When I walked in my library this morning, I had no internet. No intranet, even–I couldn’t load the high school home page at all.

On another morning this might have sent me into a panic, but I already knew I had a light schedule for the day and wouldn’t be giving out many library passes because today’s an advisory day for frosh and sophomores, so I headed over to the front office, remembering that one of our secretaries was out for the day and her counterpart might need a hand.

Half an hour later, I returned to find that one of our paras had graciously stepped up and made a pencil and paper list of passes for juniors and seniors as well as one for a handful of book checkouts.

Low tech? Absolutely. Just as effective in a pinch? You bet!

Technology is absolutely woven into my daily life. I spend most of the day at work in front of a computer, whether I’m checking the library’s Google calendar or renewing a book or asking colleagues reader’s advisory questions via Twitter. But the more I think about it, the more I realize I still have a lot of low-tech tasks in my life–for better and for worse.

On the annoying-but-perhaps-necessary side, there are things like hall passes (written by hand) and purchase orders (multiple carbons for each order).

But then there are the helpful things–notes to myself, post-its on books or magazines I leave in teacher mailboxes, handwritten lists of call numbers when I’m pulling reserve items, a bulletin board with clippings from school sporting events or plays.

Could I be using technology for these tasks?

Sure, I could use email or Google docs to leave notes for myself. I could send emails to teachers instead of using post-its. I could print out call number ranges and write about recent events on the library blog instead of sitting at the paper cutter in the morning and carefully stapling football articles to construction paper.

But do I really want technology for these tasks?

So often we engage in the Big Picture debates when it comes to technology and libraries. How do print books stack up to e-readers? What role does social networking play in learning and teaching? Do teens need libraries to be full of shelves or monitors?

But the big picture is made up of so many little pictures. By saving ourselves time and energy, are we losing out on face time with colleagues–or teens? I communicate with teachers a lot by phone or email, but I’m thrilled when they come down to the library in person. Just yesterday one came by to say she’d read my interview in the student paper and thought I might be interested in a movie that mentions The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. How much nicer to get a DVD handed to me than an email suggesting I add it to my Netflix queue!

So what low-tech tasks are still a part of your daily life? Which ones do you treasure, and what kind of carbon copies do you wish would catch up to the times?

About mk Eagle

I'm the librarian at Holliston High School, a bit west of Boston. In my spare time I advise my school's yearbook and Gay Straight Alliance, write about food, and root for the Red Sox.

3 Thoughts on “Low Tech or No Tech?

  1. I love post-it notes. They make a good bookmark when I am reading a selection from a larger book at story time. They are great for leaving notes on books to put in a teacher’s mailbox, or to remind myself of a lesson idea. They are great for getting students to jot down a quick note, like a call number or a “ticket to leave” at the end of a lesson.

    My other favorite no tech part of my job is when I hand deliver requested books to students. It’s a small enough school and this happens infrequently enough that I can do it. The kids are so happy to get the book they’ve been waiting for, and it shows the teachers that I am readily available for specific things, be they big or small.

  2. Totally with you on hand-delivering books. Along those lines, I love knowing exactly where the perfect book for someone is–which doesn’t happen All the time, since I just got here and still don’t know exactly what we have in the collection! I always feel better when I can do it off the top of my head rather than checking the catalog.

  3. Erin-I’m with you on the post it notes! I have them all over my desk and computer. I love the feeling of taking one off and knowing I completed that task. I’ve tried keeping a list online, but it doesn’t work as well-I need to have it front of me.

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