library, boosting the coolness factor? For example, buying every librarian on your staff an iPhone as a way to improve reference services is probably not going to be a wise solution. You may have some happy librarians, but that type of technolust does not well serve the organization.
I believe these days we’re dealing with a lot more than just lust. Consider the following other states, if you will:

Technostress: New tools and Web sites come at us daily, easily creating a feeling of unease or anxiety about how much technology we can take on or even understand. How do we keep up? How do we stay in the know, when it seems that those cutting-edge libraries we always hear about are launching yet another social tool or widget on their blog-based, RSS-equipped, Meebo’d-to-the-hilt Web site? This anxiety can lead to poor decision making and knee-jerk reactions. It might also lead to multiple irons in the 2.0 fire at one time, spearheaded by individuals and departments all over your library. This, in turn, leads to more stress. More stress aggravates bad decisions for technology, which means more Technostress . . . well, you get the idea.

Technodivorce: It’s hard to admit we’ve made a mistake–especially in our profession. The culture of perfect in many libraries at times prevents us from cutting the cord on projects that just aren’t working. Did they really work to begin with? Many things–that IM service for young adults, the readers’ advisory wiki, RSS feeds–sometimes just die on the vine from lack of use, promotion, or upkeep. Found a few months later, a dead library blog speaks volumes about project management and buy in at all levels of the organization. Who is watching this? Maybe potential new hires who are now running for the hills.

Technoshame: The librarian who steps up after one of my presentations and whispers “I don’t know anything about this stuff and have no idea how to begin” might be experiencing a bit of embarrassment. The world is moving just too fast. Fear not! And feel no shame. It’s never too late to kickstart an institutional learning program or learn on your own. See the tips below for more.

Technophobia: This librarian is frozen with fear about new tech. Often the reaction is to oppose vigorously. In the right position, this person can infect a good portion of the organization. Tech projects stand still until any light of day vanishes. Is it really the technology or is it rapid change that causes the fear? Sometimes I think it’s more a fear of the open, transparent times we’re moving into more than blog software or a wiki for planning the new branch or department.

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