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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.

The Movement of Information

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, December 18, 2016

The movement of information today is quite different from days-gone-by.


Putting something in the mail, or telephoning someone both still happen in our world; but additional options are all around us.


My Sunday column that appeared two weeks ago has become a great example of the movement of information in 2016.


I wrote about library websites, and how we were one of the earliest institutions to have websites, and how that came to be.


It seemed like one of my usual weekly columns in the newspaper and I frankly didn’t think any more about it --- until two days after it was published.


The head of the Ohio Public Library Information Network sent me an e-mail saying how nice of me to mention OPLIN, and how important it is to promote the statewide structure that links public libraries to the Internet.


I shuffled his comments to the side, pleased that he had shared his thoughts with me; but a bit puzzled by the source of his comments never connecting them to my weekly column.


Then, the head of IT services at our computer center told me how great my comments were, and that certainly public library websites were among the first on the Internet.


As I was absorbing his comments, I received an e-mail from someone in western Ohio who I had worked with years ago early in my career.


Same type of comments, but I was still confused as to the source of these complimentary comments.


The comments were tucked away again as I got busy with other tasks.


That evening I was looking at my Facebook account, and there was a link to my weekly column in the Herald-Star with similar comments --- yes, someone had connected the weekly column to Facebook and it was flipping and flopping through the network of friends and their friends and so on.


I am sure my non-library friends were passing it by, but my library friends were passing it on to their friends; and welcome to information distribution in 2016.


I have never been too excited by Facebook, but have an account to share back and forth with friends and family.


I have found all six of my first cousins on Facebook, as I come from a small extended family with almost no relatives on my father’s side and I thought this would be a way of gently communicating with the few relatives I do have.


Who knew that my weekly columns, which I have written for 40 years in some format, would go breezing through online technology in 2016 to who knows how many people?


Eventually other kids from the 1960s who grew up in my Muskingum Terrace neighborhood began responding to my weekly column amazed that I am a librarian today, but they knew it would happen because I kept my comic books in order in my bedroom.


Another person began asking computer questions of me, since I was clearly “a computer expert.”


Oh my, this movement of information 2016-style, is not exactly communication as it is often just a one-way street.  Information is passed along, but not a two-way street.


Many of us have experienced, or heard about someone, who received an e-mail from someone and we were upset at the tone or the subject of the e-mail.


The same people determined later that they had misinterpreted the e-mail.


The problem is that information shared is not communication, which requires a two-way exchange.


Facial expression and voice tone also contributes to communication, and the lack of those factors often confuses the meaning of the “sender.”


The same thing happens at the library.  An in-person question or a telephone conversation with a question of the library is more productive than an e-mail asking the library a question.


Did we “get it right” and really understand your query?


I guess I will have to remember that my Sunday columns now go further that into a printed newspaper.