Monday, April 20, 2009

On Learning

Sacramento Public Library staff is in the midst of a fun staff-development campaign to learn 27 Things in the next few weeks. These "Things" are all related to new web tools that have sprung up over the last few years. The library has not yet adopted much of this new stuff for regular services, even though technology users abound! About a third of our staff has jumped aboard with enthusiasm. I hope we'll see some new things going on in the near future.

I bring this up because we tend to forget how far libraries have actually come in the last few years, and how it must feel to newcomers. Two days ago, a couple of us were helping a non-English-speaking gentleman request books for his ESL class. We identified the books he was trying to find. Sacramento Public does not own them, but they are available from one of our Link+ partner libraries. He spoke literally only a few words of English, and neither of us librarians understood Chinese. After much fruitless writing, pointing, and shrugging of shoulders, I asked another staff member, who does speak Chinese, to explain how Link+ works to get books from libraries outside our local library system.

We updated the gentleman's card, helped him establish a PIN, showed him how to use the catalog to find books and how to extend the search to the Link+ libraries. We showed him how to place holds on the books and explained that we will notify him when they arrive. He was most grateful, and completely astonished that this service is free!

That gentleman is 73 years young, learning not only a new language, but a new culture and a new technological way of life. He is the perfect example of a life-long-learner, and someone we should all strive to emulate!

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