Screenagers and the Future of Libraries
Last night I spoke at the “Archons of Colophon” of NYC, meeting in an Irish bar called Rosie O’Grady’s in Times Square. The title of my presentation was “Far out or forthcoming? Foreshadowing the future of library service excellence. ” I spoke about “screenagers,” the 12-18 yr. olds who have grown up with computers and a life full of looking at screens. Their preferred mode of communication is Instant Messaging and SMS texting. They are busy chatting away loads of hours after school with school aged friends. I also talked about how libraries need to be present in cyberspace (through email and live chat reference) to be responsive to the needs of this cohort. In a recent focus group with screenagers from rural Maryland, I found out that this group distrusts print (ouch!), really distrusts librarians (double ouch!) and looks first to friends and Google for all their information needs. They rarely check anything found in Google and only seek librarian help as a “last desperate resort.” I posed the question of how we can morph and deliver service excellence to these students and how libraries can be responsive and relevant to this group. I believe that we need to be invested in cyberlibrarianship, in email and chat reference and we also need to be much more receptive to this group and to value their need for immediacy and respect.
I also showed video clips from 3 feature films featuring views of librarians in the distant future: Star Trek, Star Wars (Attack of the Clones), and the Time Machine. Librarians are portrayed in each of these films as stereotypical icons: judgmental, contemptuous of users, and totally condescending. Is this our fate? Can we change with the library users of the present and future or remain on the periphery of information seeking as we cling to traditional practice?