Magazine article Information Today

Resistance Forces

Magazine article Information Today

Resistance Forces

Article excerpt

An impending peril threatens information professionals attempting to weather the stormy changes in this Information Age--public embarrassment and humiliation. In addition to handling the real injuries of job loss, grinding worries over career prospects, not to mention the endless challenges of coping with new technologies and changing customer and employer expectations, information professionals today must also worry about style. They must deal with the turbulent changes affecting their daily and future professional lives with an apparent ease, concealing from employers and customers how the rapid changes have left the experts as flummoxed as the laity. After all, if we really are experts on information technology and information industry developments, we should not be caught uninformed of the new changes. Physician, heal thyself.

Nevertheless, we information professionals are often jumpy, frequently frightened, and sometimes depressed about our futures. And, in that frame of mind, many of us may fall prey to the temptation to resist the future, instead of welcoming it (albeit with sensible caution). It's a common human frailty, this resistance to progress, particularly prevalent among knowledge workers in these challenging times. And, by the way, the frailty strikes all kinds of information professionals--both buyers and sellers of information. It's not just the consumer information pros--the researchers or librarians--who dig their heels in the sand defying the tides of change.

One of the wonderful attributes of computers and information technology is its flexibility in providing many ways to perform the same or similar tasks. Unfortunately, the dark side of that flexibility is that you can often find experts clinging to the less capable technology they know and own, and ignoring the better, cheaper, faster technology.

What forms can the resistance take? A few occur to me.

Delaying Tactics

Saint Augustine, in his autobiographical Confessions, describes a prayer he crafted shortly before his full conversion. He prayed the Lord to grant him faith, hope, charity, and all the virtues...but not just yet. After years of hedonistic paganism, what could a few more days hurt? Or maybe weeks? Or even months? Right?

Of course, the library will provide an Internet training program, will support end-user searching services, and will introduce multimedia databases. The library and librarians will provide all those services (...but not just yet) just as soon as they finish completing the retrospective online public access catalog of monographs, claiming missing back issues of periodicals, and improving turn-around on intermediated traditional searches.

Of course, the MIS department will support in-house text-plus-image database development; will build secure, full-featured Internet connections; and will upgrade microcomputers in all information support departments. The MIS department and its staff will do all those things (...but not just yet) just as soon as they complete the extensive re-survey of user needs, as soon as microcomputers and peripherals drop even further in price, and as soon as Windows 95 (or is that Windows 96?) gets debugged.

Of course, the database industry will provide intuitive interfaces using sophisticated, new, linguistic search-engine software, will integrate databases and create answers merging results from different files, and will develop responsive, customer feedback communication channels. The database industry and its professionals will accomplish all those fixes (...but not just yet) just as soon as they complete all the scheduled re-loads, as soon as industry revenues reach a new height, and as soon as their industry allies re-negotiate their contracts.

"...A Lot 0f"

Many years ago, a chance meeting with a wonderful librarian gave me a collector's edition quote. Back in the dawning era of CD-ROM at an Information industry Association seminar, hardware manufacturers and software providers spent hours waxing poetic about the new technology. …

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