http://winksplay.ru/

February 2, 2009

Dispatch from the GenX Bridge

I’ve really been feeling my Gen Xness the last few months. I dislike framing Web 2.0 or Library 2.0 as generational issues (I think it has far more to do with whether you’re used to creating and sharing content overall), but the rise of Twitter and FriendFeed in particular have made me feel like even more of a bridge because I get stretched thin trying to explain both sides of an issue to two groups who aren’t really talking to each other about these things. Like Johnny Cash, I walk the line.

As a GenX bridge, one side of me understands the Boomer confusion at these public posts and wonders why these folks can’t just call, email, or text a person who could actually do something about the problem they’re encountering. Recently, I felt this most acutely when Jason Griffey took the time to write a blog post disagreeing with two rules for submitting questions to ALA presidential candidates on YouTube. I’m close enough to the traditional, Boomer norms of communication that when I first read Jason’s post, my immediate reaction was to sigh and wonder why he couldn’t have just contacted someone at MPOW to request that the rules be changed. The “direct” approach seems like the logical one for affecting change and having your voice heard.

And then the Millennial side of the bridge kicked in and I chided myself, because Jason actually cared enough to take the time to write that post instead of just a 140-character rant. He explained his reasoning in what has (surprisingly) become a long-form medium online (blogging). In hindsight, his post helped change one of the rules he disagreed with, so it was better that he posted publicly where everyone could read it and comment, including us. And honestly, some of the comments on microblogging sites are complaints that someone did try to call or email a human being and didn’t get a good response, so it’s not that these generational preferences are exclusive. Writing a blog post these days is a pretty high level of engagement, and caring enough to post a tweet or FriendFeed comment is right behind that in terms of trying to get our attention (hey, at least MPOW isn’t mediocre).

My personal lesson from these recent experiences is that it’s important for associations (and libraries) to understand that every blog post, every tweet, every FF comment is like a letter to the editor or someone standing up in a membership meeting and voicing a complaint. They’re the 21st century equivalent of a phone call or a conversation in the hallway at a conference, and we have to take them just as seriously and respond to them the same way we would those 20th century methods of communication. It’s not that Boomers want to help any less, but I think they’re used to helping people one-on-one, even online. For many members who likely trend younger, the new channels are their preferred ones for these types of comments, and not just for complaints. There isn’t anything wrong with either approach, but they’re ships crossing in the night, and they don’t lead to conversations between the two sides that would improve communication.

Sometimes I think attacking MPOW is a national sport, so it can be depressing being the person constantly relaying what’s being said about us online. But it’s important for those of us in the middle to be that bridge and find compromises that work for everyone. So I especially appreciate those folks who take the time to comment online in a constructive way (regardless of the channel), because it helps me build that bridge.

This strain isn’t new, but I’m curious to know if other Gen Xers are feeling an increase in this area due to microblogging sites? Have you found successful strategies for improving communication around these new channels? I have some ideas that I’m going to try to implement at work, and I’ll report back here over time, but I’d love to hear how others are handling being at this intersection.


January 24, 2009

ProQuest “Libraries and the Net Gen” – Introducing Summon

Joan Lippincott started out by speaking about net gens – “If we were creating academic libraries today, what would they look like?”

Oxford, San Jose State University?
would they only have print collections, special collections?

or would we create learning commons?
would they look like Google Book Search or iTunes University where the librarian mostly deals with licensing, totally online?

can we create libraries with content, tools, and services for today’s students?

looked up “what’s in my bag” pool on Flickr to see what today’s students carry (not books)

net gens – born between 1982-1991 who grew up with computers and other media at home and in school from earliest ages
Joan has two NetGen daughters, although their friends are better informants
also calls them millennials, digital natives, gen y, next gen, DotNets
when asked what comes next, she uses the term “screenagers” :-p
– the generation that will have had computers and mobile devices since birth

characteristics of NetGens (a population, not a generation)
using “Born Digital” definition, a highly educated subgroup has the following characteristics
– always connected, multi-tasking
– oriented to working in groups (doesn’t mean they love “groupwork,” but they like hanging out with their friends and socializing while working; you used to go to the library, do your work, & go back to the dorm to socialize. now they socialize at the library with friends who are there and who aren’t there)
– experiential learners (like the shift to hands-on learning from lecture)
– visual (oriented towards visual cues, although they do still read; when they’re doing a history paper, they may embed a map or create a video – they don’t just use text)
– producers as well as consumers (they create something of their own)

even if you have 50% adult learners at your campus, many of these characteristics still apply
(kids today call them “cameras,” not “digital cameras”)
anyone working in digital humanities is working in groups
adults are active learners – they want hands-on
think of any profession – they are all producing websites, word documents, or producing some form of digital information

so our tools need to be oriented towards these characteristics because they’ll need the skills using them going forward

characteristics of “deeper learning” (educause)
– social
– active
– contextual
– engaging
– student-owned

libraries are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this
it’s the projects they do outside of class that gives them the skills in class
– gives them context, they own their product, and engages them

it’s not just hype and it has relevance to learning
have to think about how we do this in our own institutions

are all students really tech-savvy?
students are connected
98.5% of respondents own a computer, 82.2% own a laptop (doesn’t mean they are new computers or that they bring them to class)
spend 19.6 hours a week doing work online (Joan thinks that’s low)
almost all are using social networks

harvard medical school survey of students in 2007 found 52% own a PDA
app with most use is reference!
have to think about the next generation of professionals and how we serve them

they love the internet and would give up TV & radio before internet (because they’re doing those things on the web)
college kids increasingly live in the online and offline worlds at the same time
has important implications for how we structure services

JISC study found that learners who are effective in online environment also create content, seek peer support using informal networks & social tools – an underground world of networking that is invisible to institutions

they may know how to build a website, but “we’re more interested in the art and flow of argument”
have to teach them how to use these tools in their disciplines, not their personal lives
we want students to connect better to library collections and services

Henry Jenkins’ “selected core skills”
– collective intelligence
– judgment – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information resources
– networking – the ability to search for, synthesize information
– simulation – ability to interpret & *constuct& dynamic models of real world processes
– appropriation
– multtasking – a positive thing when can shift focus to salient details

MIT Photo Diary study

there will be an increasing emphasis on data for visualization (how do we represent this in our finding aids)
content optimized for mobile devices

Cornell has put images from their digital collections on their computers as screensavers so that when students ask where the images came from, the librarians can tell them

Seattle PL visualization of books being checked out

need to think about embedded content and transforming text data into more visual formats

– adopt and adapt
– assess
– hiring new types of staff
– train existing staff
– let go of things you don’t need to do

these students are our future and it’s our role to recreate academic libraries


9:16 am Comments (1)