Surveying Our Domain: Plugging into Our Professional Perceptions of Technology

Article excerpt

Terms for various technologies buzz and compete for the attention of youth services professionals. Do we need Wii? What about a wiki? Acting on the potential for tech toys and tools to keep young people coming through library doors has become the new norm in many venues. The practice attracts young people and media attention. News outlets from the Des Moines Register to the Los Angeles Times have covered this trend.

Given this environment, the Children and Technology Committee of the American Library Association's Association for Library Service to Children wanted to hear about technology issues that impact librarians and conducted a survey in early 2008 to gather goal-setting data for the committee. Results, collected this spring, are thought-provoking.

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The committee asked librarians about their proficiencies (82% felt either mostly or fully comfortable with the technology in their libraries), their priorities for technology training and continuing education (68% felt librarians would benefit from better database search skills), and their practices (19% maintain social networking sites in their professional and personal lives). Avast majority (82%) reported an interest in information about children and technology--indicating the need for further exploration and discussion.

Retooling the dialogue

Why did youth services librarians respond as they did, what values do they ascribe to technology and literacy, and how do they want to shape their institutions in an evolving, increasingly electronic context? Just as important, why did only 349 people participate?

ALSC Executive Director Diane Foote said, "While this survey didn't net as many replies as a previous one (which got over 1,000 responses) focusing on ALSC members' professional education needs, this is a step in the right direction for us in attempting to be more in tune with members' wishes."

The technology survey was, however, distributed beyond ALSC's 3,400 members, so the figures suggest the need for more dialogue and engagement. A preliminary committee report reasoned that "those who avoid technology . …