Nomadic technologies have affected our interpersonal relationships in that psychological closeness has become more important than physical proximity, and is an important factor for people trying to determine just who and what to pay attention to in a field of sensory stimuli. However, the erosion of weaker ties at the expense of stronger ties may be detremental to society as a whole. Kluth gives examples of how certain relationships manipulate technology in certain situations to enhance closeness, while other personal interactions are hampered by ever-present technologies. Concerns about privacy and etiquette are raised briefly.
This portion of the report seems to have taken us back into the realm of policies and etiquette: if technology has changed the rules of polite conduct, perhaps it’s time for a re-write of the rules? Swiss Army Librarian recently posted about some changes in his organization that are worth looking at.
We’ve now reached the part of the report where I start to sound like a bit of a Luddite, because I simply don’t understand the “always on” phenomenon. I don’t own a cellphone, because when I’m not home, I’m either at work, and you can call me here, or I’m having an adventure and I don’t necessarily want to be found! Thanks to various Web 2.0 applications, I remain close to the people I care about, even though I’m no longer near most of them. However, I also value the spaces and disconnects between conversations, because that means we’re all out having lives, gathering up experiences to talk about. If you’re always communicating, won’t you eventually run out of things to say?
No matter: our patrons don’t seem to think that way. Take a stroll through the Reference department and you’ll see screens full of Myspace, Facebook, and chat clients that people have figured out how to download, despite the fact that they technically shouldn’t be able to. They’re not coming to the library to connect with us, per se; they’re coming to the library to connect with each other.
This means that the ratio of “just in case” services to “just in time” services might have to be altered a bit. More computers, yes. But also, more electronic databases, more web applications, more outreach in the shiny box. That way, when they reach the limits of what the shiny box can provide, they have enough confidence in us to turn around and ask us a question. Or, as Kluth might say, we currently have “weak” ties to patrons, when what we need are “strong” ones.
I’m going to skip the privacy issue here, especially since our current policy covers the waterfront, librarywise. Both privacy and etiquette are, to a certain extent, matters of honor, and you simply can’t legislate or regulate patrons’ honor. I am proud, however, that librarians put thought into ways we can, ourselves, be pillars of professional honor.