Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The False Security of Technology? What Might We Be Missing?

Close friends and FriendFeeders know that I recently had my gallbladder out in early August, and was nagged by unrelnting shoulder pain afterward. My surgeon and my primary care doc bounced me back and forth, trading me out for MRIs and bloodwork until (six weeks later) I asked my PCD to feel my shoulder. He rapped on my trapezius. "Rock hard!" he declared. "It's muscular! Off to physical therapy with you." The physical therapist took the time to talk to me, ask about my symptoms, and then actually touched me, palpating the area where I said I was feeling all that pain. After I winced under her having me do various motions, and as she pressed various spots, she finally said, "This is not the ghost of your gallbladder. And yes, your muscles are tense, but that is not the source of your pain. You have," *tap* *poke* *prod* "four dislocated ribs."

I was baffled. My surgeon is a great guy, and very smart. My primary care doc is a pretty bright guy. Both of them work in the medical profession, which is the *only* area I've ever heard folks use the word "palpate" in any seriousness. They whipped out high technology MRI, exhaustive bloodwork...all of their high-tech, impersonal, shiny-shiny tools, and kept getting it wrong, when a simple hand to my back would have answered the question.

This experience leaves me wondering - as we as libraries move deeper into technology use, and as we seek to solve all of our patron's needs and desires with our tech tools, what might we be missing? What are we throwing money, technology, and intricate workflows at that really may just need a slightly older-fashioned, more personal, non-complex touch? Are we substituting "shiny" where a traditional method might be better?

I'm not trying to blaspheme - I'm as much for change and technology as anybody else, and more a fan than many. But we should be implementing it with a purpose, with an eye to the benefits and drawbacks. perhaps even with keeping in mind what very, very basic skills might rust with disuse with their implementation.


Angel, librarian and educator said...

I don't think you are blaspheming at all. You may "tick off" certain elements of our profession who adopt shiny toys and ask questions later. But it is something that needs to be asked. You have great timing given a colleague and me were talking about this kind of issue this past week after a staff meeting where massive cuts to budget were announced, where we are going online as much as possible because everything is online, and it is what "the kids want anyways." The sad part is that a lot of the decision is made for us (the budget), but my colleague and I could not help but ask that same question: what are we missing?

Best, and keep on blogging.

Colleen said...

Angel - yep, that's my concern - that we at least make these decisions consciously and know what we are losing when we make our choices. Everything has an opportunity cost, even when it's a good choice, and I think we lose sight of that too easily.