'Student in the library, 1981' from LSE Library via Flickr
This week the Pew Internet Project released, Millennials Will Benefit and Suffer Due to Their Hyperconnected Lives, (PDF) a study which asked technology experts and industry stakeholders to reflect on whether the ‘younger generation’s always-on connection to people and information will turn out to be a net positive or a net negative by 2020’ (p2).
The results were split almost down the middle, with 55% agreeing that the brains of these serial multitasking young people will be positively impacted by their connectivity and 42% finding that the brains of these young people could be negatively impacted by their lifestyle (p2). The report makes for interesting reading, with expert thoughts on instant gratification, digital literacies, deep thought and how the next generation will consume information.
Also available are the credited responses to the survey, responses from those participants who chose to identify themselves and what their position is. Below are some reflections from library industry professionals who took part in the survey:
Helpful results can emerge from young people's future multitasking and technological abilities, but in order to prevent the negative effects, there must be a concerted focus on providing information literacy training at early ages. In middle school, we must ensure students learn how search engines work, why results are presented the way they are; they must learn the nature of Wikipedia, how its rules are determined, how entries are formed; they must learn why Facebook collects the data it does, its business model, etc. —Michael Zimmer, assistant professor in the school of information studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
I witness a tendency toward more collaborative, group-oriented learning and perhaps a preference for synthesis rather than analysis, which might be a more appropriate way to deal cognitively with a global, interconnected world than with an analytical model that deconstructs meaning and knowledge. It’s important to recognize some changes in cognitive styles and to find ways to engage those, rather than bemoaning a decline in intellectual abilities. —Emily Rogers, university reference and instruction librarian, based in Valdosta, Georgia
Society has changed in vast ways before (the printing press, the car, the telephone, the airplane, the Internet). Change naturally brings about scepticism and fear for some who have lived through different ways of life that are quickly changing. Youth tend to adapt more quickly to these changes (though not always), and in the end most changes have both good and bad components to them (the car brought wide mobility but negatively impacted the environment). Most broad societal changes are indifferent and can be used in either positive or negative ways; I think the past indicates a primarily positive picture and thus think that the Net gain will be positive. Plus, this overall change may not be as far-reaching as we think; many developing countries still don’t have resources that would make for such multitasking skills and thus large populations may remain unaffected even by 2020. —Starr Hoffman, librarian for digital collections for the University of North Texas; based in Frisco, Texas
Many fields have long been helped by collective intelligence (i.e., doctors consulting each other on hard cases), and broadening that out to all fields via the Internet and better collaborative technologies can only be a boon. —Sarah Vital, reference and instruction librarian at Saint Mary's College of California; based in the San Francisco Bay area, California
I take an optimistic view that is predicated on our being able to understand and support varying and emerging forms of digital literacy. —Robert Renaud, vice president for library and information services and CIO at Dickinson College; member, EDUCAUSE Advanced Core Technologies Initiative Design Group; based in Carlisle, Pennsylvania
So what does all of this mean for the library profession? How can we meet the needs of the hyper connected generation? How will it change the way we present our services and collections both online and in real life? Or will it change at all? Plus, how will these possible scenarios impact the next generation of librarians coming into the profession? 2020 is only 8 years away, so if even a few of these predictions come to fruition, is your organisation going to still be relevant to the incoming millennials?
A special thank you to Lyn Hay for alerting me to this report. You can follow Lyn on Twitter @lyn_hay and follow her blog Students Learn Through School Libraries
(Amy is currently an LIS student and works in a school library she can be followed on Twitter @unlikelylibrary)