August 23, 2007

Beloit List for Librarians

Filed under: precat — tsladmin @ 3:53 pm

This year’s Beloit College Mindset List (for the class of 2011) came out yesterday. I love these lists because they point out to me how much things have changed since I was a teenager. I think of myself as being somewhere around the age of 24, even though I’m well more than a decade past that, so it’s helpful for me to have reminders that my view of the world is shaped by different forces than those who come after me. Logically, I know these things, but the Beloit List always brings these thoughts to the forefront when I read facts like the following.

  1. What Berlin wall?
  2. They never “rolled down” a car window.
  3. “Off the hook” has never had anything to do with a telephone.
  4. Music has always been “unplugged.”
  5. Most phone calls have never been private.
  6. The World Wide Web has been an online tool since they were born. (I quibble a bit with this, but certainly they’ve grown up with it.)

So this got me thinking about what a Beloit College Mindset List focused on libraries for the class of 2011 might include. Adding to numbers 3, 4, and 6 above, here are a few broad strokes I came up with that we should take into consideration when re-examining our services (remembering that these don’t apply just to current freshmen).

  • Their cell phones have always let them access information, not just people, wherever they are.
  • Video games have always been a social activity.
  • They have always had to narrow down search results (rather than expand them).
  • They have always used a different medium to communicate with their friends than with adults.
  • They may never write a check. (I don’t think I need the “may,” but just in case.)
  • They think of communication in 160-character chunks.
  • Their default expectation is wireless access.
  • They have never started a search at an “advanced” screen.
  • They store information and documents on keychains.
  • They have always copied and pasted.
  • “.” is pronounced “dot,” not “period.”

I’ve expressed all of these ideas before here and as part of my “information shifting” presentations, and I know others have pointed these things out for years. But these behaviors/characteristics are becoming more and more pervasive every year. If you’re like me and you graduated from library school in the last century, this is a great jumping off point for thinking about specific behaviors (and changes in behaviors) that affect things like the reference interview, information foraging, search boxes, etc.


  1. More shocking than “.” is pronounced “dot,” not “period,” is that it’s not pronounced “Decimal Point.” Oh, for the good old days of the twentieth century when we just had world wars and teetered on the brink of thermonuclear annihilation, and didn’t have to worry about these new-fangled contraptions and new ways of communicating.

    Comment by Bruce Farrar — August 24, 2007 @ 1:33 pm

  2. […] A couple of months ago I wrote a “Who are we dealing with” post to describe these new academic users/patrons in an attempt to better understand them. Beloit College also regularly publishes a rather extensive list of tidbits about our new first year students. And Jenny at the Shifted Librarian has just added some great and more techy examples. […]

    Pingback by » Take a deep breath and welcome the class of 2011 — August 25, 2007 @ 5:13 pm

  3. Does anyone besides me find this list a little insulting? I expect a lot of it rings true, but it’s all stated in a slightly snotty tone. I mean, the creators of the list never lived in a world without cars, but nobody’s pointing that out. It just seems geared toward people who want to complain about younger generations.

    Comment by Skippy — August 27, 2007 @ 3:24 pm

  4. […] […]

    Pingback by RCPL ANNOUNCEMENTS » 8.27.08 Beloit College Mindset List — August 27, 2007 @ 6:40 pm

  5. Skippy, I suppose that’s one way to read it, but the point is that things like cars, land line telephones, television, etc. are all things we take for granted so we all have those as common touchstones. These are things we don’t have in common. I didn’t see anything in either list that complained about younger generations, either, but YMMV.

    Comment by jenny — August 27, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  6. > They have always cut and pasted
    But… without knowing, in some cases, where the terms originated. Children of a scientific colleague recently exclaimed “Ah, so THAT’s why it’s called cut and paste!” They had, literally, never used scissors and glue (and they thought the idea was hilarious). So “They have always cut and pasted” should, perhaps, be “They have always cut and pasted electronically.”
    The Beloit list needs a corollary, what most older people don’t know and haven’t yet experienced might be interesting. (Perhaps a way of assessing one’s youthfulness by checking a list would be fun?). The world is run mostly by older people and changed mostly by younger ones, and neither has a monopoly on being out of touch.
    Kudos to you as a service provider for reflecting on this. Clearly you are young at heart!

    Comment by Eats Wombats — September 13, 2007 @ 5:42 am

  7. I like Jenny’s list a lot more than the original; it offers some practical reminders of the things that distinguish me (35) from the students I interact with daily. The original list just seems kinda stupid and random. (Then again, I’m not North American, so a lot of the things on the list confused me, because I’d never heard of them either). And things like “what Berlin Wall?” are silly. I was well aware of the Vietnam War from the age of about eight, even though it ended just before I was born.

    Comment by Simon — September 23, 2007 @ 1:12 am

  8. […] The Shifted Librarian » Beloit List for Librarians […]

    Pingback by The Library Shelf - Today’s Top Blog Posts from Librarians - Powered by SocialRank — October 1, 2007 @ 4:12 am

  9. I just think it’s kind of a dumb list. I graduated from undergrad in 2000, and there are numerous things on that list that apply to me (U2’s been around since before I was born, and WTF is a MagiCan?), as well as things that I don’t think really fit kids born in 1989 (they were, what, 3 when Wayne’s World peaked?). Your library list is better, but still, it’s not as though older folks haven’t adapted to these changes, or anyone’s missing out by not writing checks. The whole Beloit/trying-to-define-people-with-tidbits thing just seems trivial to me.

    Comment by Rachel — February 1, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  10. The specifics of my comment relate to this year’s list, of course.

    Comment by Rachel — February 1, 2008 @ 9:57 pm

  11. Rachel, I don’t think Beloit is saying that these are new or unique things for these kids only. They’re just pointing out that they are the first ones to grow up in a world where these things were different for them since birth. So while others born around that time or far before will definitely still adapt and even share some of the characteristics, these are interesting benchmarks for comparison. I don’t think it’s meant to be definitive, comprehensive, or even quantitative. These are starting points for discussion, and I often find them interesting as such. YMMV.

    Comment by jenny — February 2, 2008 @ 11:22 am

  12. Jenny, I’m always skeptical of generational-type groupings and definitions, but my husband says that this is a very cynical, Gen X thing to say. 😉

    Comment by Rachel — February 4, 2008 @ 11:05 am

  13. Heh – I totally get that, as I’m Gen X, too. But having just turned 40, I find myself using the phrase “those kids today” way too much :-p I also worry a lot about my generation getting lost between those other two “mouse in the snake” ones (boomers and millennials), so maybe it’s easier for me to digest the Beloit list since I use groupings in other contexts.
    Overall, I have to say that I don’t think many of the divides in our profession are generational. Rather, I think they are due to other factors (whether you’ve created content on the internet, whether you buy into the “everything is miscellaneous” theory, etc.) that *appear* generational on the surface. That breakdown fails, though, when you go into any depth.
    So maybe I’m being truly Gen X and being ambivalent, having my cake and eating it, too! 🙂

    Comment by jenny — February 4, 2008 @ 11:49 am

  14. […] used the framework of Beloit Colleges famous “mindset list” to highlight the very different way in which students today interact with information.   Almost 2 years later, the yawn of the gap continues to widen.  Social networking (Facebook, […]

    Pingback by LibraryRemix » Blog Archive » Shifting Gears to Grow Community — April 17, 2009 @ 12:41 am

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