Tag Archives: GenX

From Ownership to Access

In case it hasn’t become evident already, I’m a Baby-Boomer. So is my wife who was my high school sweetheart. We were both raised in Middle America with traditional values which we adopted – get educated, work at a career, own a house and two cars, support your local school and church, enjoy the American Dream.

The American Dream is, according to our friends at Wikipedia (sorry to those of you who think it’s a site that makes kids dumb, but I find it very much a modern encyclopedia that is highly useful and mostly filled with very useful information):

In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, “life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.

[BTW: Can you spell E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A from memory? Did you learn to spell it from Jiminy Cricket too.]

Anyway, the American Dream also included a good steady job which was secure (if not enjoyable), traditional family values, and “things” – cars, boats, color TVs, golf clubs and country club membership, community and social activities including civic clubs and churches – along with grand kids, retirement, etc. A less proclaimed element of this American Dream was that one’s children would have more and better than their parents. The children of the Great Generation were ‘encouraged’ to go to college and become a professional something and try to make more money than their parents. The children of Baby-Boomers were ‘expected’ to go to college, maybe graduate school, and have better careers and make even more money than their parents.

The children of Gen X were expected to ??????? This is where the American Dream began to break down, or at least change to something else – just what is the big question. We’ve already seen that many children of Boomers are back home living with Mom & Dad because the economy is in the crapper, jobs are scarce, careers are indeterminate, employment is unstable, creative young people are taking their college fund and doing something else with it, families are fragile and less permanent, and a myriad of factors have been instrumental in altering that original post-Depression Era American Dream.

This may seem like a long way around to my point. But, a serious understanding of the “ownership” culture, and its demise is essential to understanding an “access” culture. Previous generations expected to own “things”, whether as a simple convenience to enjoy, or as a status symbol for some. Ownership was the only thing previous generations have known.

I offer myself as an example of the typical transition from the “ownership” culture to an “access” culture. My wife and I (Boomers), and our daughter (Gen X), are all avid moviephiles. We have spent many hours going to the movies, and hundreds of dollars collecting our favorite movies on VHS – beginning in 1984 when we bought our first VCR – and the brand new boxed set of Gone With The Wind that prompted that purchase. (Last Christmas we gave our daughter the boxed set GWTW on Blu-ray.) We moved on to collecting DVD movies, because digital gives a much better quality picture and sound, has non-linear access features, is in the original theatrical format, easier to store, and again, we satisfied that “ownership” culture. (Only a few very special Blu-ray movies today, since that new media is not yet affordable enough. One has to wait for the next generation of technology and media to emerge before the previous generation is truly affordable to the average consumer.)

We’re so much moviephiles that we often respond to conversation with movie quotes, and we can pretty much quote whole sections of our favorite movies back and forth. We have a DVD collection of about 50 of the 83 Academy Award Best Picture winners, out of a total collection of 300+ DVD movies (and a whole bunch of VHS movies not yet produced or affordable on DVD). You have to realize that this collection goes back to the days well before Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, and even before libraries began to develop a media collection. (Holy Cow!) So, “access” was not a natural or economical vision of the future.

Back to my point. For Christmas our daughter bought us a subscription to Netflix. “I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.”1 at the thought of 100,000 film titles, even though there may be 10 million other subscribers competing for the same movie. (My favorite excited quote is what Clay Stone says about a happy puppy in City Slickers, but that wouldn’t be appropriate here.)

Thus, we Baby-Boomers have begun the transition from our deeply ingrained “ownership” culture to an “access” culture.

So far, this “access” situation has shown only advantages. It is hard to find any fault with 24/7 access to our favorite movies we don’t own (assuming uninterrupted Internet service, which is pretty much a sure deal these days since I can’t remember the last time our service went down), or at least get the DVD within two days. When we move next time, and hopefully to our retirement (dreams Die Hard with a Vengeance) location, we will have fewer “things” to pack and move – possibly only the Best Picture award collection (some habits Die Harder).

Even though there is an anxiety that goes with attempting to rely on “access” after being raised in an “ownership” culture, as I sit here typing and listening to The Beatles classic “Let it be” on YouTube, I now have a better appreciation of the “access” culture that borders on respect. Gen Y and Gen Net young people take “access” for granted, and the totally 21st Century generation may never understand “ownership”, because they expect “access” to become better and even more accessible – continuous mobile connectivity.

1. Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge, “A Christmas Carol” (1951)


Filed under Uncategorized

Customer Is The Purpose

The absolute total purpose and focus of the 21st Century Library Model is the customer. Customer centered library services that meet the information needs of the 21st Century customer will result in any library remaining relevant to its community.

This premise includes an expressed challenge – knowing your 21st Century customer. The 21st Century customer is NOT the 20th Century patron. The 21st Century customer should be considered “new” – the Millennial Customer – if you will.

World renown management expert Peter F. Drucker is the originator of the idea that the customer is the purpose.

A company’s primary responsibility is to serve its customers, to provide the goods or services which the company exists to produce. Profit is not the primary goal but rather an essential condition for the company’s continued existence. Other responsibilities, e.g., to employees and society, exist to support the company’s continued ability to carry out its primary purpose. marketing crossing

Public libraries have been slow to figure out that the 21st Century customer does not need 20th Century library services. School, academic and special libraries have been dealing with the new Millennial Customer for several years. 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 Millennial Customer and adapt library services to meet their interests, because they do not appear to have library service “needs”, and may not seek services from public libraries!

Five Generations of Library Customers
There are The Greatest Generation, Silent Generation (often lumped in with the Greatest Generation), Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y or Millennials (as they have labeled themselves). 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! (The graphic below represents a brief overview of where the generations fall within the three types of library customers.)

The Digital Fugitive
This segment of library customers includes the Greatest Generation and Silent Generation, those customers over 65 and who can generally be considered 20th Century customers. Their interests are typical of 20th Century library services – books, newspapers, leisure and recreational print material, a quiet place to read and socialize. Most are not Digital Immigrants, but those who are use a limited amount of technology by necessity, like Internet and email.

Digital Immigrant
This segment of library customers begins the serious Millennial Customer who has adopted technology into their lives – work and leisure. They are the Baby Boomers who are just this year turning 65, and are probably more of an enigma than the other generations, because they span a broad range of background, interests and activities.

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. As library customers, Boomers represent virtually all library services, traditional and cutting edge. Older Boomers are Digital Immigrants by necessity more than desire, and they have typical traits of Digital Immigrants in that they still use punctuation in their emails, IMs and even tweets.

Digital Native
I place this discussion of GenX in the Digital Native category because this is THE generation that has truly mastered the art of adapting to change. They have straddled today’s technology in an amazing way, yet 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, and now they proficiently handle the five remotes on the coffee table in their home, or more likely figured out the “universal” remote.

Generation X people are mostly Digital Immigrants by birth, and for the most part represent those now reaching middle age. GenX statistically holds the highest education levels when looking at age groups. Because the technological, educational and societal changes have been so significant between their own childhood and now their children’s, none of the Baby Boomer models fit for the GenX generation. They must reinvent everything from parenting to career paths without a model. While GenX is often called the “microwave generation” due to their desire for instant gratification, they still struggle with their children who sit in a home with three different gaming systems, multiple computers, and 500 TV channels, and complain that they’re bored.

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. The other generation with better technology skills is breathing down their necks, with their over-indulged upbringing, where everyone who participates gets a trophy, and wants everything yesterday.

Since most GenX did not grow up with technology (as we understand it today), but were exposed to it early in their late teen and early adult life, and have that uncanny adaptability toward technology, many could qualify as Digital Natives, but are still technically Digital Immigrants. Fortunately, they did not acquire the aversion traits of their parents regarding technology, so they can all be considered Digital Natives in their behavior.

Generation Y (considered to be born from 1982 through 2001) are 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 customer – the Millennial Customer.

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 self-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”.

Jason Ryan Dorsey, The “Gen Y Guy” presents an awesome overview of the Millennial Generation.

Here is another perspective of the Millennials from themselves.

This is the generation public 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 understand them, and literally take services to them. (School and academic librarians are getting first-hand experience with GenY kids every day.) They do not recognize much, if any, “need” for library services, and seldom, if ever, seek “traditional” services from public libraries.

All of the older generations will progressively have fewer consumers of fewer library services, whereas 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, and everything is “remote”. They generally only 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”.

The successful 21st Century Library will provide services to their 21st Century Millennial Customer, because they know who they are and what they want. The 21st Century customer is NOT the 20th Century patron.

More to come…………………
See A 21st Century Library Model


Filed under Uncategorized

Change Is Not Coming – IT’S HERE!

Two significant events occurred already in this new year that demonstrate that change is no longer just coming – IT’S HERE!! When the ball dropped in Times Square, the Baby Boomer Generation began a flood of Americans turning 65 – officially seniors. Goldman Sachs invested $450 million in Facebook – establishing 2011 as the year of “Social Networking”.

This is the year that those born in 1946 – Baby Boomers – begin turning 65. They become eligible for Medicare, full Social Security retirement benefits in 2012 (for those not already drawing their benefits), and all the rights and lower prices to which their advanced age entitle them.

For the next 18 years (the approximate time span of a generation), over 60 million individuals will continue to drain the government reserves, while Gen X and Gen Y try to fill them up with their income. The birth rate actually began to decline in 1958, but 12 years is too short for a generation, so 1964 is generally considered the end of the Baby Boom. The peak drain on the Social Security System will be between 2019 and 2022, those years of the highest sustained birth rate of the generation. (See CDC Data at Live Births, Birth Rates, and Fertility Rates, by Race: United States, 1909-2000.)

Many Boomers will continue to work and pay into the System for several more years, because when one (born between 1946 and 1954) achieves age 66 they are entitled to maximum SS retirement benefits and unlimited earned income. Nice way to accumulate a nest egg to enjoy retirement. (Those born between 1955 and 1960 work their way up to age 67 for full retirement benefits.)

Additionally Boomers will continue to run the majority of the United States government and business. The last three Presidents are/were Boomers, and most Fortune 500 corporate CEO’s are Boomers. The four generations in the workplace that Jason Dorsey describes will continue for another 20 years at least as Boomers continue to age.

Social Networking
According to the NY Times article from yesterday (Why Facebook Is Such a Crucial Friend for Goldman),

In investing $450 million in the social networking giant, Goldman has established itself as the leading candidate to win the lucrative and prestigious assignment of Facebook’s initial public offering, whenever that day comes. It also positions itself to reap millions of dollars in banking fees. Goldman has already begun the process of wooing its wealthy clients to invest alongside it in Facebook, forming an investment vehicle that seeks to raise as much $1.5 billion for the Internet company.

… an initial public offering of Facebook, [holds] billions of dollars of unlocked paper wealth realized by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 26-year-old chief, and his fellow executives. Goldman, as a lead Facebook investor, will most likely have a leg up in winning the assignment to manage that money, too.

The firm’s Facebook investment came together over the last month, according to a person involved in the deal who spoke only on the condition of anonymity. After the spike in trading in Facebook over the last several months — in a November auction, Facebook shares traded at a $56 billion valuation — Mr. Zuckerberg expressed an interest in raising money to legitimize the $50 billion valuation.

Mr. Zuckerberg felt that gaining the imprimatur of a major investor at such lofty levels would validate Facebook in the eyes of its Silicon Valley competitors with whom it is negotiating deals, this person said.

[Emphasis added.]
Suffice it to say that Facebook will continue to succeed.

As further evidence that 2011 is the year of Social Networking, Harrisburg University released the results from its “Black Out” study conducted last September.

During the week of September 13 -17, 2010, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology blocked access over its network to several popular social media sites including, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Additionally, access to all instant messaging services was blocked. The blackout affected all students, faculty and staff at the University. The intent of the social media blackout was to raise awareness about uses and/or abuses of social media.

An initial survey was completed on the first day of the blackout, and a follow-up survey was completed during the week following the blackout. In addition, multiple focus group sessions were conducted with students and faculty in the middle of the blackout week. These sessions were intended to gather richer, more detailed data than could be collected by survey instruments. Finally, individual emails and one-on-one conversations with students provided anecdotal and often humorous stories about their reactions to the blackout.

One-quarter of the students and 40% of the faculty and staff at Harrisburg University responded to the surveys. The survey revealed that the majority of students, faculty and staff are regular users of social media. In fact, many are heavy users of various social media outlets. Specifically, two-thirds of the sample reported using Facebook on a daily basis, while 10% said they use Twitter on a daily basis. Among Facebook users, 25% cited mainly “social” purposes, including contact with friends, as the primary reason for using the site. Students and staff also use social media for “entertainment.” In fact, 13% of student responders said they rely on Facebook to combat boredom between classes. Exactly half of student responses cited the use of YouTube regularly for “academic and social purposes.” Instant messaging is also used by a large segment of the student body, with 35% usage among this sample.

One question that is routinely debated is whether people can become addicted to social networking. The results from our survey suggest that this is possible. Specifically, it is remarkable to note that 40% of the student respondents spend between 11 and 20 hours a day using social media sites. One has to believe that this level of usage would likely interfere with school work and jobs. Further, it is somewhat disturbing to note that several faculty and staff reported spending more than 20 hours a day on social networking sites.

[Emphasis added.]

It can easily be argued that social networking is NOT a fad that will disappear any time soon. Which means, libraries should explore applications of social networking in their library services.


PS: Happy New Year, and Thanks for coming back!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

“21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries” Presentation Video

It has been awhile since the 2010 Utah Library Association Conference in St. George, UT, in May. I posted that a video of the presentation would be available, and it finally is. We tried to also broadcast it live and archive it on Wimba, courtesy of the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, staff, but it wasn’t possible due to several technical reasons at the conference center. (Our frienemy – technology.)

My USL colleague Craig Neilson and I presented to a session of mostly public library trustees on 21st Century Trends for Trustees and 21st Century Skills affecting libraries. My boss, Utah State Librarian Donna Jones Morris, and I presented a conference session entitled 21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries on Friday May 14th. Now that the video has been formatted to fit the Utah State Library website, it is available for viewing at the links below. (The video is in QuickTime format, and I recommend you wait until it fully downloads before beginning to view. Internet Explorer has been being difficult with these videos.)

21st Century Trusteeship
Craig Neilson: Trends for Trustees (22 min.)
Steve Matthews: 21st Century Trusteeship (38 min.)

21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries
Donna Jones Morris (19 min.)
Steve Matthews (42 min.)

21st Century Libraries Panel Discussion
Introduction: Donna Jones Morris – Utah State Librarian: (5 min.)
Public Libraries: Gina Milsap – Director, Topeka and Shawnee County (KS) Public Library (23 min.)
School Libraries: Janene Bowen – Manager, Media Specialist for Instructional Support Services, Jordan (UT) School District (11 min.)
Academic Libraries: Michael Freeman – Director, Utah Valley University Library, Orem, UT (20 min.)
Question & Answer Session (16 min.)

Your comments are welcome.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

21st Century Libraries Include “Gadget” Technology

In an effort to continue to bring you specific information and examples of the 21st Century Library, I wanted to share a recent experience through a Web Junction webinar about “Gadgets” (defined as ebook readers, mp3 players, video and digital cameras, and handheld computers and smartphones). Gadget Checklist 2010: For library staff, users and our future (click on “View the full archive”) presented by Michael Porter on October 6, was a fascinating overview of this gadget technology and its applications in the library setting.

Michael is a self-proclaimed “giant nerd” who has spent many years engrossed in technology and gadgets. And, he’s not just an average gadget guy. The photo below is a display of his mobile device collection. Seriously!

Michael maintains a wealth (which may be an understatement) of gadget information and links on his Michael Porter’s gadgets Bookmarks that includes technology as well as specific devices. Amazing collection of resources!

In this latest presentation on Web Junction, Michael asserts that books as the library’s brand needs to change, and Content should become the new library brand (as in trademark).
Libraries = Content + Community
Gadgets = Key –> Content

If you’re like me (I thought there was 3-4 on the market), you’ll be amazed to discover that there are dozens – literally – of eReaders on the market. Michael spotlighted a Wikipedia site (really NOT a bad word) at Comparison of e-book readers that lists virtually all – and their specs – in a valuable comparison chart.

A September 2010 Harris Poll found that 1 in 10 Americans use eReaders now, and 1 in 10 who don’t own an eReader now say they will likely buy an eReader in the next 6 months. GenX-ers were more likely than other age groups to buy an eReader in the next 6 months – 15% said so.

Ever heard of Chumby? Michael discussed its potential in libraries. He finished his presentation with some predictions, against his better judgment about making predictions, these are very interesting, especially his caution about remaining relevant as a library.

An hour well spent, that doesn’t seem like an hour. I strongly recommend watching this presentation about “Gadgets” and how they can be integrated into the 21st Century Library.

Web Junction has a treasure trove of different types of technology presentations that is well worth browsing for those who want to catch up to what challenges libraries are facing and ways to address library customers’ interests. They have specific sections addressing Mobile Devices, and E-Books and Digital Audio Books, as well as just Basic Technology.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized