Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Meet the Millenials (facilitated by Stephen Abram)

Besides the inexplicable fact that these 12-17 year-olds are listening to the very same bands that my peers were listening to when we were in high school (Bon Jovi, Pink Floyd, Queen, etc.) it was great to hear exactly what they think of libraries and life in general.

If you work with teens, or if you don't, you need to spend time listening to kids their age. There are too many stereotypes about teens being the troubled group in our libraries, but when you ask them questions about their lives in general, they are articulate, clear, and know exactly what they want.

When this particular group of teens answered that most of them did NOT have myspace or facebook accounts, people were surprised, and Stephen mentioned that he is used to working with older teens, assuming that it is an age difference. However, when I was in library school a few years ago, I recall this same issue coming up and believing that there is a big difference between the "normal" mainstream image of a teen in urban settings and the teens who live in small towns and rural environments.

Living in southern VT and working in western MA, I see a huge difference in both the interests of teens and the access they have to information and trends. They tend to be far behind their urban counterparts. This is not a bad thing, but it means that we all need to pay attention to our own communities, rather than assuming that all teens are alike, that they all want exactly the same thing, that they all listen to the same music, watch the same movies, wear the same clothes or read the same books. Thanks to big business and the corporatization of America, there certainly is the tendency for that to happen, but the information reaches different communities at different times, and that affects how the people who live there see the world.

Just think - one teen in this session said the closest Barnes & Noble is an hour's drive from his house. I'll bet his public library is closer.

But my favorite quote from one of the teens was (in talking about doing research for school projects) "...Books help because you can’t publish a book with false information."

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