Computers In Libraries 2014 – Day Two Wrap Up

There’s been a thought running through many of those attending this year’s conference and that is that this is a relatively quiet CiL compared to others. Since this is only my second one, I don’t have much of a mental archive to make a comparison but I will agree that it is quieter than last year. That’s nothing to say about the content or the speakers, it’s just that the Twitter streams are running softer and the attendees aren’t making the same clamour as last year.

Still appearing in a mission critical computer near you.

Still appearing in a mission critical computer near you.

No worries, because it’s still an interesting con. If yesterday had a common thread for my sessions it was the human part of change. I believe it’s a Zen saying that change isn’t painful, rather the resistance to change is painful. Working in tech, and quite frankly living in tech as well, change is just a matter of course to me. The technologies we used last year may not be the thing we need this year. Indeed, they may no longer be supported this year. My lovely Angelique, aka my MacBook Air on which I’m typing this, is the pride of my tech world. Yet I know, sadly, deep down that in five to ten years, I will need a new Air. That’s how tech works.

But there’s a flip side to tech, progress, and change and that’s the human side. People latch on to things that are familiar and useful. Even if they don’t like something that much, if it’s familiar, then people develop attachments. It takes work to make them walk away from that thing, no matter how outdated it may be.

On my flight to DC, I noticed that the controls for the movable jetway leading to the plane were powered by Windows XP. I wonder what happens to that jetway now? Perhaps nothing. I don’t think the jetway needs a connection to the Internet. Perhaps it’s relatively safe from malware and viruses simply because there’s no network connection. Or maybe there is, we live in such a networked world that there are toasters out there capable of tweeting when your toast is ready.

It takes grace and leadership to convince people that the support they’ve relied on for so long is no longer a support, but a crutch. The website hasn’t been updated in eight years, “Yes but I can find everything I need on it.” We need to upgrade these computers, “But I like how they work now.”

I’ve noticed that, when it comes to change and the resistance to change, there’s a lot of first person narrative. The website needs an update, “But I can find everything I need on it.” Yes, maybe you can but what about everyone else who hasn’t been using that website for the last eight years? You may like the way the computers work now, but the latest upgrade from our ILS doesn’t, and won’t even work on these things in their current state.

A tubby, little cubby all stuffed with fluff...

A tubby, little cubby all stuffed with fluff…

It can be scary, you know, out there in the future. There could be bears out there. There could be disasters like Windows Vista. There could be possible catastrophes — remember the panic of 1999 when no one seemed to be ready for computers to roll over to 2000? The best we can do is plan ahead, look for the pitfalls, and accept that nothing is perfect. There could be bears out there, it’s a distinct possibility that shouldn’t be dismissed. However, with a pair of cheap binoculars (this is my lousy metaphor for looking ahead), we can tell whether that bear is a Kodiak or Winnie the Pooh.

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