Like an ancient suit of armor, communication via the web helps me ward off the heinous blows of The Hushed Tone. Too often I am dealt a grievous injury by misunderstanding something said on Alexander Graham Bell’s piece de resistance. My pride is laced with such scars. I would be a fool not to use the internet to level the playing field. A set of good communication skills is my sword, patience my buckler. These arms, combined with the protection of the web, enable me to do battle with that dastardly villain.
I can’t go to the movies anymore. Well, I can but it’s not always fun. With earsplitting explosions on the tail end of minutes-long whispered conversations, I’m too busy turning my hearing-aids up and down to pay attention to the story. TV is tough. I can’t watch anything without closed captions. Sometimes the captions are way off or off altogether. Real life, too, presents problems. Twice this week at the Robbins Library I was hit with a request that I didn’t hear. The workers were understanding enough to realize I wasn’t ignoring them and they simply repeated their request but it’s hard not to feel like a fool and my pride is bestowed another scar. On the internet there are no such misunderstandings. That’s not to say there aren’t times when one person has no idea what another is saying, but its due to foggy written communication not faulty auditory prowess. In an email, or on a webpage, I needn’t ask someone to speak up. Nor do accents hold sway; any grammatical errors caused by English not being the first language aren’t barriers to understanding. This is where libraries will come in handy.
The internet provides libraries with the chance to be a literal global community. It’s a tool through which accent driven miscommunication can be held at bay. I’m sure my thick Boston accent provides problems for even native English speakers, so I know what it feels like to say something and not be understood just as well as not understanding what someone said. Through things like the increasingly useful “Ask a Librarian” function found on Library web pages, this battle is being fought. I’m making my way, forthwith, for the front lines! If the mission of the library is the preservation and promotion of knowledge then striking down miscommunication is a priority. The 24X7 access online databases provide help strike down the location barrier. If I’m in another time zone from the library, that doesn’t preclude me from using it. Interlibrary loans create a kind of book delivery system. Digitization allows me to read manuscripts too fragile to hold. The fancy Espresso Book Machine lets me pick out and print a copy of a book right there. The list of boons technology provides keeps growing.
My hearing issues may have been the horse that bore me to the battle but once in the fray, the fervor for technology has kept me here. I’ve been fortunate to have been in the IT field for the last decade and as a result am both familiar and comfortable with the ever-changing nature of the beast. However, as so called “Digital Natives” grow up and start becoming not just contributing members of society but the leaders as well, I know that what I see as something to help me avoid The Hushed Tone, they will take for granted. I remember the days of the card catalog cabinet. I’ve even used one. But now they’re relocated to the same dusty bins of antiquity that hold the cranks that used to start cars and 8-track tapes. So beware my dear Hushed Tone, you nefarious ne’er-do-well, your days are numbered! Thanks to the technological advances that are happening, my deafness won’t be my Achilles Heel.