Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Digital Native Librarians, Technology Skills, and Their Relationship with Technology

Academic journal article Information Technology and Libraries

Digital Native Librarians, Technology Skills, and Their Relationship with Technology

Article excerpt


A new generation of academic librarians, who are a part of the Millennial Generation born between 1983 and 2001, (1) are now of the age to either be in graduate school or embarking on their careers. Often referred to as "digital natives" because their generation is believed to have always grown up online and with technology ubiquitous in their daily lives, (2) many agree that this generation is poised to revolutionize library services with their technology skills. (3)

Younger academic librarians believe that their technology knowledge makes them more flexible and assertive in libraries compared to their older colleagues, and they have different ways of completing their work. They refuse to be stereotyped into the traditional "bookish" idea of librarianship and want to transform libraries into technology-enhanced spaces that meet the needs of students in the digital age, redefining librarianship. (4)

This paper, as part of a larger study examining Millennial academic librarians, their career selection, their attitudes, and their technology skills, looks specifically at the technology skills and attitudes toward technology among a group of young librarians and library school students. The author initially wanted to learn if the increasingly high-tech nature of academic librarianship attracted Millennials to the career, but results showed that they had a much more complex relationship with technology than the author assumed.


The literature concerning the Millennial Generation focuses on their use of technology in their daily lives. Millennials are using technology to create new ways of doing things, such as creating a digital video for a term project, playing video games instead of traditional board games, and connecting with friends and extended family worldwide through email, instant messaging, and social networking, (5) They use technology to create new social and familial networks with friends that are based on the music they listen to, the books they read, the pictures they take, and the products they consume. (6) They believe that their relationship with technology will change the way society views and relates to technology. (7) With technology at their fingertips on a nearly constant basis, Millennials have gained an expectation of instant gratification for all of their wants and needs. (8)

Millennials believe that technology is not a passive experience, as it was for previous generations. (9) To them, technology is active and an experience by which they live their lives. (10) They have grown up with reality television, which means anyone can have his or her fifteen minutes of fame. In turn, this means being heard, having their say, and becoming famous online are all natural experiences that can be shared by anyone. (11) Because they can create their own customized media and make media consumption an interactive, as opposed to a passive and hierarchical, experience, they believe that everyone's opinion counts and deserves to be heard. (12) Even though they believe they are the greatest generation and expert users of technology, others have a different view. For example, Bauerlein argues that they are not intellectually curious, are anti-library, and blindly accept technology at face value while not understanding the societal implications or context of technology. They also consume technology without understanding how it works. (13)

Within libraries, technology skills related to new librarians have been studied by Del Bosque and Lampert, who surveyed librarians from a variety of library settings with less than nine years experience working as professional librarians. The survey found the majority (55 percent) understood that technology played a large part of their library education, but a similar percent (57 percent) did not expect to work in a technical position upon graduation. Respondents also thought there was a disconnect between the technology skills taught in library school and what was needed on the job, with job responsibilities being much more technical than they expected. …

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