A library school student I know, who is interested in working in academic libraries, recently sent me an email that included several provocative questions and reflections including:

  • …so I’m sitting here thinking that really gaming doesn’t mean much for academic librarians, until I realize that the young kids using games, cell phones, text or IM in third grade are eventually going to go to college. And what will academic librarians have as a weapon — Facebook???
  • A thought I recently had was that librarians shouldn’t just be some people sitting at a reference desk directing informational traffic. We should be collaborating with students, and yet all of these information literacy classes seem so twentieth century 😉 How do we create an environment that encourages learning AND interaction while also maintaining the relevancy of the library

These definitely aren’t questions that relate only to librarians in academic settings. They speak directly to what happens in public and school library teen services. What are the “weapons” that we use to support the needs of the digital native teens that we serve? Lots of libraries have Facebook or MySpace accounts but is that enough? Do we stop there? Do we consider Facebook and/or MySpace as the only way that we have to connect to teens via the media many of them respond to?

And, if we are going whole hog into integrating the tools of digital natives into teen programs and services, do we have to consider the need to balance the new with the traditional? When do we stop thinking that we have to live in both worlds? Who are we living in both worlds for? The teens, fellow staff, administrators, parents? Can we focus on the teens and create an environment that makes the library relevant because it is focused on the contemporary over the traditional? Do we want to?

Receiving these kinds of emails is invigorating because it demonstrates that librarians going into the field are thinking about moving libraries forward into sometimes new, and sometimes a bit scary, realms. Receiving these emails often opens up more questions rather than helps to answer them. But, don’t we constantly have to be asking questions of ourselves, our libraries, and our teens in order to guarantee we are providing the best service possible? (Of course that was another question.)

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.

2 Thoughts on “And Then I Realize…

  1. SaraD [Visitor] on August 22, 2007 at 8:51 am said:

    Our university library is working together with other entities on campus to create a Learning Commons in the library. This will combine our reference services with tutoring services, a writing lab, a math lab, private and group study areas, roving reference providers, and a large computer lab featuring computers and the latest software. We will be working with area vendors to showcase various new software and hardware so that students can come in and learn it, use it, and get support for it. This can include anything from Windows Vista to the iPhone. It is not a reality yet, we are still in the planning phase, but I think this is one way academic libraries can do more to interact with and meet the needs of their patrons.

  2. srcsmgrl [Visitor] on August 22, 2007 at 9:10 pm said:

    I like to think of it, not as living in their world, but as growing with them so that when we get to the next generation of patrons we haven’t been left behind. This is happening slowly but surely in public libraries with gaming programs, MySpace accounts, library blogs and electronic resources. Our library system just got a cool new calendar that allows patrons to download items to their computer calendar, set reminders, invite others and utilize rss feeds. How cool is that?

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