ASSOCIATES (2012, November, v. 19, no. 2)


Living Online

Allison Sloan
Senior Library Associate
Reading Public Library
Reading, Mass.

I spent my day off this week sitting in my home office with my desktop computer, my laptop and my ipad all downloading, uploading, synching and sharing files. Online seems to be the way we live now. It’s like suddenly everyone has an iPhone, and we don’t even question that this is the way to communicate or remember that once upon a time, long long ago, there was life without our handheld devices.

At the Massachusetts Library Association (MLA) Conference last year, the Paralibrarian Section sponsored a program about using software like Google or Skype to hold “virtual meetings.” We don’t actually sit together around a table anymore. We have entered a time and space where we reach out to each other across fiber optic sparkly strands or through air waves. I still don’t know how the telephone on my desk works. I push buttons (forget dialing) and I’m connected to a voice miles away. I push on the television remote (the clicker? the TV changer?) and a world of pictures, words and voices electronically enters my living room. We take for granted the magic of the internet, the World Wide Web and email are just the way it is done now. Without a second thought, we use our technology as naturally as walking. Do you know that your cell phone is more powerful than the first computers that sent a spaceship to the moon? And we aren’t even in awe of it anymore, it’s not amazing, it’s just … of course!

This year I trained on an Open Source library system (Evergreen). A couple times staff sat together in a conference room. We watched and listened to “Go to Meeting” on a projection screen or computer. The instructor was in another town, at her computer, talking, and pointing arrows and cursors and describing the process to input a book into the online catalog. You know how you shout warnings at your TV screen when the good guy doesn’t know the zombie is just around the corner? Well, in this online training session, or webinar, or interactive computer class, we could talk to the computer screen and it heard us and answered! At other times I logged onto a training system and watched screencasts, which are online instructional tutorials.

I’m taking a course in Library Services towards the ALA LSSCP (American Library Assoc. Library Support Staff Cert. Program). This is the second one I’ve taken towards the six required. I live in Massachusetts. The school is Fresno Pacific University in California. No, I don’t commute, or live on campus. I live, work and study 6000 miles away. This is an online course. A full semester-long university course that I am taking online. The professor has put a lot of work into the curriculum and the assignments, which I access by signing in to MOODLE software (I had never heard of it before, but it’s quite user friendly). The professor and I “talk” by email. She posts guidelines to help me understand the assignments, and she posts comments and grades, very quickly once I have submitted the work, online. I download, link, post to forums, write in a journal, and scan, and everything gets to her in CA all the way from MA, without either of us leaving our home desk. I also chat with the other students. It’s an asynchronous class – important since the university and I are in different time zones, and the other students are also in different time zones across the country. We are taking the course on different days, in different months, starting and finishing on our own asynchronous schedules. And all of this is done electronically online. It’s marvelous, and I’m still a little bit amazed by it, but sort of already just taking it in my stride as the way it is done now.

Living online, meeting online, studying online, and training online. Of course! And I haven’t touched on ebooks!