While craft, sewing and food are definitely a time consuming passion, my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science often takes centre stage. This semester, I have had the opportunity to devote all of my time exploring one issue; seniors, social technology and public libraries. The inspiration for this project came from helping a couple of seniors in my life through their technology use and witnessing the problems and barriers they faced. The project involved interviewing seniors to find out exactly how they use social technologies and then comparing the results to the programs that public library offer.
Developing a project from scratch presented several challenges. The research problem needed to be succinct and focussed, meaning that the multitude of ideas I had identified in my initial thinking needed to be pared down. The aim was to clarify my thinking and to sift out the central themes that could lead to a tidy article and be interesting enough keep focus over the duration of the semester. This was achieved in the project, however, at times I found it very difficult to funnel the large amounts of information I was dealing with into tight parcels of information that supported the overall premise of the project.
The other challenging aspect of this project was process of initiating, setting up and conducting interviews. By nature, I am a fairly solitary being and usually choose to do things by myself if I can. For this project, I had to cold call strangers, explain my project and what I wanted from each participant, and follow up on calls and emails if people didn’t reply. This process was definitely out of my comfort zone, but an important learning curve in terms of what I am actually capable of. I think sometimes the important lessons learnt don’t necessary come from the topic or the task, but a realisation that you are capable of things that were previously thought uncomfortable and avoided.
The advantage of devoting an entire semester on one project is the depth of understanding that is developed about the topic and the insights that this can bring. Before I began this project I had a static view of what a senior and technology looked like. It was a person who had no interest in technology and was fearful of how it worked and what its use meant for society. Actually talking to seniors about their technology use showed me that in reality, seniors had complex views of technology and were largely positive about the effect it had on their lives. I think that this is an essential lesson for a new librarian. Client’s can’t be taken at face value, they each have unique information or entertainment needs which should be met on an individual basis, not with a blanket solution.
At the end of this semester, I am a little bit brain dead, but glad that I decided to undergo this project. It was interesting (and at times scary) to be on the other side of producing an academic article, after spending so many years relying on them to learn and finish assignments. I have an intense appreciation for the time, effort and energy that it takes to arrive at the final five thousand words.
A big thanks to Zaana Howard for the support and mentorship this semester. Thanks also to Paul Edwards and Amanda Fitzsimon for their encouragement, and of course, to all my lovely participants for their time!