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BELLTONES: Celebrating Communicating--Email Is Still the Killer App

By Mary Ann Bell - Posted Nov 1, 2007
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Recently my university library science department had a meeting with a special group of supporters. Our advisory council, comprising faculty, invited alumni, and student representatives, met to discuss how to improve our program, to do a better job of publicizing, and to better serve students and alumni. Several very busy professionals were present, including the director of a large public library system and three school district coordinators. They had found time to come on campus for 1 day and visit with us in our ongoing effort to maintain high standards.

One year ago, we had set up a Blackboard Course as a meeting place for our group. At that time, we showed those individuals who were not familiar with the software how it can be used to communicate and share files. What we had found, however, was that in reality the site was not frequently used after an initial postmeeting flurry of exchanges. At our most recent meeting, we made mention of this and asked how we could make it easier for council members to keep in touch. I suggested a wiki, and someone else said maybe we could email around reminders now and then about material available via Blackboard. But here is what our busy professionals wanted: They said, unanimously, "JUST EMAIL US!"

Just Email Us!

Because these administrators must keep up with email on a daily basis, they agreed that this was the best vehicle for getting our information to them. Actually, I was not surprised. I have believed for a long time that email is not dying out as some would have us believe. Yes, people like to blog. Instant messaging (IM) is great. Vlogs and podcasts are super cool. And some people still like the U.S. mail! However, email remains very popular.

Email as a means of online communication has been around since the beginning of online communication. In fact, according to Ian Peters, it even predates ARPANET. He describes its infancy as a tool called, appropriately, MAILBOX, which was used as early as 1965 at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Today it is used by hundreds of millions of people.

Email? Ugh!

On the other side of the fence are many users, especially youth, who say email is outdated. A survey to this end was widely reported back in 2005, which stated that young people much prefer IM to email and look down their noses at email as "for old people." In one recent story, Stephanie Olsen asserted that social network messages and texting are taking the place of email for tech-savvy, early adopter teens and 20-somethings. The merging of social networking and cell phone use is a growing reason for email’s decline, and Olsen bolsters her argument with quotations from young entrepreneurs who swear allegiance to these email rivals.

Oh, Yeah?


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-per-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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