Computer Savviness: Step 4 to Information Literacy

Do you consider yourself computer savvy?  A survey was conducted from April 19, 2011 to April 20, 2011 pertaining to librarians and their computer savvy skills. It was found that librarians were able to troubleshoot and problem solve technological errors. This did not necessarily mean that they could write code for their computers but this troubleshooting and problem solving translated into individuals who had a willingness for the Three T’s (Talking, Tinkering, and Traveling) about problems that they would encounter (Weldon, 2012).  The Three T’s approach helped them understand the impact of emerging technologies and their influence on the attitudes, behaviors, and needs of information users needed for their profession (Weldon, 2012).

The Problem Solver

Computer Savvy means that an individual is flexible enough to learn new concepts, methods, and technology as developed for private and/or professional uses. Many computer savvy individuals from the survey experienced the evolution of technology during their careers, moving from card catalogs or OCLC, to searching via acoustic coupler/telephone, CD-ROMs, and then moving into Internet technologies via Gopher, WWW, Web 2.0, and mobile devices. One of the criteria to being computer savvy is not being afraid of computers and to not assume that you could break it. Confidence contributes to a person’s knowledge of computers.

In the use of computers, applications, etc., a computer savvy person would need to feel pretty confident to be able to figure them out without much reference to a manual.   A computer savvy person would consider computer technology a second language with the ability to do minor problem solving without being an expert.

The person has to have an understanding of the history of certain aspects of computing, so that they could at least give the basic information about concerns regarding computer usage/Internet usage. A computer savvy person could have a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia, which would give them a leg up at least, again, in the use of computers (as opposed to computer science/engineers who understand the mechanics of computers).

Three T’s Learning Method

 Survey participants said that computer savvy meant the ability to adapt to changes in technology which is really using The Three T’s learning method (talking, tinkering, and traveling).  There is a certain knowledge of basic productivity software, coupled with relevant information management tools that exist for the computer savvy professional.  It means that you know how to use a computer and most standard software without looking awkward or asking for help every 10 minutes.  Computer savvy means that you are not afraid to try and figure it out.

First, librarians would discuss (Talk) needs with computing staff and being able to get their ideas across with an understanding of what they are saying in return. This would be conducted in the frame of mind of not being afraid of computers and recognizing that they are quite useful tools, but also have limitations.

Second, librarians would tinker with concepts to understand end-users’ needs in order to evaluate software. They would solve minor computer problems on their own by bridging the gap between systems/technology concepts and the end-user experience.

Third, librarians would allow the computer savvy person to know that if they were unable to “fix” or reprogram the system; they would have the understanding and vocabulary to travel to someone who would know how to fix it.   Traveling would occur through the talking and tinkering processes when assisting customers with the latest innovations by sharing more insights gained from discussing library needs with information technology specialists.

Emerging Technologies

A computer savvy person should be able to quickly learn new software and technologies and understand how they apply to their work. This individual should be familiar with newer technologies (though not necessarily cutting edge) enough to understand what they are and how they might affect their work in the future. Computer savvy people are able to use technology to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively without being scared to try new technologies.  This would include being familiar with tools, comfortable with exploring software capabilities, ability to manipulate data for meaningful reports.

The following 3 viewpoints summarizes how librarians viewed the learning process of becoming computer savvy in 2011:

  • Viewpoint 1: I can figure out what I need to do if materials are written in plain English and/or I’m working with/being trained by people who can simplify complicated IT concepts. Tech isn’t scary if you can get guidance from those rare birds who can speak tech and English too. 😉 Whoever wrote the directions in Google Analytics is/are my hero(es): simple, straightforward, visual examples, and “what if?” options.
  • Viewpoint 2: In my worldview, a computer savvy person is someone who can work with a computer in every stage of its life – from building the actual machine from raw parts, to facilitating network access, creating applications (to include the creation of mobile apps), the ability to intuitively navigate open source CMS options on the fly, the ability to troubleshoot any technical difficulties without outside assistance, and the understanding of how these pieces fit together and impact one another. I would say that the typical librarian needs about 8 screenshots in order to figure out how to map to a network printer, or in order to figure out how to turn a word doc into an adobe PDF. As a profession, we are PAINFULLY behind the rest of the global community. To call ourselves “information professionals” makes this an ever more striking phenomenon. I myself, as a more or less textbook example of a Millennial, navigate just fine on the web, am constantly in contact via my iPhone and all the other cliché avenues available, am never far from accessing my Facebook account, am adept at running 10 different computer programs at once and doing so just fine, and can handle the basics of what my computer throws at me. But I would DEFINITELY NOT say that I’m computer savvy. I’ve never programmed anything, trying to speak JavaScript makes my head hurt, I don’t know the latest free open source virus protection programs or games, I wouldn’t know what to do with a Drupal skeleton if you put it in front of me, I’ve never made a mobile app, I’ve never played with a physical server, and I rely on others to fix my computer when it acts up. Just this past week, I gave my “broken” laptop to a friend who used to work at a technology organization. I thought it was broken for good, as it had a nasty virus and hadn’t functioned for 2 years (the operating system would try to launch, but couldn’t, and would shut down and restart in a never-ending cycle). But within 2 hours, this person had the laptop running beautifully, installed open source virus protection, restored ALL of my data, and had me hooked into his wireless, all of which worked flawlessly. That’s a computer savvy person. I don’t think that you can fairly say that about 90% of the library community.
  • Viewpoint 3:  The fact that I hold a position as a deputy Chief Information officer, a job that did not exist when I first started working means that I have devoted time and effort to continuing to learn new skills and obtain knowledge so that I can keep my professional skills up to date.   Finding solutions to problems through creative uses of information technology. 

Are you computer savvy in the 21st century? 

Stay tuned for more adventures in information literacy.

References by the author

Editor’s Note – this article first published in Computer Savviness – and republished with the author’s permission.


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