In my blog posting on Touch Technology, I mentioned that as much as computers are time-saving devices, they can be "time-sinks" as well.
This article from ITBusiness.ca, http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/Home/News.asp?id=57012, uses that exact term, time-sink, in reference to how office technology can give the illusion of productivity. Technology is providing a lot that keeps us busy, but are we actually accomplishing anything? Some of the concerns in the article reflect the same issues in the books I’ve read about brain research findings, particularly with regard to multitasking. The brain may become less efficient when multitasking, and we are losing opportunities to develop mental skills properly.
There are benefits to computerization. Automating the routine is the most demonstrable benefit. But when incorporating technology into the operations of libraries we need to separate out the hype of new technology from clearly demonstrable benefits. That also means that plopping technology down in front of people is not the answer to every question about how to increase output or efficiency.
I see this recognition of "time-sinks" as useful opportunities for librarians to think about their roles in imparting literacy skills. Ranganathan’s fourth law of library science is "Save the time of the reader." In helping library patrons search and in assisting them in reading selections, librarians are the time-saving information brokers of the modern world. The same mission can apply to digital literacy, in that when librarians develop programs to assist library users master modern skills, an emphasis should be put on the demonstrable benefits of the technology in meeting life goals, rather than on the purely technical mastery of a particular technology, like e-mail, instant messaging, and social networking.