The dramatic changes in society, exponential advances in technology and globalization of ‘everything’ are easily recognizable one decade into the 21st Century.
The six generations (including that Gen Next of adolescents) that comprise 21st Century library customers create significant differences in library service demands, with the most drastic difference between the Great Generation and the Millennials.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills published its model in 2009, and since then a nationwide movement to reform public education has gained popular appeal. The role of librarian as expert researcher handing information to a waiting patron is the antithesis to the collaborative, participative mindset of the emerging Millennial customer.
In June, 2010 the New York Times published an article about IBM’s new super “answering” computer called Watson. Alarming news of the California governor’s proposal to cut over $30M in funding for the state’s libraries, staggering news of award winning Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County cutting $17M from their 2010-11 budget that forced the lay-off of dozens of staff, and more local library closures in 2010 than anyone cared to count, bring a frightening issue to the forefront of our professional concerns – the role of the library in the 21st Century! When one considers all the evidence of advancing technology, education reform, societal changes, information literate customers, and globalization of ‘everything’ and their impact on librarianship and libraries, it is crystal clear that 21st Century librarianship MUST BE drastically different from all previous concepts of librarianship. The future of librarians as information providers is not in a dazzling building, but in the world of cyberspace that resides in the hand-held devices of most library customers, and as an indispensable partner in the local and world communities. Librarians must both catch a vision of the 21st Century Library and Librarianship, as well as achieve them before 2020, or the local library will either be extinct, a reliquary, or simply a community civic center, with no librarians.


Albany (NY) Public Library even hosts a Readers Advisory Annual Conference whose “featured speaker is Cynthia Orr, winner of the 2004 American Library Association Margaret E.
Whether you overcome these challenges will determine whether you become a 21st Century librarian, and ultimately whether you, your library and your profession survive.
To ensure that future America is capable of participating in the global economy, a major priority is to teach information literacy to young people to be able to use all the technology effectively to access and manage information.
Even Gen Y customers are more technologically literate than most librarians, because the vast majority are Digital Natives, but very few of them are pursuing a career in librarianship.
They both also express exasperation from being asked that question routinely, which makes one wonder if the profession has any adequate answer. Generation Next adults will only access information on their mobile devices, and they will have information literacy skills far beyond any previous generation while living in local communities that are becoming more focused on global issues.
Regrettably, I think live story time will become a novelty at the local public library, simply because it will be so different from the other forms of exposure that children have to stories and reading. Smartphones with 4G wireless data transfer, touch screen and digital video recorder, have made the Jetson’s video phone a reality – and more dramatically – mobile. Digital Fugitive and Digital Native customers are at opposite ends of the customer service spectrum, but both deserve excellent library services.


In order to prepare for the increasingly more information literate Millennial customer, librarians need to become guides for information literate participants.
In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It will likely be the parents who appreciated story time when they were young who actually bring their children to the library.
Affects on libraries are obviously more than just the bad economy based on daily reports of unforeseen changes in all of the external factors that influence libraries and librarians. The following diagram is a broad generalization of where the generations fall within three types of library customers. Sites like amazon have reviews, recommendations and lists, shelfari has groups, as does good reads but they lack a community feeling of common interests you’d get from being on forums.



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