Technology continues to play an influential role in how library users access information. Part of being a librarian in the 21st century requires in the very least an awareness of the latest technologies. The Information Age ushered in uncharted approaches to library services. No longer must a librarian solely consider what books to add or discard from the collections. Now we need to maintain our physical collection and digital collection, provide research instruction, utilize new forms of communication to connect with and better serve our user base, AND trouble-shoot technological issues. In the profession this is referred to as being a “blended librarian”. (Our Reader Services Librarian, Joy Dlugosz just did a fabulous presentation on this topic at the Pennsylvania Library Association’s conference this past week in Harrisburg. Ask her about it!).
All of this has me thinking about how the extent of new technologies and our patron’s use of them dictate our library planning of services and resources. Part of this discussion involves a broader consideration of the library’s patrons and where they fit within the technology adoption lifecycle.
“The what lifecycle?” you may ask. Well, did you know that a technology adoption lifecycle exists? A sociological model developed by Joe M. Bohlen, George M. Beal and Everett M. Rogers, it identifies the model of society’s adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation. Five types of adopters are classified in this model-
- Innovator – These are technologists who buy the latest state-of-the-art technology just because it’s new and available.
- Early adopters – Similar to Innovators, but instead of buying new technology just for the sake of technology, Early Adopters see the potential of the new technology and then decide to buy into it.
- Early majority – Early majority users are individuals who first identify the new technology’s benefits. It they do find it beneficial, then they are willing to change their usage habits in order to adopt the new technology.
- Late majority – They are similar to the Early Majority, only Late Majority users are unwilling to change their usage habits and they expect the technology to work for them with little or no assembly and no learning curve on the user’s part.
- Laggards – This user group is the last to buy new technology. They are more comfortable with using out-dated technology as long as it accomplishes their goals. Laggards are very reluctant to buy into any new technology, even if it would be a great benefit to them.
The technology adoption lifecycle doesn’t address the finical burden of continuously acquiring the latest technologies. Technology is expensive and even though you may embrace an innovator’s or an early adopter’s philosophy, you may not have the funds to act out there practices. Something else to consider is how quickly technology becomes outdated. However, maybe this is part of buying into being an innovator or early adopter- you don’t have any reservations about spending money on new technologies even though they will undoubtedly go outdated and unsupported within 3-4 years.
The above issues of spending and currency are also reflected in the library world. Small university libraries like Warner lack the funds to be institutional early adopters and innovators of technology and services. Larger universities like Penn not only have the funding but they also have the support staff. This allows them to be early adopters and an innovators since they can contribute to creating new technologies.
At Warner, we try to find a happy-medium. Though we can’t afford a set of iPads for students to use, we do try to create services that most technology users need and want. An example of this is our mobile sites for EBSCOhost, WilsonWeb, LibGuides, and Blackboard. I can honestly write that our library staff does stay abreast of the latest technologies and we discuss what it means for the Eastern community’s research needs. We also contentiously seek out potential grants that enable us monetarily to support new technologies that under any other circumstances, we could not afford.
So, considering the five different models, how would you classify your technology use?