CIL 2009: New Strategies for Digital Natives

Speaker: Helene Blowers

Begins with a video of a 1yo. unlocking and starting up a Preschool Adventure game on an iPhone, and then paging through images in the photo gallery. Joey is a digital native and the future of library users.

Digital natives are those born after 1980. When they were 1, IBM distributed the first commercial PC. Cellular phones were introduced at the age of 3. By the time they were 14, the internet was born.

Web 1.0 was built on finding stuff, Web 2.0 was built on connecting with other users and share information. Digital natives are used to not only having access to the world through the internet, but also engaging with it.

Business Week categorized users by how they interact with the internet and their generation. This clearly lays out the differences between how the generations use this tool, and it should inform the way we approach library services to them.

Digital native realities:

  • Their identity online is the same as their in-person identity. They grew up with developing both at the same time, as oppose to those who came before. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flixster, and LinkedIn are the top five online social networks, according to a report in January. How many of them do you have an identity in?
  • The ability to create and leave your imprint somewhere is important to digital natives. According to the Pew Internet & American Life, those who participate in social networks are more likely to create unique content than those who do not.
  • We are seeing a shift from controlled information to collaborative information, so digital information quality has become important and a personal responsibility to digital natives. After a study showed that Wikipedia was as accurate as Britannica resulted in EB adding a wiki layer to their online presence.
  • Digital natives have grown up in a world they believe to be safe, whether it is or not. Less than 0.08% of students say that they have met someone online without their parents knowledge, and about 65% say that they ignored or deleted strangers that tried to contact them online. However, that doesn’t stop them from intentionally crossing that line in order to rebel against rules.
  • Digital opportunity is huge. There are no barriers, the playing field has been leveled, access is universal, connection ubiquitous, and it’s all about me.
  • Digital sharing is okay. It’s just sharing. They aren’t concerned with copyright or ownership. Fanfic, mashups, remixes, parodies… Creative Commons has changed the way we look at ownership and copyright online.
  • Privacy online and in their social networks is not much of a concern. Life streams aggregate content from several social networks, providing the big picture of someone’s online life.
  • What you do online makes a difference — digital advocacy. This was clear during the US presidential election last year.

What does this mean for libraries? How do we use this to support the information needs of our users?

Think about ways to engage with virtual users — what strategies do we need in order to connect library staff and services with users in meaningful ways? Think about ways to enrich the online experience of users that then enhances their experiences in the physical library and their daily lives. Think about ways to empower customers to personalize and add value to their library experience so that they feel good about themselves and their community.