Wednesday, February 20, 2008

One small step for man...

I recently answered a question on one of Woody Evans' blogs with this statement:
"I'm all about growing in leaps and bounds though; any other type of growth is just falling behind at this point for the profession."

Of course this got me to thinking.
For libraries, or perhaps any other profession, how much is wasted in growing incrementally? How many libraries purchased Betamax or Laserdisc media only to regret it sooner rather than later? I personally owned a portable minidisc player... and I'm just now coming to grips with the shame. The world is rife with digital media formats that can no longer be accessed because their technology is dead. So this makes me ask, when should we migrate? The cost of staying current is immense, but is it higher than never changing?

Is it just the fate of libraries to lag behind trends due to cost considerations? Is this what we've learned from 8 tracks and HDDVDs? And on that note, is it worth getting blue ray dvd players until they are as common as the old ones? Otherwise, don't we, by default, limit the patrons we serve to those who can afford the high end technologies?

So, which is better? To take technological risks and hope you guessed right, or to stick to your guns until the technology is so commonplace that your patrons demand it? In my opinion, this is much like everything else: a little mix of both is what is needed. Gamble occasionally on those things that would really provide a benefit (and cross your fingers hoping that others will follow suite), but also wait until other technologies have been thoroughly tested.
But how do we know which ones are worth the gamble? The same way the pros do- research.

And let me wrap up by reminding everyone of one thing: We should use technology to solve problems, not to make things shiny. (this of course, is professionally speaking. Personally, shiny is good enough.)