I was in an interesting meeting the other day with one of the local public librarians in our region and the head of the local public television station. We were discussing possible collaborative projects when the librarian mentioned the people she knows who are still unclear on computers…..and why they should care.
Many of us learned computers because we’ve had jobs that required we do so. Others learned because they were curious about this new technology. Still others were dragged, kicking and screaming, into the computer age. And, of course, there are those who are digital natives, like my DSD, who grew up with them and don’t think of a computer as any more puzzling than a telephone.
There’s another group of folks out there. We see them every now and then in our libraries. They come in, tentative, asking about the computers. And they’re shy because they need to use the computer, but don’t know how and feel foolish asking. We offer classes and gently guide them through the intricacies of the Web, teaching them how to fill out the job application or shop or e-mail their son in Iraq.
But Ann touched on the group out there who just don’t get the whole computer thing….and don’t really care. They don’t know why they should care. Not infrequently, if you talk to one of these folks and mention that you can shop, or search for your ancestors, or e-mail your son/daughter/mother/cousin/college roommate, or book a cruise….well, then they start to understand why this new thing might be kind of fun to have around and get to know.
My mind traveled down this path as a result of this story (emphasis mine):
LONDON (Reuters) – A British judge admitted on Wednesday he was struggling to cope with basic terms like “Web site” in the trial of three men accused of inciting terrorism via the Internet.
Judge Peter Openshaw broke into the questioning of a witness about a Web forum used by alleged Islamist radicals.
“The trouble is I don’t understand the language. I don’t really understand what a Web site is,” he told a London court during the trial of three men charged under anti-terrorism laws.
Prosecutor Mark Ellison briefly set aside his questioning to explain the terms “Web site” and “forum.” An exchange followed in which the 59-year-old judge acknowledged: “I haven’t quite grasped the concepts.”
Now, be honest. When I was referring earlier to the folks who don’t get it and don’t know why they should care, your mind immediately jumped to your 80-year old mother, right? Perhaps that’s why this story struck me so. This judge is an educated BABY BOOMER.
So. We have a lot more work out there than we might have thought. There’s a whole population that has no idea what the Web is about, why it could be useful, and why they should care.
We need to help them understand and discover. As Information Professionals, this is another tool in our vast repertoire of information sources, and we need to be helping folks discover how it might help them, just as we helped people understand other information formats over the years.
We need to help them care. In the memorable words of a character on the television series The West Wing,
“This just in: The Internet is not a fad.”