ALA update #4
One of the more interesting sessions I attended at ALA this year was “RU Communicating: speaking the language of Millenials,” a program on student information seeking habits, library use, and how we should reach these students.
The first speaker emphasized that students don’t read emails. Instead, they text message, use IM, and communicate within FaceBook and MySpace.
Students do notice and read posters, so we should continue to use posters to inform.
For many students, the increasingly ubiquitous computing and communication tool is the smart phone, replacing the laptop and desktop for many functions: computing, email, IM, web surfing, watching videos, blogging, etc. Therefore, our web pages should be PDA compliant.
A new term to me: Lifecasting, i.e. putting the details of your life on the web (FaceBook and other social networking sites). Librarians should consider using these sites to reach our users. Some libraries are linking FaceBook with Blackboard to be where the students are.
Another speaker focused on the need to “tell our story” to our users. These stories can illustrate our values and promote our services. She said that a library’s story might be that we are the information hub for our campus. Interesting since that mirrors our vision statement: To be Loyola’s gateway to the world of information and scholarship.
Replace negative signage (Don’t do this or that) with welcome signs and signs that encourage good behavior like cell phone courtesy.
Does our story say “this is a place where I can be productive?” Does it say “this is a place where I can meet with friends and work together?” I’d say yes for the Loyola University Chicago libraries!
The bottom line for academic libraries should be “we want you to succeed!”
The third speaker, Maria Radford from Rutgers, has done extensive research on virtual reference and in the process learned a lot about the Millenials (our current crop of students). She was very humorous but also made some sobering comments including “Millenials haven’t stopped using email—they’ve never used email!”
She quoted a colleague who stressed that the challenge to academic libraries is to match our services to the needs and characteristics of Millenials and not just continue our old ways of doing things.
The Millenials are what she described as “convenience seekers” since for them, convenience is a major consideration in information seeking. They have a low tolerance for complex searching and they prefer online resources. They prefer “click to brick,” that is they’d rather be online than come to the physical library. She was quick to point out that there are of course exceptions to this behavior, just as all Baby Boomers are not alike. But the trend is real.
She cited another writer who stated that “Students don’t want to learn to use a library—they want to get their work done.” They want to be independent information seekers.
She asked the audience “Are our libraries organized the way our users want or they way we want them to be organized?”
These three librarians were followed by two students from a nearby university, one an undergrad and a grad student. Both said they mainly use the Internet for research and only go to the library when they have to, e.g. to get a reserve item or locate articles they can’t find on Google. How typical these two young ladies were is anyone’s guess, but it sure gave us something to think about.
A final thought: Our IC was built with the Millenials in mind and it has been wildly successful. But our work is not done. We have to continually adapt to a rapidly changing world of technology while users needs change and expectations grow each year. We must be proactive and listen to our students and faculty. What can we do to achieve our vision of becoming Loyola’s gateway to information and scholarship while meeting the needs of a constantly changing user community?