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9 Apr 2008 / Julie

Computers in Libraries: Teens are users

I was hyped up on socializing at CIL this year so I’m just now getting to blog all my thoughts. Plus, I was getting frustrated with the lack of wifi or cell signal in the conference hotel. Bogs my mind.

Lee Rainie of Pew Internet was the first day’s keynote. He was also last year’s keynote but I didn’t get as much out of it this year. One thing that did intrigue me was the stats he reported on in terms of library customers.

Apparently, 60% of teens use the library in 2008 compared to 36% in 2000.
I don’t remember if it was “of library users, 60% are teens” or “60% of teens surveyed use the library” (which could be a very different number, depending) and i’m currently too lazy to go look it up but either way, the stat goes against everything I keep hearing from folks. If i believed everything i heard, i’d assume that the younger generation doesn’t think of, let alone step foot in, libraries. Period.

This, of course, is contrary to my stats- which show a huge % of our VR usage coming from the middle and high school aged. And accessing the VR service is still “accessing the library” in my book.

Between slides of talking about himself, Rainie had an excellent point that I wish more librarians would pay attention to. He said that the current young generation has the most recent memory of libraries and how we’ve changed. This gives me hope that the library/librarian stereotype *will* eventually change from one with a lot of Shush to one with a lot of Push (towards being hip and tech-connected). [sorry, that was a stretch, but i'm running on adrenaline here, not brain power]

So in order to preserve our business, help the world, and improve our customer service industry I suggest this: instead of complaining about the teens, we should be letting them know how important they are and how much we love them. Because, in turn, they will get involved (if we let them), and tell *us* how much they love us! Today’s confused, loud teen is tomorrow’s library board member, teacher, or politician.

It always amazes me how frequently people forget that we’re all on the same planet together and you never know who you’re going to run into in the future who you may need to rely on for something. Be nice, folks! We’re a service profession, after all people!

Another thing Rainie reminded the audience was that Lack of Awareness is an inhibitor. As an industry, we don’t do a very good job of marketing ourselves. We seem to assume that people “just know” of the benefits of libraries. Wrong! People may not use libraries because they just DON’T KNOW ABOUT US! We need to tell them!

Go. Go now. Put the blog down and spread the word about what your library can do for your customers. (I’ll so the same thing when i get into the office tomorrow).

Other Random thoughts from Rainie’s presentation included wonderings about what stories we aren’t hearing- the study was only done in english…

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