Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Pity the Poor Immigrant

The Great Divide ca. 2012
Bless me, natives, for I have sinned. It has been 159 days since my last blog post. I confess that I have allowed the 'real world' to impinge. This marks me as a digital immigrant, one who views his online presence as something separate; a hapless, fragmented soul who has not managed to integrate his tangible and virtual selves.

I hear that digital natives experience no such cleavage in their psyches. Online activity is undifferentiated from life; posting is merely consciousness made visible. I envy that a bit. For a digital green-card-carrier, maintaining an online presence is more like speaking in a foreign language. It requires extra effort, and fluency can be elusive. Worse, as a digital immigrant of a certain age (is there another kind?), I am hardwired to give precedence to tangible realities and relationships. I cannot seem to listen and tweet simultaneously. I am a late Boomer.

Montreal: Le Trafic Horrible
In recent months, the real-world demands of building a new business have crowded out blogging & tweeting. A surprising number of librarians remain unaware of one's cyber-existence. Finding customers for a new service still requires showing up in person: to meet, to describe, to see, to listen, to articulate, to elaborate, to adjust, to convince--to make the case face-to-face. And showing up has meant grinding out actual miles since July: Anaheim, Amherst, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Waterloo, Pomona, Brockport, Northridge, Worcester, Buffalo, Montreal, DC, Sturbridge, Des Moines, Schenectady, Charleston, West Lafayette, Corvallis...and soon enough to Seattle, Columbia, Utrecht and beyond.

Land of the Needle Jets
This is just how it works in the physical world: needle jets, thruways, traffic jams, library after library, spreading the word: "Rethinking Library Resources" and "Data-Driven Deselection for Monographs" and "Shared Print Management." Road food, flight delays, and time zone changes, punctuated by conference calls at highway rest stops, proposal writing, development meetings, negotiations, data discussions and project planning. All of this involves its own pleasures and pains, but seems to exist in a parallel universe, lacking convenient links or for that matter much convenience at all.

Meanwhile, ironically enough, my partners and I at SCS are building a virtual operation to serve a tangible need: cloud-based analytics to help manage print book collections. Amazon Web Services, Google Apps, postgres databases, solr indexes, FTP, DropBox, WebEx, Skype, and Google Hangout, shared screens and a host of other invisible tools are wielded by actual, hard-working humans with a good idea. Like all immigrants, we live and work in two worlds.

Showing up in Sturbridge, MA

So now it's back to work here, in this sphere of blogs and twitterage. Once again we turn our efforts to mastering that second language. We may never speak it like natives, but we will make ourselves heard and understood!

  • Sample & Hold: this blog will continue with comment on profession-wide issues related to deselection and shared print.
  • SCSInsight: our company blog will highlight features, developments, ideas about service, and interesting case studies in conjunction with our library partners.
  • @ricklugg will return to tweeting and re-tweeting on professional topics, with the occasional random comment.
  • @SCSInsight will continue to tweet on projects, trends, benchmarking, and other findings drawn from active library projects.
In the end, we're just singing the immigrant song (minus the bit about 'we are your overlords', of course!). We live in the tangible world. We live in the virtual world. We have to work in both and at both, as we carry on trying to "solve one problem well."