Daily Archives: March 24, 2010

21st Century Librarian Profession


While watching “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” last night (current 30-minute daytime version with Meredith – DVR’ed of course), my wife and I watched in bewilderment as three young contestants in a row, all between the ages of 27 and 22 (conservative guestimate), bombed out before they got to the $25,000 safe level – because they used up all their life lines! I’m sure most people understand how Millionaire is played, so I won’t get into technicalities, but we were both amazed at the questions these young people did not know.

As an example, one of the questions (remember the first five are so simple that they are considered common knowledge GIMME questions to get to the $5,000 safe level) was: (paraphrased) “Instructions on most common hair products state “wash, rinse” and what?” In all fairness, she was the youngest contestant who had to ask the audience for help on that question, and found out that 97% knew the answer is REPEAT! Wash, rinse, repeat! (I won’t even get into all the ramifications of why a young person might not “know” that bit of common knowledge.)

If what most observers say about Gen Y Millennials is true, that 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, like to work collaboratively” (my post of Feb. 17 – 21st Century Patrons – Generation Y, the Millennials), then that may explain why these young contestants were so uncertain about what over 95% of the audience knew – on the question they each referred to the audience! Their confidence comes from collaboration. So, what happens when they are left on their own to problem solve? Not very successful. They were also given questions that most people (at least Boomers in my opinion) could have figured out by simple deductive reasoning, but they had to resort to a life line. (Yes, I know it’s always easier sitting at home than sitting in the hot seat.) Another observation about these young people is that they were not risk takers.

I couldn’t help but think about Jason Dorsey, “The GenY Guy” and his plea that “BabyBoomers, please never retire. You have all kinds of skills that we don’t. My favorite – long division.” And he is SO right, there are generations of knowledge among librarians on the brink of retirement that these younger Millennial librarians will never know, if we don’t pass it on. That’s the point of this post. We librarians have to learn to work together across these generation gaps in order to pass along the institutional and professional knowledge that we have to the Millennials that think it’s not important because – if they don’t know it – they can Google it! GONG! Wrong Answer!

Just in case there are some of you who have not yet been introduced to Jason Dorsey, you are in for a real treat!

If you watched all of Jason’s 10 minute video, you learned a lot about Gen Y people in the workplace. And, you got some good laughs, but this is actually a serious situation, mainly because people are serious in the workplace – especially Boomer and GenX librarians. Librarianship is serious business. We have to preserve the history and culture and literacy of humanity – all by ourselves! Don’t we?

All those self-actualizing issues aside, what we need to do is preserve the profession, in whatever form it takes in the 21st Century. We – ALL OF US – Greats, Silents, Boomers, GenX, GenY and whoever follows – MUST recognize that we are first and foremost the guardians of the librarian profession.

Our librarian ancestors are the ones who actually worked hard to make librarianship a “profession” when other professions did not want to recognize it as such. Our librarian ancestors are the ones who built academic programs for librarianship at the masters level. Our librarian ancestors are the ones who designed the classification and cataloging systems we use today. Our librarian ancestors are the founders of ALA and other worldwide organizations that support libraries and librarianship. Our librarian ancestors are the ones who created the great libraries of the world, and the small community library that still operates in that 100-year-old Carnegie building.

We in the profession today are the ancestors of the 21st Century librarian, and we must all work together to help shape this century of librarians, help identify their librarian place in society, and determine our librarians future. So, let’s talk. Let’s figure it out. Let’s do something besides debate the same old questions decade after decade. PLEASE – let’s have state, regional and national conferences that are more than resurrected programs from 5 or 10 years earlier. Let’s develop some 21st Century thinking. Let’s have some 21st Century dialog. PLEASE!

10 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized