Always off: a visit to my hometown which seems to be stuck in 2006

Being 41, I came into this digital age piece by piece, slowly adapting this tool or that gadget or app into my everyday life. Eventually I came to the point where it felt like I was, indeed, always on. This “continuous connectedness”, as Dempsey (2009) calls it can be overwhelming at times. I believe it may be easier for the born digital generation to manage the constant communication. For me, I might be at a slight advantage in that I’ve tasted life without Facebook, an iPhone, Instagram, email, etc. so I can pull away from it (sort of). True a typical day will find me at my computer, iPhone by my side to check texts/emails/calls, and Netflix streaming season 3 of Archer on the tv. Sometimes, like this past Sunday, I switched off the tv and my iPhone, and worked on my homework. Midway through last week’s post for this class, I took a break, checked some football scores, and checked my phone, saw that my mom called and left a voicemail.

My parents are getting up there in the years, so I always dread that call. This… this was that call. My dad had a stroke and was being transported to the hospital. I scrambled to get everything ready to make the 160 mile drive to check on him: laptop, books, iPhone, clothes for a few days, etc. I didn’t get up til late at night, so I wasn’t able to visit him until the next morning. However, I was able to rest that night knowing he was in stable condition. [Note: he is rehabbing in extended care, and expected to make a fairly complete recovery and be released back home in a couple weeks.]

Now for any of you who has been into a hospital, you might have come to the same conclusion that I reached: hospitals are the antithesis of information centers. Asking nurses to find out what his actual diagnosis was met with a response like, “The doctor will be around later today.” A simple question of what medications he was placed on turned into a two-day ordeal. The social services worker who came to discuss his aftercare couldn’t provide me with a business card, only a robotic response:  “Call the hospital.” Frustrating, to say the least.

Me & pops, 1976

Me & pops, 1976

So what does all this have to do with our vision of Hyperlinked Communities? Well, while I was up there I experienced more frustration at how disconnected this city was. Cell phone reception was always spotty at best there, and it hasn’t changed much since I moved away. I spent a lot of time searching for WiFi hotspots just to send text messages. One of the hotspots I ended up at was the Public Library.

Look at me, I am old, but I’m happy

The Santa Maria Public Library recently had a major expansion/remodel and looks amazing. However, in regards to the lecture by @kyle , wandering through the library, looking at community bulletins, and scanning the web site, I got the impression that this community still bases the library’s value on the collections rather than the services. As I sat for hours near the reference desk, the clerks fielded only a handful of questions: what books do they have by a certain author, do they have a copy of the current Cal/OSHA guidelines (an aggravating exchange I wish I had stepped in on), where could someone find old newspaper articles. I decided to see what sort of social media presence they have. Though the library’s web page has buttons for Facebook and Twitter feeds, I’m not sure how effective they are considering that they only have 52 Facebook likes, and 23 Twitter followers for a community of about 150,000. So is this the library’s fault, or is it an accurate representation of the physical community? From my knowledge of the city, I would say it’s a little of both. Santa Maria has always been slow to change. It has a large elderly population that seems to be happy hanging on to the status quo. However, the library as the hub of the Hyperlinked Community, needs to have more of an aggressive presence to provide services for the newer generations and those, like me, who are slowly adapting to being connected.

It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it

I find myself in an interesting position to do something about this. I made the decision to move back to Santa Maria. It wasn’t a very difficult one to make, considering my father’s health. Rather than just being frustrated with the services, I thought to myself, “why not volunteer there?” Better yet, two days ago a job posting for Technical Assistant popped up. I am going through revision after revision on my application, making sure I address the library’s need to address the Hyperlinked Community. What will this look like? I am really not sure. Some of my ideas are based around examples from last week’s lecture: having a mobile presence. Maybe an updated version of the Bookmobile we used to have, only armed with laptops and mobile devices, tweets and blog posts. Rather than getting people to come into the physical library, reaching out to the people in the physical community to get them to understand they can connect at anytime from anywhere. Hmmm… now another revision to my application is in order.

Dempsey, L. (2009). Always on: Libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. First Monday, 14(1). Retrieved from http://www.firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2291/2070.

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One thought on “Always off: a visit to my hometown which seems to be stuck in 2006

  1. This is a heartfelt and insightful post. I am glad to read your father will make a fairly complete recovery. From describing your work and tech life to the phone call and then on to the library, you synthesize course themes. I wish you the best with the application!

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