Sunday, February 6, 2011


Sometimes we old geezers are perversely proud of playing the-old-ways-are-best games.

For over five years now, I have been milking the joke that I manage my library system's online customer services but don't use any mobile devices...except a cell phone which is just a cell phone. It's only been in the past year or so that circumstances have forced me to scramble a bit more, obliging me to hang onto the digital future with my fingernails as it speeds away from me.

Text UsThe first major tremor came last spring, when Florida's Ask a Librarian network decided to add text messaging reference to the live chat reference we already support.

When I was asked to be on the planning task force, I said, "But I'm not a techie. I don't even do texting."

"Yes," I was told. "That's why we want you on the team. So we have someone who will tell us not to go too fast, someone who will say, 'My staff won't understand how to do that'."

Who knew that the wisdom of old age could be summed up with the words "I don't know how to do that"?

The second, much larger tremor came in just the past few months, when our manager of circulation started a promotional partnership with the local Barnes and Noble, helping them to demonstrate eBooks to potential nook customers, in exchange for B&N helping to tell the public about our downloadables.

Since I also manage our library system's call center, I'm having to scramble again. This time, it's to understand the how-to's of downloadable devices, vendors, titles, etc. At least enough to be able to help my call center agents (many of whom are digital immigrants like myself), so that they can in turn help their digital immigrant customers—all of whom have suddenly leapt onto the eBook bullet-train.

I've been having to really wrestle with my old guy resentment.

I love BOOKS. Have done ever since my parents started reading to me...way back in another century. Even though I use computers all day at work, even though I write blogs and other online documents, I don't like reading on a screen. I have to print out anything longer than a screen's worth, so that I can hold it, handle it, underline and make marginal notes on it, and so on.

I've resisted even having to learn how to help my staff and customers with these new-fangled devices.


This article is changing my mind.

Many young readers like Eliana Litos, 11, of Harrison, N.Y., received e-readers as holiday gifts. Photo by Joyce Dopkeen for The New York Times
Something extraordinary happened after Eliana Litos received an e-reader for a Hanukkah gift in December.

“Some weeks I completely forgot about TV,” said Eliana, 11. “I went two weeks with only watching one show, or no shows at all. I was just reading every day.”
When I saw those first sentences, I flashed back to library school in 1999, when the media were full of stories about how scandalized some folks were by the first Harry Potter book.

Eventually, curious to find out what all the fuss was about, I read the book. And loved it. And said to everyone I knew, "This is just like lots of kid fantasy books I read when I was in grade school. No one worried about magic in kids' books then."

More to the point of this blog post, I wanted to grab the parents who were protesting, shake them, and say, "Hey! Boys are read this! Boys are reading! Boys are reading a book that's over 300 pages long! With almost no pictures! Quit fussing and count your blessings!"

So, umm....

I guess I should stop whining about eBooks, eh?


Karen Packard Rhodes said...

Like you, I love books. I love the feel of the physical book, and its portability. I resisted e-readers, too.

Until I saw a UNF classmate with one, and asked her about it. She told me her sister had given it to her for Christmas, and that she was afraid she would not like it because she, like you and me, loves the physical book.

She loves hers. It's a Kindle.

I thought about it. I thought about what she had said about its readability. I thought about the notation function in it -- I argue with my texts. I also thought about the fact that I am a 63-year-old university history major, and that means I lug a lot of books. It would be much easier on my joints, which are deteriorating with arthritis, to be able to carry all those books in one lightweight package.

I bought a Kindle. I have to say that I do love it. It solves another problem besides the weight of carrying books around: We (my husband and I) already have so many books, we are out of space to store them!

I will have to look at JPL's downloadables. There's still plenty of space on my Kindle!

(And as for Harry Potter -- usually those who yell the loudest about them have not bothered to read them first! If they read them, they would find that Harry and his friends are on the side of good, combatting evil, and that they have a very good code of ethics. They are highly moral tales. But some people would rather exercise their mouths than their brains. . .)

NP Odyssey said...

I still love to borrow and rent real books.