My Big Red Book

Apparently when I was just a little kid when asked what I wanted for Christmas I asked for “a big red book”. It appears that at a young age I was impressed with the importance and value of books and reading, and so began a lifetime love that has sustained me through the years.

Now I find I have My Big Red Book! And it comes in the form of an iPad. Oh the joy I find with this technology. Not only can it hold a library of books I love, but it allows me to create my lists of reminders, has space for reflections and journaling, accesses the Internet for instant answers, holds photos and images I love, music, podcasts, movies, whatever. I can forward my work appointments that automatically appear in a beautiful diary with pages that turn like my paper version. I can log my walks, eating, yoga sessions. I can download professional resources from ALIA. I can study, organise and connect online for the Masters degree. I can borrow library books from my local library. I can organise and have instant access to all those blogs by Australian librarians that I read, and food blogs, and blogs about leadership, and more. How did we ever manage before this technology arrived?

I already have an iPod and an iPhone that I use constantly everyday and so was reluctant to invest in another product with ongoing costs attached. But the thing that finally convinced me to buy one was a conversation I had with someone at a Conference. She was busily typing away on her iPad as the Conference was underway, and in a break I asked her about her connection plans. She told me that she used her iPhone as a modem when she needed Internet access. She set up her Personal Hotspot and so used her existing mobile phone plan! Why did I not know this important little piece of the puzzle? So many of you reading this (well the one or two) probably already know this small detail but for those of you who don’t I hope this sharing of information helps you as it has me.

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Country connections

Library services in the 21st century rely heavily on electronic resources and the internet. We hear of the demise of the physical book and ebooks are being chosen as a preferred format by many people. Google has stolen much of the research assistance once done by Librarians. We are far from card catalogues, limited physical collections of books, and even library standards like the LCSH are being replaced by tags.

While the World Wide Web has increased and broadened information accessibility, it has also radically changed the working lives of Librarians. And there is more to come. Where will we be when a library can’t purchase an item whether it is physical or electronic and we have to subscribe to platforms for everything? How is that going to impact small town libraries and their people?

This all hinges on the internet for access and delivery and there is this widely held notion that this access is a given. But it is not so. Even in the not-so-remote parts of Victoria where I live and work, there are “black spots” where whole towns have no coverage other than dial-up.

Not only does this prevent any delivery and connection via web-based models, such as the online library catalogue, but it means that many people residing in these towns are well behind in knowledge, acceptance, and skills in using this form of information. More and more organisations are only offering online services now. Think about how you submit your tax return, book flights and shows, apply for jobs, etc.

And when a know-it-all interloper from the city breezes into town espousing the wonders and virtues of the internet, they are seen as some kind of snake oil salesman.

 Places like this still exist and are being used as such. Disability access, OH&S, even reliable electricity are not seen as important factors, let alone on any kind of priority list. Attempts at network access via 3G fail repeatedly. So trying to convert the stubborn country folk is a trial of proportions not appreciated by library suppliers from the cities where fast reliable connectivity is expected. Even trying to coax people into using the internet to order and reserve physical books is like trying to teach an aqua-phobic  to swim.

Library services provided to small remote towns with limited internet connectivity are a lifeline to a larger world. While these people value, want and need their regular book delivery, many are yet to catch on to the possibilities that are there waiting for them.

Will the NBN come to the rescue of these people? Or are they destined to growing disadvantage caused by the digital divide?

This is an interesting talk given by Philip Kent in September 2011 at Melbourne University about Research Libraries in the 21st Century.