Evolving technology forces careers to adapt


Melissa Ziminsky, Adult Services Director of the Kent Free Library, poses at her desk in on Tuesday, March 25, 2017.

Rick Pongonis

Murali Shanker, a professor of management and information systems at Kent State, remembers when Amazon was just an online bookstore, not one of the most dominant businesses in the world.

The giant online retailer is one of the biggest examples of how technology has changed the way people live, work and shop.

“A lot of what we take for granted now never existed 15 years back,” Shanker said. “There (are) a lot of things that have changed because of technology, and I think that’s always going to be true.”

Shanker said today’s technology revolution means better communication and access to information people never had before, but it comes with a catch.

“The flip side of this whole thing is sometimes technology removes us from really what we are, which is humans,” Shanker said “We leave that social touch in dealing with other humans face-to-face — Technology is our interface.”

Technology also has changed the way business is conducted, resulting in the closing of stores.

“As we get different technologies, it makes other technologies obsolete,” Shanker said. “If it is convenient, then people adopt it. They don’t want to go back to something which they perceive is less convenient or less efficient than they have.”

Computers have changed the way Computer Technician Mike Lockwood sells computers.

Computers have changed the way Adult Services Manager Melissa Ziminsky helps people find books at the Kent Free Library.

Computers have changed how Website Managing Editor Darrin Werbeck tells stories to the readers of the Akron Beacon Journal.

Computers have also changed the way consumers like Executive Director of Information Services Paul Albert buy things on the daily.

The Computer Store

Lockwood remembers when people used to come into computer stores seeking large desktop computers. Now most consumers look for laptops.

Faster, smaller, better,” Lockwood said. “Operating systems are far beyond probably what anybody would’ve guessed 15 years ago.”

Lockwood said technology has made his job easier, specifically hardware testing.

“The process for scanning sectors of hard drives goes quicker, same with other components of it,” Lockwood said. “We have easier tools to use that scan all of a computer at one time and let us know if there are parts of the motherboard and hard drive that are bad.”

But as computers change, people must change too, he said.

“The worst part is that it challenges the learning curve for people,” Lockwood said. “Older jobs are lost — you kind of adapt or die.”

The Library

Ziminsky remembers when visitors of the library requested her to look up a book for them. Now they check online to see if that book is in stock.

“People look up the books they want themselves,” Ziminsky said. “They use the computers here, but they also use their cellphones.”

Ziminsky said she mostly receives questions based on repairs at the information desk.

“We still have a lot of people who want paper manuals on how to repair their cars or small engine repair and even that we have a digital resource for them to use, but they still contact our library,” Ziminsky said.

But constantly changing technology has its own problems.

“The worst part is how quickly things are outdated,” she said. “We get our patrons used to one format and then two years later things get updated. It doesn’t look the same, it doesn’t work the same, and we must teach them from scratch. Folks get frustrated.”

Ziminsky said her job is moving toward building connections with the community with more hands-on things than ever done before.

“We didn’t used to do many programs at all for our job patrons, we only had a couple book groups per month that were led by librarians and maybe one concert per quarter,” Ziminsky said. “Now we’ve connected with groups like Kent TimeBank to offer programs to our patrons that let them know that there are community groups of like-minded people.”

But, she said, libraries are still thriving.

“It’s nice to know that, even in this time when technology is all around us and you can go on Amazon and download a book in a second, people still want to come to their library and get a physical book in their hand,” Ziminsky said. “Or if you decide to download books at home, you can use the library to do that.”

The Newspaper

Werbeck recalls 15 years ago when he worked strictly on print products. Now he’s managing editor of Ohio.com, the Beacon’s website.

“My job has changed significantly in those 15 years because I was focused on writing headlines and editing stories for the newspaper,” Werbeck said. “Now I’m managing digital content only, which is a combination of our print content as well as multimedia elements.”

Werbeck said technology has made his job easier to be efficient.

“You can look up things as simple as making sure a word is spelled right,” Werbeck said. “I go online to the Merriam Webster dictionary and look it up and be done in 30 seconds, whereas it would’ve taken me two to three minutes in the hard copy of the dictionary.”

Werbeck said technology forces people to be adaptable.

“Our jobs are just going to continue to evolve,” he said. “I think for decades we were settled into a certain mindset and a certain routine. I don’t think that’s ever going to be the case again.”

The Consumer

Albert remembers when he used to have a CompUSA, a used electronics store, around the corner. Albert said he used to buy computers and other electronics at brick-and-mortar stores, but now he mostly buys them at online retailers.

“You can get so much more information nowadays,” Albert said. “It used to be that you’d go to a library and you could look up publications, which were months out of date, whereas now you can just sit in your house and go online to check everything out.”

Sometimes, he said, he misses CompUSA.

“When you can go and actually try something it’s a lot different than just seeing a picture of it and reading somebody’s reviews,” he said. “I think it’s very efficient and cost-effective, but I think you are kind of losing the social interaction that people used to have.”

He said he often feels sorry for the people working at a store.

“Sales people must know that every third customer is going to ask you a lot of questions and then buy the product online,” Albert said.

Rick Pongonis is the university tech reporter, contact him at [email protected]