Every now and again I am reminded just how dependent we’ve become on technology. We take most of it for granted, not even realizing it’s there, such as most cars now have microprocessors in them, we have programmable thermostats, etc. And when it doesn’t work for any reason we’re paralyzed.
Take, for example, our local library catalog. I’m a cataloger, which means I spend my time working in the online catalog, essentially a large database of bibliographic entries/records housed in a central server that we all access. We have no card catalog anymore, it’s all online. And there is no paper back up. A lot of what I do is maintenance and clean up work of entries for existing resources/titles/etc., but I also load new records into the system. When the catalog server goes down, I’m dead in the water in terms of finishing things for local use, but I can still work on various projects that don’t require access to the catalog. For example, I can do work in WorldCat for several cooperative cataloging programs we participate in and when our local catalog comes back online I can finish up the local end of things. I can still work, I just can’t finish things until the server comes back. This is true when any one piece of the various databases I use in my regular workflow go down…I can do work up to a point. It’s frustrating, but all it requires is a little creative management of my workflow to still get stuff done.
But when my actual PC goes down I’m paralyzed. Pretty much everything I do requires a computer. A lot of the things I work with are online resources. This morning my intern’s PC went down. The power supply to the motherboard went kaput so it wouldn’t even boot up. She’s been working on various projects, etc., all of which were stored on her hard drive. This was a problem. What’s more, she couldn’t access any of the reference sources (pretty much all of them are available online and the online is generally more current than the paper) to check what something meant or what rule would be applicable for editing of printouts. We still have paper backups, but not all of them are even in our reference alcove, we’ve put some of them down in storage because we use the online versions. She was genuinely stuck. And I was hard pressed to find her something to do for the morning that didn’t require a computer. That’s how dependent we are on our PCs. It’s a scary thought, actually.