I’ve recently shifted my perspective on the importance of consuming content as part of the creative process. This shift came as a result of my fledgling explorations of the world through poetry and with a cultivation of new friendships with writers. I’ve done quite a bit of blogging, and I see how this parallels my consumption of content – I read blogs and short articles more than almost anything else.

A new blog/site that I’ve been into is Medium. I was alerted to it because I read danah boyd’s blog, and she’s one of the contributors. The articles cover such a variety of subject matter that it would be impossible to summarize, however, I do find that many of them have applications in my work as a librarian. One recent entry by Clive Thompson titled “The Novelty Effect” was especially valuable.

It’s a short discussion on the adoption of new tools and technologies, and how the novelty effect impacts both tool users and makers. As libraries we often cater to both audiences, and certainly use various technologies to accomplish our work. Thompson argues that the novelty effect can be a good way to stimulate work on a project, and I think this is a way for libraries to sell their tools/technologies to users.

In my academic setting the obvious tie-ins are the midterm or end of semester projects in which students are engaged, and faculty research and writing activities. We need to stay abreast of what our users need and find ways to insert the library as a potential solution. I think we can also take advantage of the positive feelings associated with novel tools even if we didn’t create them or explicitly provide them.

For example, if I’m doing a workshop on presentation skills and introduce students to a new tool that helps them successfully complete a project, then I will gain esteem which might reciprocate for the next project – even if the tool is no longer relevant. It should be clear how this applies to all types of libraries. We may have lost our novelty, but we can still find ways to benefit from the novelty effect.

Of course there is the flip side in that much of what we show our users is likely to fall prey to this effect. They may enthusiastically use a database in the weeks following instruction, but forget it completely by the end of a semester or academic career. In those situations we have to trust that the positive feelings from the first use will encourage users to seek us out again.

In our non-public facing roles, we need to ensure that the novelty effect doesn’t color our decision making. I think this is especially relevant in the wake of ALA – I’m sure we all heard about or experimented with new tools and technologies, but we need to make sure any purchases will have a lasting impact on what we do, and that we aren’t investing in something new as a bandaid for an old problem. Awareness is always the first step in making change, and being aware of the novelty effect can have a big impact in our work.


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