Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: Don't Read This in a Meeting

Magazine article American Libraries

Will's World: Don't Read This in a Meeting

Article excerpt

What are all of you doing about text-messaging devices? I haven't decided.

Here's the problem. You call a staff meeting and do all of the right things. You circulate a blank agenda to all prospective attendees asking them to fill it in with pertinent issues. You announce the time and place of the meeting and urge all attendees to be prompt in order not to waste time. You provide coffee and maybe snacks. It's then down to business, with each agenda item covered comprehensively, but efficiently. You seek a consensus on each agenda topic; do not digress with irrelevant stories or tangents; make sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak; assign a specific person to implement each consensus item; set the date, time, and place for the next meeting; and bid everyone a fond farewell.


You didn't commit any of the cardinal sins of meeting organizers. The room was ready, the audiovisual equipment was set up, no one was allowed to monopolize the discussion, and you were constantly aware of time constraints. In short, you ran an efficient and effective meeting. So why are you troubled that during the meeting there were five or six people who kept scrolling and typing on their hand-held text-messaging devices?

For one reason: You know it's rude to look down at a tiny computer screen while people are talking. "Rude," however, is a word that is as out-of-fashion as the word "etiquette." What used to be considered rude in the predigital days of our lives is normal today. Answering phones in public was once considered rude. Now it is normal. Wearing earphones in social situations was once considered rude. Now it is normal. Composing a written message while someone is talking to you was once considered rude. Today it is normal. Reading a message while others are trying to get your attention was once considered rude. Now it is normal.

Living in a high-tech world

Our handy high-tech communication devices have changed the rules of social interaction. Remember the concept of active listening? The first fundamental principle of that lost art was that you made direct eye contact with the person speaking to you. It was considered offensive to look up or down, or gaze into the horizon. …

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