For 3 years, it ran in the Greeley Tribune. Since then, it has run in various subsidiaries of the Douglas County News Press. I still have most of my columns in digital format.
For many years, I only gave myself one rule: try to work the word "library" into every piece. My intent was to think in public about just what librarianship means at the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st.
There have been many advantages for me. I found that putting library plans out in front of the public, and getting feedback about them, helped me make better decisions. Sometimes, I found that it was very difficult for me to describe those plans or policies -- the kind of thing that makes me realize that they might not be good ideas after all. The weekly discipline of explaining my profession to the public keeps me more mindful, more honest. It also has provided steady visibility for the library and its issues.
March 1, 2007 - Screenagers Live Online
I had the pleasure recently to hear a talk by Lee Rainie. He's the director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project.
The folks at Pew do a lot of research, and lately have begun to focus on a group dubbed "screenagers." These are people between the ages of 12 and 20 who spend a lot of time in front of various screens -- TVs, computers, iPods, cellphones, etc.
Below are some of Pew's findings.
Seventy percent of American adults now use the Internet. For teens, it's 93 percent.
Here's one that made a lot of community relations people sit up and notice: once somebody gets broadband access, the Internet becomes more important as a source for news than either newspapers or TV.
Newspapers have been fighting the battle for literacy for a long time. Frankly, TV was taking them to the cleaners. This is the first time since the fifties that any medium has displaced TV as a primary source of news.
Three quarters of American adults and 63 percent of teenagers have cellphones.
More than 55 percent of American teens now have, and use daily, digital cameras. The images they capture pop up in all kinds of places: web pages, iPods, cellphones, PC screensaver, and more. To take that a step further, content is converging. One format, many uses.
But the hardware is diverging. The dream of the one device for everything remains a dream.
And just when you thought you knew where things were going, get this: 10 percent of Internet users don't use email. At all.
Here's a watershed: in 2005, laptops began outselling desktops. It probably won't go back the other way. This means that wireless access is far more important than ever, especially to a generation that really can't imagine being out of "touch."
Members of the Millennial generation, born wired, are sometimes referred as "digital natives." They grew up in the post-Internet world. Older folks are referred to as "digital immigrants."
But native or immigrant, the digerati are finding each other on the Internet. The average broadband user belongs to 4 communities, for an average of 2.3 years each. These communities might be the kind that spring up for patient support -- somebody going through, or providing care for, a difficult illness. They might be gaming communities. They might be Facebook or MySpace, the so-called social networking sites.
But despite some of the excesses you may have heard about, two-thirds of social networking site users are pretty selective. They carefully limit access to their profiles, often to people they already know.
Belonging to an online community does not displace "real" communities. In fact, "virtual" networking seems to lead to increased "actual" networking -- although sometimes, younger people aren't quite sure how to cross that bridge.
There are lots of implications in all of this for librarians. At least on some level, we have to go where the digital natives hang out. They can't or won't find us until we do.
And I've been giving a lot of thought lately to working a new generation into more blended experiences, connecting them to a larger community that desperately needs their collaborative energy.
Maybe we have something to give them, too.