The Future is Now

Sometimes during workshops I tell a story about a conversation I had about 13 years ago with a friend of mine. At that time I was leaving the job I was in and planned to start working for myself teaching librarians and teachers about the Internet. It was the early days of the Internet in libraries and my friend said to me, “But Linda, what are you going to do when everyone knows how to use the Internet?” The idea behind that question being, there will come a time when everyone knows how to access the web, send email, use search engines, etc. and I would be stuck pretty much without a job.

That story keeps coming back to me as I think about how what we knew about technology and the way people use it has grown and changed in those 13 years. Who knew then that librarians would now be using technology to collaborate with each other and the teens that they serve? Who knew then that in the beginning of 2009, teen librarians would be using tools like Facebook and Twitter to connect with the teens in their communities? Who knew then that the Internet would be available on something like an iPhone or a Sidekick and that teen librarians would text teens using those devices?’  Who knew….

I could go on and on with those questions, but it’s also become apparent to me over the past decade plus, that we can’t simply focus on what technology makes possible at this very moment. We also need to think about and imagine what technology might make possible in the near, and distant, future.’  Imagining and thinking into the future is one of the best ways to provide teens with the best service possible.

This has come even more to mind as I’ve read two recent publications:

  • Grown Up Digital:How the Net Generation is Changing Your World is the new book by Don Tapscott.’  About a decade ago Tapscott wrote Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation and Grown Up Digital is his follow-up with a look at how 11 to 30-year-olds currently use and think about technology, access information, and relate to the world in general.’ ‘  It also looks at how knowing about, and understanding, the net generation can help transform institutions (for example libraries) and society.’  If you want to better understand how the teens you serve use technology and want some ideas on how to bring that technology successfully into your workplace, Grown Up Digital is definitely something you should read.
  • Last week, the Pew Internet in American Life Project published The Future of the Internet III.’  As the front page of the website published along with the report states, “This eight-part 2008 survey of technology experts and social analysts inspired thousands of intriguing predictive statements tied to eight compelling question sets about’ the state of things in 2020. Experts were asked what devices we will use to access the Internet and how we will connect, if social tolerance will be improved thanks to new ways of connection, if our work and home lives will be better, and how much influence virtual reality and augmented reality will have.“‘  These predictions, while not made about, or’  by teens, are worth taking a look at in order to gain a sense of where the world is headed and as a result where libraries should be headed.’  It’s definitely worth the time to think about topics covered in the report including the impact of ubiquitous mobile access, blurring lines between work and play, and the evolution of privacy and copyright and consider how these will have an impact on the way libraries serve teens.

It’s sometimes difficult to think about the future when the day-to-day work world of dealing with administrators, parents, teachers, collections, budgets, printer problems, space and teens themselves stare you the face. However, by spending some time on where current technology use and trends might lead, you can be ready for what the day-to-day might look like in, lets say, 2020.

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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2 Comments

  1. As a follow-up to this post, there is an excellent interview with Don Tapscott on the most recent Net at Night Podcast. Anyone that works with teens should listen and try their best to get colleagues and parents to listen too. You can listen or download the audio at http://twit.tv/natn79

  2. I loved how the Pew report included quotes from a star from the library world!

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