Monthly Archives: February 2010

Millennial Patrons & Social Networking


Social networking, or social media seems to be a major issue relating to 21st Century library services. Lots of younger patrons are doing it as part of their daily life, and want it provided as a service at their public library.

  • What are the pros and cons of providing social networking access to your library patrons?
  • What are the issues that librarians are dealing with in regards to social networking?
  • Should you as a library professional use social networking?
  • A comprehensive and enlightening report from OCLC:
    “Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World: A Report to the OCLC Membership.” Dublin, Ohio: OCLC Online Computer Library Center. 2007.

    Should Your Library Have a Social Media Policy?
    By Ellyssa Kroski — School Library Journal, 10/1/2009


    Kitsap Elected Officials Ponder the Pros and Cons of Social Networking

    Kitsap Sun, September 5, 2009

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    21st Century Library Customers – Generation Y, the Millennials


    Generation Y
    Generation Y (considered to be born from 1982 through 2001), so labeled as a follow on to the previous Generation X, but self labeled as Millennials (wanting to disassociate themselves with the previous GenX). Most distinctively, they are indeed a “new” generation of learner, consumer, citizen and library patron.

    There is debate as to whether Gen Y’s parents are Baby Boomers or GenXers. Truth is, both, their parents are generally very late Boomers, and early GenXers. Early Boomers tended to have children younger than the late Boomers and GenXers, so there tends to be a confusing overlap between the early Boomers who had early GenX kids, and late Boomers and early GenXers who had kids around the same time. (These things are never neat or lend themselves to easy categorization, which is one of the drawbacks of this ‘generation labeling’.)

    Millennials are typified by their use of instant communication technologies, are also somewhat peer-oriented (which means they prefer the opinions of anonymous peers to that of ‘experts’), are into expression and acceptance, are more culturally tolerant than previous generations, have an inclination for delaying some of the rites of passage into adulthood, and trend toward living with their parents for longer than previous generations. They are generally considered the “Trophy Kids”, due to the “everybody’s a winner” approach to group activities, and as a result tend toward generational consensus building. They like to work collaboratively, and prefer to shape their jobs to fit their lives rather than adapt their lives to the workplace.

    They also believe in “doing” as opposed to “learning to do”. To illustrate that point, I recently found a Blog with a post titled “Skills for the 21st Century Librarian” by Meredith Farkas, dated July 17, 2006. (Meredith Farkas is a self proclaimed librarian, writer, teacher and tech geek, and appears to be a GenY or Millennial from her picture.) She posted the following Basic Tech Competencies item;

    4. Ability to easily learn new technologies: One of my colleagues often comments that there are so many new technological things at the library that she can’t keep up. She was really intimidated by the new scanner we got this past year and asked IT to send an expert to the library to teach her how to use it. In my opinion, the best way for her to learn the scanner is to play with it. It’s hard to learn the scanner for the first time when a student is asking you how to use it. It’s easy to learn the scanner at a time when no one is using the scanner and you’re just casually playing with it. When I want to learn a new technology, I put it through the paces. I try to do all of the things it’s supposed to do. Sometimes I read the documentation if there are things that I find confusing. Learning about technology is definitely a skill. People need to learn how to learn about new technologies without having to ask other people for help all the time.

    Point proven! Thank you Meredith. AND! In a reply to one of Meredith’s other postings about 21st Century Librarian Skills, “Bill Says: “I have a high school intern right now that has better tech skills than most all the librarians I know. Isn’t that just sad?” ” Well, no it’s not sad, it’s simply a fact and a major distinction between Digital Natives (Millennials) and Digital Immigrants (everybody else). MAJOR DISTINCTION!

    This is the generation librarians should focus on and study, not because there are 60+ million of them, but because they are such a different consumer that in order to address their library service interests, public libraries will have to take it to them. They do not recognize any “need” for library services, and seldom seek traditional services from public libraries! Older generations will progressively become consumers of less library services, while the future belongs to the young. It is understood that Millennials are “into” email, texting, IMing, Flickr, YouTube, FaceBook, MySpace, Twitter, and whatever the latest electronic means of communication happens to be. They communicate using social media technology. They visit the library to collaborate and socialize. They have integrated technology into their life and it is now a necessity for them, because they grew up with technology and the Internet and are “Digital Natives”.

    Some interesting YouTube resources:

    Jason Dorsey: Gen Y Keynote Speaker (9:58)

    Millennial Generation (2:42)

    Motorola Millennial Generation Research Study (1:40)

    Who are the Millennials? (1:31)

    Millennials: The New Brand of Creatives (5:12)

    Millennial Generation A Counterpoint (2:05)

    ………..continued………….

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    21st Century Library Customers – Boomers & GenX


    Baby Boomers
    Baby Boomers are probably more of an enigma than the other generations, because they span a broad range of background, interests and activities. They were generally defined by the end of WWII in 1945, and theoretically cover birth years from 1946 through 1964. (Census records actually show an increase in the birth rate beginning in 1943 that then declined beginning in 1957, but 14 years is not a generation, so I guess we can let the sociologists have this one.) Their upbringing was based in God and Country, family and community, Pledge of Allegiance in school, and they were instilled with a desire for the American Dream – work hard and become successful so you can have a model family for which you can provide all the modern luxuries of the 20th Century.

    But, Baby Boomers were also influenced by Rock ‘n Roll, the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the Cultural Revolution (so to speak) of the 1970s, and the Flower Power (geeezzz I hate that label) movement. Most have come back to the “establishment” (hate that label too), worked for their American Dream, and now generally constitute the core of leadership in American communities and business. In middle age, they realized that they needed to become “life long learners” because their high school education wouldn’t get them very far in the last 20 years of the 20th Century.

    Technology was changing so fast that they had to learn it to keep up and retain their place in society and the workplace. Many say the truth is they have been drug into the world of computers and cell phones (kicking and screaming) by their GenX kids. Boomers want to stay in contact with their kids and grandkids, and in the 21st Century cell phones and email are the only feasible way to do that.

    As library patrons, Boomers represent virtually all library services, traditional and cutting edge. Most are Digital Immigrants by necessity more than desire, but they have typical traits of DIs in that they still use punctuation in their emails, IMs and even tweets. (Maybe you can tell I’m one of them.)

    Generation X
    Generation X are primarily the offspring of Baby Boomers, and for the most part represent those now reaching middle age with birth years ranging from 1961 to 1981. GenX statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at age groups. Raised by Boomers mostly during their later rebellion, establishment and settling down years, GenX reflect that spirit in their approach to work and life that gave them a blend of “smell the roses but don’t forget you need to work”. Where Boomers invented the “smell the roses” (because their parents didn’t get to do that), GenY thinks that is all they have to do because its the fun part of life, and they have never seen or heard of the struggles the Boomers had, which GenX only heard about – repeatedly. GenX generally think Boomers have a lock on things and need to move on now that they’re moving into being eligible for Social Security.

    GenX is a generation that struggles with parenting without a model. Not because they didn’t have great parents, but because the cultural, technological, and societal changes have been so significant between their own childhood and their children’s, that none of the old models fit. From a childhood of rotary phones comes the generation raising tweens who stomp the ground insisting that “everyone” has a cell phone with unlimited texting. GenX generally do not remember living without entertainment such as video games and computers, but do remember when that was just two lines and a dot called “Pong”. So, while GenX is often called the “microwave generation” due to their desire for instant gratification, they still struggle with their children who say they’re bored as they stand in a home with three different gaming systems, multiple computers, and 500 TV channels.

    GenX is the generation that has truly mastered the art of adapting to change. They have straddled the technology in a way in which they still remember being their parents “TV remote”. Their first introduction to technology was sitting on the floor in front of the TV and changing the channel, while being told not to turn the dial too fast or it would break. And now they proficiently handle the five remotes that sit on the coffee table in their home.

    GenX work in the vice grip of two generations: one that has stayed in the work force longer than expected, and therefore created a bottleneck in upward mobility, and another generation with better technology skills that is breathing down their necks because of their over-indulged upbringing, where everyone who participates gets a trophy, and wants everything yesterday. The GenX generation must reinvent everything from parenting to career paths without a model. (Its no wonder they are tired. As they enter their mid-life crisis years, one might consider they are more of a threat to society than armed postal workers or Korean bombs ever have been. Remember, they grew up when you could just take your dodgeball and go home!) (Contributed by a GenX approaching 40.)

    Since most GenX did not grow up with technology (as we understand it today), but were exposed to it early in their adult life, most are Digital Immigrants, and never acquired most of the traits of their parents regarding technology. They can all be considered Digital Immigrants, but many resemble Digital Natives.

    ………..continued………….

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    21st Century Library Customers – Greatest & Silent


    The Greatest Generation
    The Greatest Generation (sometimes referred to as the G.I. Generation) were adults before the Great Depression on one end, and also struggled through WWII on the other end. This generation was as much agrarian as industrial, lived in one place and worked at one job most of their life, and for the most part had their extended family also living around them. Although, WWII affected that mind set for several million men of that generation who fought in WWII (then came home to the G.I. Bill that provided them a college education), as well as affecting several million women who dominated the workforce during WWII. Tom Brokaw argued that these men and women fought not for fame and recognition, but because it was the right thing to do. He reflected “… on the wonders of these ordinary people whose lives are laced with the markings of greatness. At every stage of their lives they were part of historic challenges and achievements of a magnitude the world had never before witnessed.” When they came home, they rebuilt America into a superpower.

    This generation of Americans grew up expecting to be able to live, work and enjoy life on what they learned in high school. “Life long learning” was not a part of their thinking. They are the 80 years or older library patrons who have lived in your community the longest and may constitute a large portion of your senior patrons. Their interests are typical of 20th Century library services – books, newspapers, leisure and recreational print material, a quiet place to read and socialize. The vast majority are not Digital Immigrants, but those few who are use a limited amount of technology by necessity, like Internet and email, and can generally by considered Traditional library users.

    The Silent Generation
    The Silent Generation is a term coined in a November 5, 1951, cover story of Time Magazine to refer to the generation coming of age at that time, born during the Great Depression and World War II. The article, (which defined the generation at the time as born from 1925 to 1945), claimed that the Silent Generation found its characteristics as grave and fatalistic, conventional, possessing confused morals, expecting disappointment but desiring faith, and for women, desiring both a career and a family. Time stated:

    Youth today is waiting for the hand of fate to fall on its shoulders, meanwhile working fairly hard and saying almost nothing. The most startling fact about the younger generation is its silence. With some rare exceptions, youth is nowhere near the rostrum. By comparison with the Flaming Youth of their fathers & mothers, today’s younger generation is a still, small flame. It does not issue manifestoes, make speeches or carry posters. It has been called the “Silent Generation.”

    They were born on the cusp of the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom Generation, at times possessing characteristics of both, while at other times evading grouping into either population. The label gained further note after William Manchester’s comment that the members of this generation were “withdrawn, cautious, unimaginative, indifferent, unadventurous and silent.” The name was used in their 1991 book “Generations” as their designation for that generation in the United States born from 1925 to 1941. The generation is also known as the Postwar Generation, when not neglected altogether and placed by marketers in the same category as the Greatest Generation. Silent Generation members are generally the offspring of Greatest Generation and the parents of later Baby Boomers, as well as early-half Generation Xers. (Taken from a Wikipedia article.)

    As an essential caveat to the above, the Wikipedia article goes on to point out significant figures from that generation.

    Describing this generation as the “Silent Generation” is a bit of a misnomer. In fact, many revolutionary leaders in the civil rights movement came from the Silent Generation, along with a wide assortment of artists and writers who fundamentally changed the arts in the United States. The Beat Poets, for example, were members of the Silent Generation, as were Martin Luther King and Gloria Steinem. Most rock stars of the 60s were of the Silent Generation, not the Boomers as some believe (some sources cite the Boomers as beginning in 1942; most claim the oldest of the Boomers were born in 1946). Even if the cut-off for the Silent Generation was 1943, it would still contain bands such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, as well as rock stars such as Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in the Silent Generation. Elvis Presley was also of this generation, as were some of the most famous movie stars of all time such as Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean.

    The Silent Generation are the 65 years and older library patrons who are the majority of your senior patrons, and whose interests are typical of 20th Century library services – books, newspapers, leisure and recreational print material, a place to read and socialize. Most are not Digital Immigrants, but those who are use a limited amount of technology, like Internet and email, but can generally by considered Traditional library users.

    ………..continued………….

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    21st Century Library Customers


    This is a tricky one. Many librarians might think that the 21st Century customer is the same patron that frequented the library in 1999 and prior, and in some respects they are correct. But, we let the 21st Century sneak up on us in terms of preparing for a “new” patron/customer. Marketing has done pretty good at figuring out that 21st Century consumers wanted iPhones, Kindles, iPads, smaller laptops, and all types of technology. Public libraries have NOT figured out that the 21st Century customer does not need 20th Century library services. Unless we want to see brick & mortar libraries go the way of the rotary dial telephone, the transistor radio, and the cathode ray tube, we need to understand the “new” library patron and adapt library services to meet their interests, because they do not appear to have library service “needs” and will not seek services from public libraries! The question: “What does the 21st Century public library offer?”

    Five Generations of Library Customers

    As many observers point out, this is the first time in history that there have been five (5) generations in the workplace at the same time. (Actually most business analysts and commentators tend to overlook the Silent Generation in this collection, even though they have as many if not more members in the workplace than the Greatest Generation, and claim only four (4) generations in the workplace.) We have The Greatest Generation (I like Tom Brokaw’s 1998 description, “this is the greatest generation any society has produced.” over the ‘G.I. Generation’ label.), Silent Generation (often lumped in with the Greatest Generation), Baby Boomers, GenX and GenY or Millennials (as they have labeled themselves). That is an impressive situation, and speaks volumes in itself, but that’s another story. Obviously, since each was born and raised under VERY different times and circumstances, there are significant differences in each generation, and, a DRASTIC difference between the Greatest Generation and the Millennials – DRASTIC in the sense of being very different library customers!

    For a quick and dirty overview, take a look at the following slide.

    ………..continued………….

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