I attended a library conference in Denton yesterday, and the keynote speaker, Carolyn Foote, a librarian from Austin, spoke about what libraries can learn from Apple. This was of course strange timing because we had just learned about Steve Jobs’ passing the evening before.
The entire world is saddened by this loss. People are already lamenting the death of someone whose genius and creativity is almost unparalleled. Many people heard about the news on a device conceived of by Mr. Jobs. So I think it’s safe to say that as we ponder the products he created, the business he revitalized, and the technology he made possible, his legacy will remain long after his death.
As I was driving home from the conference, I couldn’t think of a better way of honoring him than by listening to that keynote session. Ms. Foote talked about the factors that have made Apple so special and so successful. According to her, Mr. Jobs and his team have been superb at creating a feeling of “enchantment” around Apple’s products. People desire them. They’ll wait in line for days to get them. I can remember why I bought my first MacBook. I was smitten by the orange laptop Elle Woods bought during her first year of law school in “Legally Blonde.” (yes, product placement does work!). And then of course I was about two years too late and had to settle for a white one. But I quickly fell in love with it and have been a devoted Mac user ever since.
Yes, it’s the look of the products, which are so streamlined and elegant. But it’s also an amazing feeling to know you are holding the latest technology in your hand. Part of the conference had a session about the various apps available, and I was blown away by what is possible with technology. There’s an app that turns your phone into a mouse to use with your computer; there’s an app that allows you to scan a bar code on a product and see what store in the area has it cheaper; and there’s even an app that tracks your debt and helps you pay it off.
I left the conference excited by what technology is making possible. The amount of information literally at our fingertips just blows me away. I kept thinking about the library’s role in all of this, and I’ve really determined that it is twofold: to be at the forefront of embracing new technology, which means making sure the public has access to it and knows how to use it; and helping the public filter all of that information to find what they’re really looking for.
There’s so much more to come. It was mentioned at the conference that Mr. Jobs had conceived of the iPad as many as 20 years ago. I picture his office filled with prototypes of devices that I can’t even imagine. And I can only guess that there’s more exciting technology ahead.