August 16, 2008

Boomers and their vision of the students of today

We’re told: “The Millennial generation, with their ipods and facebook profiles, are resetting the agendas for libraries, and aging Boomers are struggling to adjust by creating environments that are attractive to the new kind of student.”

Right? I’m not so sure.

To me it would seem more accurate to say that Boomers are projecting their love of youth culture onto a generation that doesn’t care about it as much, and getting a vicarious sense of youth from it. This is evident in the picture of the Millennials painted by Boomers and the young students’ actual responses to it. Efforts to make libraries more like “places that young people like” may turn out to be more effective in making older librarians who use the spaces feel young than they are in making young students feel at home. I find Boomers’ preoccupation with youth conspicuous in Information Commons-related discussions about what the new generation of young people is like.

When in the past has the generation in leadership been so eager to fashion their institutions so that young people will like them and feel at home? What happened to the idea of educating young people into adulthood, rather than modifying adulthood to suit the young?

2 Comments »

  1. Excellent point, Rory, and precisely something I wanted to bring up to you at some point. I had a discussion with a fellow MLIS student who told me one of our professors’ viewpoints on serving youth in libraries. His feeling is that librarians need to know as much, if not more, about youth culture–what kids are into–otherwise the youth won’t listen to us. His focus is technology and he’s preparing librarians to understand technology more than their youthful patrons or students, so that we won’t seem outdated.

    What? When have youth ever listened to adults? And in my experience, I listened less to adults who felt they knew all about me and what I was into before I even understood myself. While I feel it’s important for librarians to have tech skills and an understanding of how technology can help us do our jobs efficiently and effectively, I don’t feel I need to know everything, say, my 14 year-old nephew does in order to help him research a paper. In fact, it’s often better if I don’t, because then my nephew can introduce me to something and he will feel (rightly so) that he has taught me something new.

    Sometimes I want Boomer librarians/LIS professors to sit down and watch a marathon session of John Hughes teen films from the 80s.

    Comment by Heather — August 16, 2008 @ 10:33 am

  2. This is a brilliant insight and follows directly along what many academics see as the problem with higher ed’s seeming glee to adapt to mollify students instead of shepherding them toward education.

    Comment by TM — August 16, 2008 @ 1:55 pm

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