Magazine article American Libraries

ACRL 12th National Conference: Academics and Millennials in Minneapolis

Magazine article American Libraries

ACRL 12th National Conference: Academics and Millennials in Minneapolis

Article excerpt

The Minneapolis Convention Center exhibit hall and meeting rooms were packed April 7-10 for "Currents and Convergence: Navigating the Rivers of Change," the Association of College and Research Libraries' 12th National Conference, as a record-breaking number of academic librarians met to exchange information, catch up on issues, and bring ideas home. The final attendance figure at the closing session came to 3,946--some 450 more than the 2003 record set in Charlotte, North Carolina (AL, June/July 2003, p. 44-45).

This year's event also featured a first-ever virtual conference that offered live webcasts of several programs, discussion boards, blogs by several attendees, and online speaker materials. Conference registrants have unlimited access to the online conference community for one year after the event at home.learningtimes.net/acrl/.

ACRL also welcomed the largest number of first-time attendees (1,059) and the most conference scholarship recipients (94). "I'm proud we were able to provide so many scholarships to attend the conference," said ACRL President Frances Maloy, "and to welcome new and diverse professionals to the field." Maloy, who is director of access services at Emory University in Atlanta, added that those new librarians will have their work cut out for them. "Library funds are tight, higher education is faced with increasing regulation and accountability, and the student population is more diverse than ever," she told American Libraries. The ACRL conference, she added, intends to "raise awareness of these challenging trends."

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Eleven college students from the Minneapolis area were on hand at a preconference to serve as a focus group to help librarians understand their perspectives. All are part of the "millennial" generation--those born in 1980 or after. When asked what they would add to their college libraries, three said a larger selection of books, two wanted more music and videos, two would like to download e-books, and one wanted wireless internet available. To the glee of those present, three of the students had considered becoming librarians, and one had already applied to graduate school.

Trademarks of millennials

Millennials are also the most ethnically diverse American generation. Nikhat Ghouse of the University of Kansas presented a paper on the need for librarians to understand the new mix of student ethnicities on their particular campuses. "Much of library instruction assumes that you are teaching a homogeneous group," she said. "But the U.S. is slowly becoming a nation of multiple minorities. The same small class now might contain multiethnic and multiaged individuals with multiple types of disabilities."

At another session on "Marketing the Millennials," University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg Library Director Patricia Duck identified some generational characteristics. Millennials are confident, optimistic, conformist, and easily bored. Their academic expectations are high, they demand cutting-edge facilities, and they are "geared to doing research only on the internet." They are "technically savvy, but their visual orientation and short attention spans may hinder their efforts in doing research."

In "What's Next? Academic Libraries in the Google Environment," Google product manager Adam Smith and the University of Michigan's John Wilkin calmed fears and explained details about Google's ambitious digitization effort (AL, Mar. …

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