I’ve been to a lot of conferences in the last year. Big ones and teeny ones, local ones and far away ones. And based on all this field research, I’ve just realized that I committed a major faux pas when I gave my talk this week. I never once mentioned Millennials. I wish to apologize for this oversight and plead for forgiveness based on the defense that I didn’t know what I was doing (obviously). Henceforth I promise to either talk about this new breed of human or come up with a very good reason for not talking about them.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m getting a little tired of the hue and cry. These kids are … well … kids. And just like every other generation of kids, they have needs and they have desires. And just like every other generation of librarians, we have to figure out what our users’ needs are and fill those needs, individual by individual and group by group. We also have to figure out what our users’ desires are, and cater to as many as are possible within the realm of reason and as many as are helpful.
Personally, I think saying things like,
“I’ll be doing a few panels of Millennials in the coming months. I always enjoy talking to these people and their insights and thoughtfulness always impresses.” (Stephen’s Lighthouse)
is not helpful. Don’t get me wrong Stephen has a lot of really good stuff to say. I admire the fact that he’s working hard not only to find ways of serving library users as well as possible, but also to push other librarians to do the same. But speaking of kids as if they’re aliens is, I think, counter-productive. In these sentences, “Millennials” becomes a term to describe a group that are completely separate, completely Other.
The two sentences I’ve quoted (found in a post that highlights some very interesting and useful information about his demographic sample) are pretty typical of what I call “Millennial Discomfort.” This disease is taking the library (and IT and education) world by storm. It’s reaching epidemic proportions.
Lets face it: there’s another generation running around, and eventually they will take over the world. In the mean time, we need to do exactly what we’ve done for generations upon generations… figure out what we can do to make sure they survive and flourish.
So instead of learning about and using MySpace, Flickr, del.icio.us, and all the rest because the Millennials are doing it (doesn’t that sound oh so middle-school-ish), let’s start learning and using these services because they’re useful and fun for our users and ourselves. Let’s learn as much as we can from the web services people like or the information seeking habits people have. Let’s remember that there are lots and lots of kids who are NOT tech savvy. And let’s remember that those kids who are tech savvy are not necessarily savvy in deciphering and leveraging the meaning, rhetoric, implications, or sometimes even the basic content of the information they take in. Let’s spend that proportion of conferences devoted to cries of “The Millennials are coming! The Millennials are coming!” and rededicate that time to learning from each other about new processes, best practices, and yes, even some of my beloved theoretical underpinnings. We can do it. I KNOW we can. There’s so much to talk about, think about, and do.
It’s been a weird week… I’ll step off my soap box now.