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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > November/December 2003
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Vol. 23 No. 10 — Nov/Dec 2003
Tragically Hip?
by Kathy Dempsey

Remember that band that started back in the early '80s, The Tragically Hip? I never knew much about their music, but the name stuck in my head. What a great phrase; what an interesting irony.

That name has been floating back to me during this past month as I worked on this issue, with its theme of Hip High-Tech. There's so much cool technology these days. I think of those people who "gotta have it all" as sort of "tragically hip." Then I think of the way many of these hip, high-tech folks still envision libraries—as tragically un-hip. In many cases they're wrong; either blindly believing a stereotype or clutching decades-old memories of their under-funded school libraries. Although in some cases they're right: There are still libraries that are, tragically, un-hip.

So, what's your status? Are you tragically hip or tragically un-hip? Or maybe somewhere in between?

If you want to define what's "hip" in order to answer that question, check this month's articles to get a quick (unscientific) survey of what your peers think fits the bill. You'll find topics such as digital talking books, blogs, Wi-Fi, metasearch, instant messenging, flash drives, portable memory, and onboard CPUs. Of course, each organization's definition of "hip" depends on its situation and its customer base.

But in reading this issue you'll find solutions for every budget. You'll see that you can start a blog basically for free, buy a key chain drive for $25, or buy hardware to carry digital audio books from $100 and up.

In my mind, there are two things that matter the most here. One is that you're at least trying to keep up with the times, to the best of your ability in your given situation. (Obviously nobody expects a small, rural public library to be equipped equally as a big hospital library.) The second thing is, once you have even a little technology, or just one cool new thing, publicize it! Shout it from the rooftops. Or, if you want to be more high-tech about it, announce it on your user listserv or in your e-newsletter or on the electronic signboard that slides messages across your doorway. Because what I think is tragic is this: Even though libraries of all types have come a long way in the last 10 or 20 years, the general public still sees us as anything but hip. So all of you desperately need to show the world that you've changed. You've upgraded. You're pretty fly. You're all about technology now. Not only do you have some of the coolest stuff going, but your service is outstanding. You're personal search engines that process requests better than any computer program. You're hip as heck. So, tell someone!

Need ideas? Start turning pages.

Kathleen L. Dempsey is the Editor of Computers in Libraries. Her email address is:

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