Tuesday, January 16, 2007

No Senior Citizen Left Behind

Before there was "Ask.com" there was "Ask Uncle Don." I started Library School in 1989 - in the dark days before the Internet was even a shadow of what it is today. In those days, all library students took a basic Reference class where the instructor would give us a list of ten to twenty esoteric questions and we would try to find the answers before the next week's class. Whenever I was completely stumped, I could rattle off the question to my Uncle Don and inevitably he would know enough about the topic that he would steer me in the right direction of where to look for the complete answer. He is not a librarian, but he would have been an awesome one. He is the smartest person I know, the reason why I am a librarian, and why I am the Director of the Kankakee Public Library.

You probably know my Uncle, or someone just like him. He is an avid reader and life long library users. He's meticulous about returning his books on time and has been known to challenge a library policy or two. To him a card catalog means real paper cards filed in wooden drawers, and the print version of Encyclopedia Britannica still rules as the supreme source of knowledge. He understands the value of the web, but doesn't really trust it. He typifies many of our core library patrons.

Every time our Library produces a new newsletter, like a little kid bringing home a report card, I bring a copy of it to my Uncle for his approval. In our latest addition of the Mane Event, we have a brief blurb about Library 2.0 and all of our Library's techie initiatives. My Uncle questioned me about all of them.

At more than one library meeting I have heard colleagues make statements that their patrons are not tech savvy, that their users barely know how to use a computer. Why invest the time and energy into Library 2.0 initiatives when their patrons are struggling with using a mouse? For two reasons: 1) To reach new users. 2) To educate our traditional users in new technologies. We need to offer services that appeal to the next generation of library users who have never known a world without the web. Our podcasts and vodcasts, rss feeds, online catalog and general presence on the web allow us to meet Generation Y in their virtual neighborhood. But the second reason is maybe even more important. We are educating our community, heightening awareness, assisting individuals to bravely take baby steps into this new digital world. Being a life long learner is no longer an optional scholarly pursuit, it is a matter of survival. I want the people that the Kankakee Public Library serves to do more than survive; I want our community to thrive!

Cindy Fuerst
Kankakee Public Library Director


Anonymous CarynW said...

My parents are in their 70s. They have 2 computers networked in their home, and my mother figured out Publish by herself. She's also an e-mail evangelist to other older women: "You can get PICTURES of your GRANDCHILDREN!" It's very cool that there are programs to support them and people who'd like to be like them, if they just knew how to get started.

January 31, 2007 2:52 PM  

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