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Sunday, June 02, 2013

A Baby Boomer In The Age Of Technology

While I was at the conference last week, I was asked to fill in a survey form and  had to borrow a pen because I had forgotten to bring one, even though I'd brought an exercise book. I hadn't been using the notebook, you see, I had been taking notes in Pages on my iPad. As speakers did their thing, in between taking notes, I was googling those of whom I hadn't heard and downloading their books where available, to be read later. Now and then, I would lift the iPad and take a surreptitious photo of the stage for my blog, though on Day 2 I brought a good old fashioned camera(well, old fashioned in that it  was a camera - it was digital and later I downloaded the photos, correcting the red eye as I did so). The reason for that is that you can't get a close up on an iPad, or if you can I haven't yet worked it out, but I will. Next to me, a teacher librarian with grey hair was working her own iPad like there was no tomorrow.

Where am I going with this? The other day, I agreed to run an eye over an assignment on library digital services for a nice young librarianship student. There was something unintentionally patronising about the discussion of "digital illiteracy" but when it got to a sentence in the notes about libraries teaching people this stuff and "baby boomer statistics" I went, "Whoa! Who does she think invented this stuff? Taught her how to use computers in high school?" It's bad enough getting the constant refrain of "baby boomers are selfish" but at least you can see where that comes from and why. This was sheer patronising. Definitely not intentional, which may be worse.

My father discovered the Internet in his seventies and eighties. He was a true silver surfer. Every morning he would get out of his nice warm bed in the cold early light and go read the international newspapers online. Every visit I heard,"Hey, guess what I found on the Internet today?" If he'd still been around, I would have bought him an iPad and a digital subscription to his favourite papers. He could have taken it off the charger and back to bed.

Some years ago, I met a teacher I'd known in my first job, when he was teaching science. Now he was head of infotech.

See, when I was growing up computers were the size of a room and only universities and government facilities had them. I had a typewriter on which my uni assignments were written and on which my Honours thesis was typed. If I wanted someone to look at my assignment, I had to show it to them personally, not email it. In fact, when I was with my first writer's group, we had to make carbon copies or find an institution with one of those wet photocopiers and mail our stories to each other. I published a number of fanzines. By then I did have easy access to photocopying, but I was still on a typewriter, though an electronic one I had bought with the prize money from my first win in the Mary Grant  Bruce children's writing award. It wasn't until I wrote my first book that I had a computer, an Apple Mac Classic 2. When I was in my first library, I had catalogue cards - five for each book, and then, during stocktake, we had to pull all five out for any missing books. And there were lots of books missing every time - hundreds!

Can you see why I was so delighted when technology made my life easier? No more having to fix typos  with whiteout or retype whole pages. No more pulling five cards out for every missing book. In fact, now I can just download a catalogue record for most books(I can still catalogue from scratch). We do still have a typewriter(electronic) for spine labels, because it's not a good idea to put a sheet of sticky spine labels in a printer or photocopy tray with rollers to catch them. In fact, where I work, with everyone sharing the photocopier as a printer, chances are that someone will go to print out a piece of written work and find it spread across a page of spine labels. Our students who visit my office are intrigued by the typewriter."What's that?"

I love my Internet passionately! I love that if it's not in a book I can help my library users find it online. I love that I can write this n the way to work on a little computer the size of an A4 page and publish it to the world before I get there and then use the same little computer to read a book or a newspaper or slush for my issue of ASIM.

"Baby boomer statistics"?!? Being patronised, however unintentionally, by a girl who thinks her generation invented technology - Urk!

 I can only hope it never happens to her generation.


Sarah Allen said...

Oh dear, patronization is never fun. Surround yourself with kinder folk!

Sarah Allen
(From Sarah, With Joy)

Sue Bursztynski said...

The girl is not unkind, Sarah, just unthinking. The patronising was unintentional. I think I'm more amused than annoyed. I have had kids say to me,"I HATE computers, Miss!" and responded,"That's because you don't remember what it was like before!"