Infopeople’s Technology Petting Zoo addresses curiosity that can be expressed in groups who are given the opportunity to play with new means of working and communicating. It’s a kind of planned play date for staff as well as for the interested community in the contracting library’s location. Play dates are a great way to regulate information flow. Sometimes, however, it’s the spontaneous play moment that can reach the individual.
Over the years, I’ve seen whatever just-ripened-past-cutting-edge technology has spread into the library world be treated with kid gloves by some staff and managers who know they should embrace but aren’t feeling the love of the new possibilities. It manifests as a kind of tentativeness in walking the walk while talking the talk half-heartedly. When I meet up with trepidation or half-heartedness about a tool or a method that I find valuable, I try to feed the uncertain individual just a bit of enthusiasm at a time--enthusiasm laced with lots of opportunity to play.
Which brings me to my three favorite iPad apps for sharing-the-enthusiasm in the moment, rather than within a planned workshop. The first one is my go-to if the uncertain iPad owner or would-be user already understands (maybe even uses!) Twitter, Facebook, and some assortment of rss feeds on a daily basis. Flipboard, which assembles the contents of these various social media and primary aggregators and displays them in well laid out “magazines,” shows how underlying content (including photos) appears right on the swipeable "page" and how easily the user can toggle between scannable “headlines” (status updates) with opening paragraphs and the full and original article or image library. It’s a simple and quick toggle as well between the various social media connected to one’s customized Flipboard. This is a right-sized playground (some would say lab) for the tentative to see that content can be king without a big tussle with technology.
When I encounter those who are just plain afraid of swiping, tapping, or otherwise getting their fingerprints all over the screen, I ask them to play with my Sandra Boynton app. Really. Who doesn't want to make the pig and the puppy blink their eyes, or wipe away the steam that accumulates when the barnyard denizen use hot water, instead of cold, to brush their teeth? For $1.99, this is the best teaching tool I have bought in at least a decade! Plus, everyone needs a muse while working and my muse is Boynton.
Once we've gotten past content and interactivity, it's time to introduce the reluctant user to SyncSpace, a shared white board app that can be filled by either party with typing or even drawing! Contents can be emailed, in pdf, if a third party missed the meeting where the content was created. Yes, it’s a grand productivity tool, but it’s also one that the reluctant can meet on his or her own terms, and emailing the work s/he does while we’re talking means that there will be a reminder in the tentative user’s inbox that the experience was pretty good, nothing broke, and maybe that new technology stuff is doable.