As a former social worker/psychotherapist, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a very familiar concept to me. People must fulfill their basic material needs before they can start thinking about things like self-actualization and intellectual fulfillment. I worked with families who could barely keep their electricity on and get the children to school, and I always found that what they needed was concrete strategies to make their situation better and case management — not therapy, per se. You don’t want to talk about your feelings when you’re worrying about how to feed your children. Now Aaron at Walking Paper has redesigned Maslow’s hierarchy for the implementation of computer technologies in libraries. It makes perfect sense. You need to make sure you teach your patrons about technology and get them excited about it before inundating them with virtual reference and wifi. You need to make sure that you have the technology infrastructure and your patrons have the education and interest necessary to do some of the higher order things. You shouldn’t be paying for wifi when you don’t have enough public access terminals. Libraries need to take baby steps into technology. The Librarian in Black also brought up a valid comment on Aaron’s blog: “where does ‘staff technology competency’ fall into all this?” This is another excellent point and one that is too often ignored. Often, new technologies are foisted on library staff who are not educated properly about it. When this happens, the new technology will not be well-maintained by the staff and the staff will not encourage patrons to use it. So at that bottom level with patron computer education should be staff computer education. And probably by the second level, the staff should be able to be pretty technologically self-sufficient (in terms of fixing printers themselves, knowing how all the tech stuff in the library works, etc.). For the higher levels, the staff should be up on current info tech trends and should understand the possibilities that technology has for improving services to their patrons. If the librarians are not excited about new technologies, they may doom them to failure. Great ideas Aaron and Sarah!
Thanks! I have found that technology that is not supported by staff ends up being a dud. It has been a major pet peeve of mine when adequate time for training on the new technology is not given in libraries (or really anywhere for that matter). Fortunately, I handle both e-services & training in my system, so I can most often prevent that from happening. But we techies really need to take a step back and realize that yes, this new thing is cool, but if staff don’t know how to use it and don’t care about it, the patrons most likely won’t hear about it.
Very insightful – thanks, both of you! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as well.
I should probably keep a copy of the hierarchy where I’ll notice it before I send another breathless email (“Have you seen this!?!”) to my higher-ups about some cool tech thing we’re not really prepared for.
I fully agree with everyone here. Yay. Tech w/o staff support = doomed, DOOMED i say! 😉
I might extend my little analogy further in the future, and if i do, staff might be the
mortar that holds everything together. Er, something. Thanks for the comments!