or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


The Salmon of Dubious Technology

   January 3rd, 2012 Brian Herzog

The Salmon of Doubt, by Douglas Noel AdamsOn my drive to Ohio for Christmas, one of the audiobooks I listened to was Douglas Adams' The Salmon of Doubt. In addition to sort of being one of his stories, this book also contains numerous interviews he'd done and various bits and ideas of things he'd saved in his computers.

The following little bit came on somewhere in the middle of New York state, and I kept thinking about it for miles:

I’ve come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

  1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
  2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
  3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Douglas was very good about drawing attention to, or even giving names to, things that happened or were true without people really consciously knowing they were, in fact, actual real things. I think that is definitely the case with the above approach to technology.

It also made me laugh to think this might be applied to libraries - and librarians - with a few minor changes:

  1. Anything that is in the library when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the library works.
  2. Anything that’s developed while you're in library school is new and exciting and revolutionary and is definitely the future for libraries.
  3. Anything developed after you’ve worked as a librarian for awhile is against the natural order of things.

Obviously this is tongue-in-cheek, but I liked it because I definitely find myself being more skeptical of the application of innovations than I was just a few years ago. Although maybe that's because I'm still working on implementing some of the projects I started a few years ago.



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