The title of this blog post is a quote from the Managing Editor of Time.com, Josh Tyrangiel, about using Twitter as a reporting tool. As I read this quote in yesterday’s New York Times I thought to myself, that’s exactly what librarians need to focus on when it comes to teens (or actually when it comes to customers of any age), being one option in their “circle of choice.”
Using the library should be one of the choices a teen might make when looking for materials, space to hang out, programs, technology, web tools, etc. Key in the phrase “circle of choice” is that the library doesn’t strive to be the only option a teen has or will make. The library actually accepts, recognizes, and promotes a variety of choices for teens. Instead of fighting the fact that teens might want to use Facebook, or Google, or Wikipedia for information and interaction, the library can work to help teens understand that the library fits right in the mix with those other tools as a choice to make when in need of information or recreational space and materials.
It is important to think about how the library gets into the circle of choice of a teen. Of course, part of that comes from the recognition mentioned above. But, something else Tyrangiel said also helps to highlight what it takes to get into the circle. He said, “If you tell people how to consume their content, they will ignore you.” Not only should the library not try to be the only choice a teen has for informational and recreational needs, the library also has to provide a variety of content and format options to a teen so that she can pick the right solution for a particular need. The library works to provide interaction opportunities in the physical library space as well as on blogs, wikis, via Facebook or del.icio.us, and so on.
In providing these options and getting into this circle of choice, a library needs to take the plunge. Getting into the circle will never happen if the modus operandi is to wait and see what format/setting ends up being the one teens want the most. Instead, libraries need to give teens the chance to use the tools of the moment in the moment. That’s what Time is doing (primarily for adults of course) by providing readers access to content via their web site, Twitter, the print publication, etc.
Sure, the technology might change, the tools of choice might change, a different generation might want something entirely different. However, if libraries get into a teen’s circle of choice by plunging and not waiting, providing options for content and format, and recognizing and promoting that they are one possibility within a circle of possibilities, once in that circle it will be easier and easier to move forward. This forward movement will happen both in more and more ability to easily update access and content options and in getting support from the community of teens, adults, and colleagues.
What would happen if libraries serving teens used Time as a model? Would that help libraries to be in a teen’s circle of choice? Try it and see what happens.