Throughout the month of February, YALSA will be posting each day on themes relating to teens and technology in (or outside) libraries. From mobile apps to tablets, technology and its applications are now an inextricable part of young adults’ daily lives. How do libraries and librarians support teen technology use? What do traditional literacy skills look like in the information age? Will we lead the charge, or struggle to keep up?

Lately I’ve been thinking about the disconnect between my personal infrastructure and the one I enjoy (or bemoan) at work. What if my tech habits at home could carry over to work?

At home, I have a secure wireless network that seamlessly communicates with my laptop, printer, cable, PS3, and iPod Touch. When I have guests, I can easily give them access to the wireless. The signal strength doesn’t reach far outside my apartment, but I can easily access it in any room–including my back porch or front stoop.

At work, on the other hand, most computers are still wired. We’re in the process of unrolling wireless throughout the building, but currently the signal is inconsistent, and it doesn’t reach all wings. Administrators sometimes come to the library to access their wireless devices, as the front office isn’t yet wireless. Students can access the public network when they’re in areas like the library, but the secure network isn’t accessible to them–or even to us, as faculty have to have devices configured by our network administrator.

When I’m at home, I have access to a decent array of cable channels, but I also have access to thousands more shows and movies thanks to Netflix streaming, now available through a simple app on my PS3. Netflix even streams in high definition now that I have an HD-ready device. I could also watch Bluetooth movies using the PS3.

In the school building, televisions in most classrooms can broadcast our local cable access station–and little else. Some DVD players are available, but other sets still have VHS players. Teachers expressed interest in a school Netflix account, but the Netflix terms of use currently prohibit such an account. I could watch the same movie 20 times in the privacy of my own living room, but I can’t show it to 20 students in the library.

My home devices are a mix of old and new. I haven’t yet upgraded my almost five-year-old Dell laptop and I’m hanging on to my original NES and PS2, but I have a brand new printer, TV and PS3–and when Apple rolled out the new iPod Touch with video, I replaced my barely three-month-old Touch for a new one.

In the library at work, I have to work with over 50 computers that are more than a decade old. We’re constantly swapping out keyboards and mice, incapacitated either through abuse or old age, and I’ve called in for copy repair three times this school year to attend to the world’s fussiest photocopier. None of the student computers in my labs can play DVDs or burn discs. The USB ports are located in the back of the CPU, which means jockeying for space in cramped quarters.

My enthusiasm for web 2.0 tools, my passion for gadgets and games, my appreciation for impressive displays and cool features–none of this means anything if I’m working with computers that can’t even reasonably support PhotoShop. More and more we see students flailing as they try to access documents saved in current versions of Word or sent to themselves via Facebook messages.

What’s the state of your tech? Are you leading a dual life?

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 “28 Days of Teens & Tech #1: The State of the Tech

  1. interesting dichotomy. Do you expect your library to be upgraded anytime soon?

  2. Kate Covintree on February 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm said:

    It’s so true about what we get used to at home and how different that can be when we are in the workplace. A few solutions that have worked for me include:

    1) buying a groups of A to A USB extension cables for machines that have USB ports in the back to that students have access to one port in the front of the computer without having to move the CPU (which inevitably meant loosening more cables).

    2) Buying myself an portable external hard drive that I can use on whatever computer I am at, whether it be my home laptop, work laptop, desk computer or friends machine.

    But the whole thing is certainly a challenge: supporting one user is easier than an entire school, but it seems like it could still be easier than it often is.

  3. Erin Daly on February 1, 2011 at 5:04 pm said:

    I’m living a dual life. I am a Mac lover and my workplace is full of PC’s. I enjoy learning about apps, most of the kids I work with don’t have smart phones.

    I often bring my personal laptop to work because I need a computer for whatever program I’m doing, that helps to smooth some bumps. I also use Google Docs or otherwise store things in the cloud because I find myself working at a variety of public desks.

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