Friday, November 04, 2005

coming around to podcasts

If you have read my post about dropping out of the digital age, you know I am a Luddite wannabe. When some new fangled thingy in the technology world debuts, I avoid it for as long as I can. What inevitably happens, however, is that it starts to have some purpose for me. In other words, I need a considerable push.

I viewed podcasts this way, it sounded like the radio to me and I can easily enjoy that in the car or at home at the flick of a switch, why mess with the computer? Until I stumbled onto a certain podcast of interest. I do some ESL programs at my library and stumbled across Breaking News English, a website put up by an ESL teacher in Japan. It features a daily news article with a ready made lesson plan. AND A PODCAST.

I was intrigued and tried to listen to it at home. To do this I had to reconnect the speakers, which had been disconnected because there are not enough outlets on the power strip and I really need the crosscut paper shredder in this age of identity theft. So I got down on my hands and knees to reconnect the speakers. I clicked on the podcast and could hear a faint voice. I fiddled with the knobs on the speakers to no avail, clearly a man was saying something but it wasn't clear what he was saying. I was too tired to go to My Computer to see if there are some audio controls I have thus far been blissfully ignorant of. Easier to try again at work.

At work, I was able to listen, the accent is slightly British but the podcast might be useful in the future. The other hurdle to overcome is that our meeting room has no computer so no way to listen to it there. Hopefully, the push of technology will change that soon.

I don't remember where I saw it but I recently saw a TV segment about podcasts, perhaps something on Channel 11. What was interesting to me was that some families were profiled who are doing podcasts. Now that was interesting. I started to see how it was different from radio, anyone who wants a radio show and can't get one can get a podcast. I started to think of my theater obsessed nieces and nephew and how they could act out plays on podcasts.

I'm coming around, slowly but surely.

dropping out of the digital age

A recent New York Times article, "Parents Fret That Dialing Up Interferes With Growing Up" focuses on the amount of time kids are spending online. It mentions a girl who gets up an hour early to text message friends. I remember myself as a schoolgirl and don't think you could have dragged me out of bed, or paid me, to do the same.

When computers first became commonplace, I learned some basic skills on my own and was able to function. Lately, though, as technology has morphed and grown by leaps and bounds in the past few years, I feel myself slipping.

As a teacher in the early 1990s, I used my Mac to type up tests and quizzes. In 1994, I started a job in legal services, where funding is always an issue, with a DOS computer. I graduated to Windows at some point but when I left the job in October 200o, our office still had no Internet access and, consequently, no e-mail capability. I went to the public library next door to access my e-mail.

When I entered the library world in October 2000, I took a step up technologically. I used Publisher for the first time, pretty much just by messing around with it, so it's not that I'm afraid of new technology. It's more that I have to see the point of it.

I guess my problem is that I am a late adopter, so just when I have become comfortable with something, it has become pretty much obsolete, or at least quaint. At times I resent the computer and have toyed with the idea of just dropping out of the digital age and joining the Lead Pencil Club.

Ref Grunt

Over the past month or so, I have looked at more library blogs than I can name. They link back and forth to each other in an incestuous way and I have taken a few whirlwind tours. My favorite for pure fun is Ref Grunt.

I have been working in adult reference for over 5 years and if ever someone cared to know what it is like to be a reference librarian (which they don't since they already know I sit around and read books all day), I would direct them to this site. It's a blow-by-blow of a typical day at a reference desk. The array of topics that are dealt with is dizzying. The requests for books with half or no titles at all, mangled authors' names, the expectation that we can solve any and all problems and have every title ever printed in our collection.

Ref Grunt also brings up another touchy issue in many libraries, namely computer, copier, and fax stuff. Departments frequently argue about who should be responsible for computer sign up, refilling the printer with paper and toner, helping patrons log on, reduce copies, etc. To be honest, I don't mind doing those tasks. What I mind is that I am then unable to do many of the tasks for which I was hired. There are 4.2 employees in my department and we cover the reference desk at the main library and the circulation/reference/youth services desk at our branch library. The two libraries are open for a total of 107 hours. You do the math.

The scary thing about Ref Grunt is that when I read the first few posts, I was sure it was someone at my library. But it looks like his name is Peter. Well, Peter represents Everyman and Everywoman for reference librarians worldwide.