A tool, according to my favourite cheap and cheerful reference source is “an entity used to interface between two or more domains that facilitates more effective action of one domain upon the other.”
Here’s a clarifying example:
“A hammer typically interfaces between the operator’s hand and the nail the operator wishes to strike.”
OK, I get that.
I’ve always had an interesting relationship to the world of entities-created-to-facilitiate-action-between-domains, and for a very basic reason – I’m left handed. Many tools are designed for an orientation to the world that is simply less natural for me.
It gets even more complicated than that. I’ve largely adapted to this aspect of the world, so that in most cases I’ll use a right-handed tool in a right handed way if that’s required, and not if not. As I said to a musician friend recently, it’s possible to get your guitar strung left handed, not so easy to do so with a piano. I make do, I adapt and I’m generally not conscious about those times when I’m being a left hander or being a right hander.
This has backfired on me historically. I clearly remember being young and struggling with setting the table – my mother suggested I should put the utensils as I used them, and then swap them around because I was left handed. I did so – and got them the wrong way round. I eat the same way as a right hander does, so using “the opposite to what I do” as a guide to setting a table just didn’t work. I still have to sometimes think the double step through that one…
This may or may not have been a formative moment, but now I am somewhat more grown up I often look at how we relate to our tools, particularly this wonderful tool called the internet. (Or is it a collection of tools?)
I look at libraries who run a blog. I see a lot of blogs that get updated with news about the library, with events and so on, but one think I’ve rarely seen (and I’ve looked at a fair few library blogs in my time) with an active community of responders. (Let’s not mention the NZ library blogs I know of whose comments are populated by responses from their own staff… most amusing…)
It’s very hip and cool to have a blog – but what’s the difference between a blog with no comments and a news page, which we’ve had on our websites for years?
I look at libraries putting out content with feeds, and I (who adore them) wonder if a wide enough sector of the population is engaged with managing feeds to make it worthwhile. Admittedly here I am thinking as a public librarian.
I look at our flickr accounts and wonder if we’re connecting directly through them, or if they’re simply taking the place of local hosting – not that I think secure remote hosting is a bad thing at all.
When we are looking for a hammer, we are concerned with our intent (to insert a nail) and the object of our intent (the nail). Once we have located the hammer, we’re only conscious of it if we hit our thumb.
I’d like to see more library professionals using social media think about their intent (to communicate with an audience) and the object of their intent (the audience) rather than become preoccupied, as we sometimes seem to be, with the tools.
To go back to handedness – we’re a natural profession for left-brain (right-handed) thinkers. Orderly, organised, procedure oriented. Let’s actively work on being librarians from the right side of the brain. The tool that is the internet is most efficiently intuited because it’s too big to be structured. If us lefties can adapt to a world of right handers, you guys can take on this challenge.