Make Way for the Net Generation: Adapting to the Norms of the Young'uns Can Benefit Libraries

Article excerpt

Mom! How could you be friends with her? I haven't seen her since elementary school!"

Thus shrieked Rachel--the "Mom" stretchingto several syllables as only a high school student can do--as she discovered to her dismay and growing horror that her mother had somehow managed to "friend" everyone on Rachel's Face-book list.

You have my word, no matter how it looks, that this is not an "ain't these young'uns different" column--even though they are, of course. (Sitting in a Starbucks the other day next to a party of young folks, I couldn't help--trust me--overhearing their discussion of movies. They talked about going to movies as "watching," not "seeing" them. Generational? Reinforced by "watching" movies on DVD, streaming, handheld devices, etc.? Who knows? Made me feel ancient, though; hand me my cane, would you?)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Last year, I read Grown Up Digital, which author Don Tapscott based on thousands of interviews. In it he discusses the "Net Generation" (current ages 11 to 31), marked by their total assumption of the internet into their lives. They watch about one-quarter less television than their parents, but spend between 8 and 33 hours a week online; while there they can meet, share, and participate.

The New York Times summarized Tapscott's eight norms thus: "They prize freedom; they want to customize things; they enjoy collaboration; they scrutinize everything; they insist on integrity in institutions and corporations; they want to have fun even at school or work; they believe that speed in technology and all else is normal; and they regard constant innovation as a fact of life."

That's as nicely and concisely encapsulated as I've seen it. So, OK, they are different from me, a very-late boomer. I like having fun as much as the next guy; integrity is cool, as is collaboration; but I can't say that these norms speak to me in a deep or personal way.

You already know that we serve these young people, and many of them are now entering the profession after spending time with us in LIS programs, and they'll change you and us and the world and the way we do things as they go. …

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