Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

NextGen Librarians: Interviews with RUSA Interns

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

NextGen Librarians: Interviews with RUSA Interns

Article excerpt

Because I knew the goals of my Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) presidency would cluster around encouraging membership by new librarians, I took the opportunity as vice president of RUSA to appoint interns to all the RUSA-level committees and to nominate some for American Library Association-level (ALA) committees. My second column takes a peek at the people who filled these positions. I will outline the interns' opinions relating to Millennial and NextGen librarians and their characteristics and discuss their views about librarianship, both as it exists today and its prospects for the future. In addition to being termed NextGen or Millennial Generation, this demographic cohort is sometimes referred to as NetGen or Gen Y. (1) I would like to thank the new RUSA committee interns for their time in responding to my questionnaire, and I would also like to thank Megan Perez, who is the RUSA Spectrum Scholar this year, for his comments relating to their responses. (The list of questions is included in the appendix.) Some of the interns' thoughts and ideas, along with Megan's, are included throughout this piece.

In the July/August 2005 issue of Public Libraries, Features Editor Renee Vaillancourt McGrath wrote about Tecker Consultants' analysis of Millennials (which Tecker Consultants defines as the generation born between 1983 and 1993) as "the digital generation." (2) She notes that Tecker Consultants reports that younger generations:

* want to be part of a highly motivated team of committed people;

* thrive where they can be who they are and express themselves;

* want to work closely with and learn from colleagues they respect;

* want to socialize and form friendships; and

* set goals big enough to engage their imagination. (3)

Many of these characteristics make the Millennial Generation good organizational members. McGrath then argues,

   younger generations will join associations not because
   they have to, but because they really want to. They seek
   life challenges that match their skills and interests. They
   are also looking to contribute to something greater than
   what individuals can accomplish alone, as well as human
   connections that make work fun. (4)

Certainly some of what McGrath and others like Rachel Singer Gordon, who writes and edits the NextGen column for Library Journal, say is true. I admit that for the most part these new librarians are technologically savvy, but how different are they from the Baby Boomer librarians, like myself, who they will be replacing? For the purposes of this column, I thought it would be interesting to examine several characteristics of NextGen librarians. In the process, I would like to consider several aspects and characteristics of being a new librarian--according to both what the literature is saying about them and what they are saying about themselves. My discussion will focus on the following aspects of NextGen librarians: their library school experience, their motivation for joining ALA and RUSA, and their attitudes about the future, including the changes the profession will undergo, and their feelings about what will remain the same.

LIBRARY SCHOOL EXPERIENCES

Of the fourteen responses I received from the new RUSA committee interns, all were demographically NextGen or Millennial in age, and all but one have been practicing professional librarians for between one and three years (although a couple of them are second-career new librarians). Their current positions are all in academic libraries of varying sizes and locations; several have past experience in public libraries either as students, paraprofessionals, or professional librarians. The library schools they attended were located across the country from east to west and north to south, and all but one did some type of internship or practicum. In addition, two had been paraprofessionals before going to library school to earn an MLS. …

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