If It Catches My Eye

The Media Management Center at Northwestern University released a report this month about the online news experiences of teens. Titled, If It Catches My Eye, there is a lot for librarians to consider in this document.

In the Implications and Recommendations section of the report the authors write:

What if news enterprises thought of the status quo – the current habits and preferences of teens – not as an unchangeable verdict on the news but as an opportunity and a challenge? What if they decided to:

  • Aggressively court teens where they are now and then work over time to fan whatever sparks of interest they may have in news into a more robust flame of interest in various kinds of news?
  • Make a special effort to encourage – and even increase the number of – teens who consider it part of their identity to follow and talk about the news?

I read that section and thought to myself, what if librarians changed “news” within that section and inserted the word libraries instead? It would then read:

What if libraries thought of the status quo – the current habits and preferences of teens – not as an unchangeable verdict on libraries but as an opportunity and a challenge? What if they decided to:

  • Aggressively court teens where they are now and then work over time to fan whatever sparks of interest they may have in libraries into a more robust flame of interest in various kinds of information?
  • Make a special effort to encourage – and even increase the number of – teens who consider it part of their identity to follow and talk about the library?

OK, there was one change that went from news to information instead of news to libraries, but the point remains the same. What’s that point? We can’t simply say, “Oh, teens aren’t interested in libraries, that’s just the way it is.” Instead we have to find out what does interest teens, discover where they go to get support for those interests, and then join them in those places.

In terms of joining teens where they are, If It Catches My Eye includes recommendations for connecting with teens that librarians can use. Along with recommending to go where the teens already are the report recommends:

  • Using humor and a sense of fun – the report mentions news stories about oddities as a way to accomplish this. In the library context why not focus on connecting teens to resources like the Guinness Book of World Records recently launched social networking site as a way to harness their sense of fun and sense of humor? This connection helps librarians to openly acknowledge what teens are interested in, and while acknowledging that it’s possible to give teens some tips on being safe while in online social networking environments.
  • Creating widgets for tools that teens already use – an earlier blog post discussed the idea of widgetizing homework for teens. The findings of this report support that idea and help demonstrate why it’s important for libraries to create information gathering widgets for the tools that teens use.
  • Enlisting support from parents and teachers – this is something librarians frequently work to accomplish. But, doesn’t the technology that is available help create success in this area? For example, doesn’t the need of parents and teachers to learn about the technology teens are using give librarians an opportunity to become central to that learning?
  • Providing features/functionalities that teens like and use – for example, teens love to share what they find on the web with friends, how can libraries find ways to help them to do that information exchange successfully and easily?

There’s much more in the report that connects to what librarians work to do with/for teens every day. Check it out and see what you can extract to use in your day-to-day work with the teens in your community.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.
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