A Millennial’s perspective on libraries
January 12, 2007
Over the course of a few days, a posting at Meredith Farkas’ blog Information Wants to be Free has prompted much conversation. One would need to look at the posting and subsequent comments to get the gist of the posting, but I would like to focus on something brought up by an anonymous poster in the process.
The poster is 23 years old and works in a library. That would make this person a member of the Millennial generation, which supposedly enjoys being “connected” all the time. However, this person’s initial comment demonstrates that such a notion does not apply universally to Millennials. Here’s most of it verbatim:
I’m 23. I work in a library, but do not consider myself to be a librarian. As a “digital native,” I’m supposed to be really into all this stuff–the social internet. I’m not. For the most part, I think it’s stupid. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around classes and libraries in an online world such as Second Life. I played around with it two years ago when I was an undergrad. It was a silly pursuit then. Back then, the only people in Second Life were computer nerds and sexual perverts (predominantly furries). Somehow, I doubt very much has changed, but it’s pretty apparent SL has grown a few heads since then. Even still, it’s embarrassing to be associated with people that take this Library 2.0 stuff seriously. Most of the applications are useless fads that have no use in an academic context. In my opinion, since it seems most librarians are middle aged, it seems like they’re collectively having a midlife crisis.
I mentioned that I found the comments interesting, considering the conventional wisdom about Millennials. I asked the anonymous commenter if this had been a topic of conversation with friends. I received the following response:
And to address your question, Jason, I do feel that the higher-ups in the library staff perceive that my generation wants information in a different manner than we actually do. Ease of searchability is a big deal, but I don’t want the library to provide me content or contact me over myspace or facebook, which is what certain people think ought to be done. Just because a particular library created a myspace page that has a lot of friends on it doesn’t mean it’s not silly or unprofessional. It’s just one more “friend” someone can add to their list, because, let’s face it, a lot of people treat the social internet as a popularity contest. I think college students hate the fact that high schools are on facebook now and think even less of there being figures of adult authority on it as well. The dissemination of information through this medium, including Second Life, has a very limited appeal to would-be patrons of an academic library. While some people might find it interesting for a little while, I think most people would reject it outright. To me, it seems like something that should be left as a hobby, because I see it having no role in the education system in the future. God help me if I’m wrong, because I wouldn’t want to live in a future where all of our classes and libraries are in persistent online worlds. It’s just dehumanizing. Trust me, many of us in the “Y Generation” still like books (or at least printed material) because it’s annoying reading three hundred pages of text on a computer monitor. When I was doing research last semester, I *printed* all of the JSTOR articles I found. And I know I’m not alone in my perspective among students my age.
I realize that these comments are based on one person’s experiences, so it is anecdotal. However, I want to use this posting to launch a thread where others share their experiences involving Millennials and libraries. I hope to hear from more Millennials, but comments from librarians are also welcome. It might take a while to build up enough comments to make some generalizations, but I hope to return to this when the time is right.
I would like to thank the anonymous poster for allowing me to post their comments, and anyone who wishes to add anything else pertinent.