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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Communication Transition

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, April 12, 2009

American society seems to be in a state of “communication transition.”

Some might better describe the situation as a state of “communication crisis.”

As a society, we are exploring different ways of communication with each other, and it is unclear which methods will “win out” and become standard for us.

The Library system collects information from the public, and issues library cards that are used to check out things from our collections.

This system has been used since the beginnings of libraries.

Today, we collect a standard address to allow us to mail overdue notices for things not returned

The Library also collects an e-mail address if the person wants pre-overdue notices and overdue notices sent to them via an e-mail account, instead of a snail mail address.

The system still mails billing notices because so many e-mail addresses are defunct in such a short time.

Also, the only way to locate an e-mail address is for someone to tell you, there is no guide or directory to locate such addresses.

Looking back 100 years, communication was done by writing a letter and having it delivered.

By the 1920s, telephone communication was common within local areas.

When I was in college in the 1970s, I wrote letters home and occasionally telephoned home, but kept the conversation to a limited basis since the cost was based on the time I talked.

Today, communication by cell phone is more about your contract than about the time you spend in communication.

Add to that all the other methods of using a cell phone or hand-held device for text messaging and you will see that we are in a transition.

E-mail is now considered an old version of communication.

When the library promotes services and activities to the public, how do we do it in today’s communications climate?

The Library Newsletter is still produced in paper format, as well as online; how to people use it?

We send releases to a variety of media, which ones do people use and how do they use it?  Printed and published format, or on a web site?

How do younger people learn about events in our society today, and how should the library communicate it?

The “work” of communicating today seems to have shifted to the user of the information.

Information is sent electronically, but we have to access it rather than the information being handed to us.

The customer of information is responsible for the “work” of accessing that information.

My college began sending the alumni news online, until they found that people generally didn’t read it because the user wasn’t taking the responsibility of accessing it online.

Now they do it both ways, mailing a quarterly newsletter with access to further online information.

As our society transitions to new and different methods of communication, we are looking for the new “Town Crier.”

He was the person of days-gone-by who rang a bell and communicated information around the town for all to hear.

I hope we find our new “Town Crier” soon.