Saturday 30 April 2011

Is your Library a Mac or a PC?

I was reading Suse Cairns' Museum Geek blog and she raised an interesting question about whether your museum is a mac or a pc? She asks: " do museums and galleries consider what type of technology they will use in-house based on their demographics? Would the audience at a more conservative museum feel more comfortable using a PC-style kiosk, and those in a contemporary space feel more at home using an iPad or Mac? Obviously these decisions are often driven by factors of cost, reliability, ease of development and implementation, how pretty the object is (after all, aesthetics is important in museums) and even whether the over-arching organisation (for instance, those galleries who work within the set up of a city council) uses particular products. But I wonder whether the type of visitor the museum has comes into consideration when choosing the most appropriate platform for digital/mobile interactions?"

I think that Suse's point is an interesting one. We talk a lot in libraries about how much we need to think about our users: but can we actually identify a library with a user group based on the technological choices they make? I think if we did right now, most libraries out there would be PCs: "26% more likely to prefer fitting in with others" but what I want to know is what does that mean,  and is it a bad thing? 

I'll open up about my own biases here: I'm writing this on my MacBook with my iPhone sitting beside me and I have just finished replying to a post on Facebook about how badly I want an iPad. However, sitting on the floor of my study is my PC laptop which is 5 years old but I still need to keep around because there are so many things (like my taxes) which I can't do on a Mac. 

My point is that being on the 'cutting edge' might be exciting but it is also very risky. Libraries see all kinds of people everyday and currently, exciting as it can be Mac people are just a segment of that so should we be targeting the many or the few? 

It is, as Suse says, "It is about identity, and how your audience experience and understand your institution. " So tell me, is your library a PC or a Mac? And what do you want it to be? 


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