Background: A perplexed customer is standing at the express checkout machines not able to follow the screen prompts and unable to check out. I walk up to assist him.
Me: Just place the item in the center of the black square so it can be read for check out
Customer: how does it do it?
Me: It reads an embedded chip
Customer: wow, with all this fancy technology, there’s will be no need for you!
Me (chuckling): Oh, I respectfully disagree! There will always be people who are unable to use our fancy technology, right, Leroy! (looking at my coworker who was watching and smiling)
Leroy: You betcha!
Customer: Ya, but I just learned. I don’t need you!
This is example of one my favorite conversations to have with customers because he fails to see how technology aids librarians, not replace them (and how there will always be teachable people like him).
Just a week ago Sunday, our tri-state area was without power for days, no amount of technology was going to help without the juice to run it. That initial Sunday our library stayed open without power and it was staff who checked out materials by hand and located books without an online catalog or backup card catalog, just knowing the call system off the tops of their heads.
With the scenario above, by allowing customers to check out their own materials, it gives us the time to introduce new services like walking a customer through using digital library downloads or staffing an online virtual reference service. In addition, we still locate books in the stacks, uncover information, instruct users on databases, perform collection development and conduct programs. Machines are not going to replace those activities.
Machines are not going to refill their own receipt, copier or printer paper nor replace their toner cartridges. Not to mention, you still need a human to call the technician after the customer has gotten so frustrated with this &#%*# technology that he has kicked the life out of it and it is not working 🙂
I do not fear technology replacing me, but rather embrace what technology can do to assist me as a librarian! As a public services librarian with a BA in public relations, it is second nature for me to inform the public what a value they are getting in having MLS librarians staffing their libraries. We are one serious bang for your taxpaying buck!