Part IV: Family Ties

Nope, not the infamous Family Ties. It’s time for summary and analysis of Part IV of Andreas Kluth’s special report on mobility.


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.

Random Thoughts:

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.

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  1. Don said,

    May 2, 2008 at 11:42 am


    There couldn’t be a truer statement then:

    “Or, as Kluth might say, we currently have “weak” ties to patrons, when what we need are “strong” ones.”

    This is exactly what worries me most about the current state of library affairs. A room full of customers, no engagement.

    An administrator’s dream? Who needs staff when we have customers?

    Until that $100 pc comes along (or in these inflationary/recessionary times, the 2K paycheck) …

    Seriously, there has to be a way to market a roomful of customers – the boss in my old shoe store would know how. Product placement? As Borders integrates the cds with the books with the dvds etc etc. Isn’t there something shiny we can use to catch their eye? A food refreshment cart on wheel with coffee and highballs?

    Lord, help me, are our days truly numbered “down to a precious few,” to quote Mr. Brecht?

    How do we make the weak connection strong?

    I think I know the answer but I believe it is antithetical to prevailing philosophy.


  2. LAV said,

    May 2, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    What I’ve discovered is, it’s helpful if somebody comes to you with a question like “How do I solve this problem in this social networking application?” and you either know the answer, or know how to find the answer, or really take a good crack at it and demonstrate your willingness to find the answer. Then they have confidence about asking you about other stuff.

    It’s just like answering an art question, or finding an engineering standard. The difference is, the people who want those things come to us because they believe we can find it after they haven’t. They believe that because, traditionally, that’s what librarians do. The trick to building strong relationships with nomads, I’m thinking, is demonstrating competence in answering questions about web 2.0 technologies. That means everybody – not just “the young librarians” or “the Web 2.0 librarian.”

    Was that going too far? I know not everybody is gonna be on board, and I’d hate to kick somebody out of his/her comfort zone…still, I’m not thrilled about engineering standards, and yet, look how much better I get every time I handle one. ;)

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