Technology of Yore

Disney author and historian Jim Korkis collects old Disney guide books. In a recent blog post, he begins his explanation:

I have many friends who are professional writers. One of them earned his living for many years translating German books into English and writing some historical novels.

One day, he called me up very excited because he had been able to purchase a complete set of volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica from the 1920s. I pointed out that he could have spent much less purchasing a recent set, which had more up-to-date entries.

He then revealed to me that he had at least 10 complete sets of Encyclopedia Britannica, but from different time periods and was hoping to purchase more. In 1933, the Britannica became the first encyclopedia (and I only know how to spell that word correctly thanks to Jiminy Cricket singing the word on the original Mickey Mouse Club television series) to continually update entries on a regular schedule.

As my friend patiently explained to me, an early edition of Britannica might have two or three pages devoted to buggy whips with detailed descriptions, history, illustrations and more, because it was a vital tool at the time. However, even a decade later, because of space restrictions and new entries, that entry on buggy whips might be severely edited to a half page or eliminated entirely.He was buying sets from different eras to help him with accurate details for his historical novels.

You can read the full post here:

First, let me begin by saying that the 2015 AISL conference occurs only 90 minutes west of the Walt Disney World resort area, making it an ideal weekend to visit the parks if that’s something you’re considering. One of the many benefits of sunny Florida…

That sort of plug, however, is not my main reason in writing today. It’s more about the mission of school libraries today. I am frequently asked if I have “technologies” to loan or donate to classrooms. Most recently, it was a CD player. CDs are not yet extinct, but they are far from the most up-to-date musical device. Other items in my back office: a transparency reader, a VHS player, a LaserDisc player, and a handheld video camera.* What works for me is to keep, so to speak, one circulating copy in the collection.  In cases where teachers are using what appear to be outdated technologies, I am given the chance to ask what they’re using the items for. Then I’m able to see if I’m able to find something else that might better suit their students’ educational needs.

I inherited my library from the most organized, immaculate, and detailed librarian ever. There were four filing cabinets organized with every collaborative project, vendor contact, and library display from the past six years, and timelines for contacting classes and vendors.  As a first-year librarian working by herself in a library, this was monumentally helpful in organizing my first year!  While I am also organized, most of my files are electronic Word 97-2003 documents. They are in folders on my computer, backed up to the school network. I plan to stay in this job for awhile, but when I leave, I don’t know what I’m supposed to share with my successor. There is the potential for information overload for sure.

Separately, some of my college files are already inaccessibly locked in their floppy discs, and with moving more towards the iPads in our school culture, I wonder how much longer we’ll be using jump drives. Ironically, my handwritten grade school papers are open and available for viewing if you ever find yourself in my parents’ attic… 🙂  Over the past two years, I’ve largely switched to GoogleDocs (lovelovelove!), but then there is a lapse in overall library files, with some in paper, some in Word, and some in the Google’s cloud. We are a relatively young school and a relatively small school so we have some time on this issue.

How important are records, formats, and materials storage? There’s is continuum between libraries as archival facilities and libraries as collaborative learning centers. I fall more towards the person side than the materials one. Where do you fall on that continuum?

slide projector *By far, the item back there that is most frequently requested is the slide projector. Families are inheriting older collections of slides and have no way to view them. They are thrilled when I can provide the slide projector, and from there they can decide what to print or digitize. Even without the obvious curricular connection, this is win-win because it gives me time with teachers while their endorphins are kicking in and they feel good about life. Translation –  questions about how I can help them in the classroom have a positive response rate.

5 thoughts on “Technology of Yore

  1. Excellent post. It is a troubling question. We have gotten rid of a lot of our old technology that would make resources available, but we did hang on to it for quite a while. The question we asked was were we a museum or a library. We don’t have the space to house all the old technology, but it is an important discussion to have.

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Since we have no ‘museum’ on hand and I have a bit of space, that’s where I figured one of each is helpful. In terms of the files, I’ve loved being able to look at projects that have worked with a specific class curriculum. Even if a specific teacher is no longer at the school, it’s neat to see what’s worked before with similar material.

  3. How timely! Yesterday, I was asked if I would like a transparency projector that a retired teacher left in her classroom. My instincts told me to say yes and I did. Seems like there will be someone, at some point, who needs this machine. Now, where to store it?

  4. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Christina. I am reminded of a conversation I had recently with a thirty-something faculty member. Discussing CDs, the talk at the table was that ‘no one buys them anymore’ (and in fact our new faculty laptops do not come equipped with a CD player; We have to get an external CD drive). I asked this young teacher how he got his music. He said “Oh, sure, _I_ buy CDs, but no one else does”. “We all know” that no one buys CDs, even when we buy them ourselves. How weird is that? Formats are changing all around us but there is never a single moment when a switch is flipped and an old format is entirely passé. So interesting!

  5. Thanks for the feedback. There are two components to this with the paper/digital archives and the older technologies with which to view different older technologies. There are times when it’s helpful to view the older file and adapt it for the present day. (No one wants to be stuck thinking, “If only I had that … assignment I used to do. It was the best! I’ll never be able to recreate it.”) Simply seeing something is sometimes enough to prompt new ways of thinking, especially if what you had doesn’t match your memories of it.
    Allison, I limit older technologies to one each. That in my mind keeps it more under collection than hoard. Interesting story if any of you proctor the oral SAT. Students with this accommodation are given a tape player. They are responsible for starting and stopping the tape to hear the questions. From what I’ve heard about the standardized testing, it’s never best to introduce a new element on testing days. And yet that’s exactly what’s happening with the College Board.
    Shannon, I had a gift card to Best Buy that had been languishing in a drawer, so I bought a bunch of cds for a road trip this summer. I loved it. It’s neat to see what artists put together and how their styles shift on different songs. Even with artists I know, I came across songs I’ve never heard on Pandora and wouldn’t think to search for on Grooveshark. And yet here is the first time I’m admitting that I recently bought cds. They’re ‘supposed’ to be passe, aren’t they? A technology I LOVE is audiobooks on the iPad or on my phone played through the car speakers. In the past I’d be lining up cds for the overnight drive from my parents’ house to where I work at the end of the summer. My husband always takes the midnight shift. If I fell asleep, my husband knew where to look or was stuck with local southern radio stations. It’s awesome to have one playback and to be able to control the speed of the narration!

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