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Lee Rainie Talks About Adding Value

Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet Project, gave this morning’s keynote address, advising attendees on how libraries can add value to communities. He wowed the audience when he said he’s paying back the library love he’s received.


He then talked about the three revolutions Pew has identified in its longitudinal surveys. The first is about internet and broadband. Pew found a sharp increase in adoption rates of both internet and broadband technologies up until 2007 when it started to level out.


The second revolution concerns wireless connectivity, by which he meant both mobile phones and connecting wirelessly on laptops. He noted age differences in cell phone adoption and their increasing use as social tools for sharing photos and videos, accessing social networking sites, and some limited use of location-based technology. Pew statistics on apps reveal that, even when people have apps, they don’t always use them because they haven’t figured it out. Rainie made distinctions between questions best answered on the net (who, what, where, when) and those best answered by databases (how and why).


The third revolution is in social networking. The demographics of people using social networks is increasingly diverse. With ubiquitous mobility and pervasive awareness of what other people are doing comes the fear of missing out.


What do these revolutions mean to librarians? Our expertise in teaching others about technology is badly needed. The library as place becomes library as placeless resource as we go to people rather than having people come to the library. Librarians add value by helping people navigate among information sources and technologies, by understanding context, and by providing quiet space (Rainie referred to this as “sanctuary”). Librarians can be embedded in peoples’ networks and serve as nodes in social media.


Rainie ended his talk by delineating some cosmic values that libraries add. Teach new literacy skills, including screen literacy, navigation literacy, and context literacy. Encourage skepticism and contemplative time. Explain how to create content. Above all, consider ethical behavior in this new world. Rainie’s other cosmic value concerned how librarians can help fill in civic gaps.

Lee Rainie talks about where libraries can add value


Librarians must rely on their wits. Our new constituencies require different types of information delivered in new ways. From the tenor of his talk, it’s apparent that Lee Rainie remains a strong advocate of librarians, recognizing their technical savvy and their moral stances. He is, indeed, sharing the love.

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