Because I am a planner, I tend to like to climb up “high”, ignoring the detail for the moment, in order to see the trends, look for patterns and directionality. I’m constantly looking for this type of “high” on the subject of libraries and their future. The sliced-and-diced-generations look is too narrow and detailed to get a good read (like the pun?) on where libraries might fit into tomorrow’s life styles, but looking at net geners (those born 1982 or later) is just about the perfect span of time, encompassing the technological shift impact on our culture.
I recently read a book called The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student, by Susan Gibbons. She focused on net gen students in higher education libraries, but I started thinking about net geners as adults and how they would expect to use the library. What kind of library would provide the value that net geners would support with their tax dollars? Are libraries of all kinds positioned to provide value to this generation and those that follow?
Public Libraries in the past few years have changed greatly, adding technology, becoming a community 3rd place that also has books instead of a warehouse for books, and providing online services at all hours. Will digitization of books and adoption of technology change it even more?
Academic libraries are reducing collections where the hard copy is redundant to the electronic copy, and converting that space into Learning Commons, community study areas, tutorial areas, bringing needed services for students within the physical library. They are also offering incredible interactivity on their web site and communicating via social media.
If net geners are expecting access to information as currently provided by the academic library described above, what will they expect from libraries post-graduation? Who are these net geners? What is important to them? To mention just a few characteristics, they are: possibly the best-educated in US history, sheltered and protected, confident and optimistic, team-oriented, time-constrained valuing speed over accuracy, highly comfortable with technology, convinced that they are “special”.
What will the net gener want in a future library when they are cultivating careers and raising families? I will be sharing more of my thoughts about trends and Susan Gibbons’ insights into this net generation in our next newsletter to be published first part of August. I invite you to sign up for the newsletter and to share your thoughts here.