Based on the discussions i had at IFLA 2010 conference in Göteborg, some sort of new or young professional identity has been on the rise in various places. At least Swedish, Danish, German and Latvian colleagues seemed to suggest, that some sort of movements had been emerging in their countries. A handful of common themes seem to emerge among these movements, if they can be seen as separate movements at all. Such themes include failure to stay relevant in the digital age, repressive organizational models, lack of quality library management, uninnovative workenvironment, poor employability and education not being relevant for the worklife.
I don’t know what this is a signal of, if anything at all.
An argument of mine is, that in the discussion about the so called generational digital divide, the divide is seen only from the point of view of the senior generation. In the library world it is not uncommon to hear someone express worries, that the digital natives are now/soon becoming library patrons, and library should become relevant in their lifes too. This is of course true.
However, it should be observed that the first generations who grew up with computers are already within the ranks of librarians themselves, and are becoming established deep within the profession. The Commodore 64 for example, was released in 1982, followed by Amiga and the legendary Nintendo Entertainment System NES in 1985. People who were born into a world with home-computers in middle-class homes, might now already have school-aged children of their own. People who were born in 1994, when the World Wide Web was introduced, are graduating from highschools very soon. People who started school that year in 1994, are now graduating from LIS-programmes in universities and entering our profession.
Above are some calculations of only the information society history. Similar observations could – and indeed should – be made about other developments, for instance Cold War, the popular InterRail -system since 1972, neoliberalism and global capitalism in the modern sense and thatcherism, gaining distance from the socialdemocrat project and so forth. Mental history and psychohistory of librarianship would be a very fascinating thing to reflect on!
To make a long story short: new library professionals might have quite a different view of the world than senior librarians. The generational digital gap is not something that looms between librarians and library patrons. It is a fact within the libraryworld itself. Thus, the digital gap must be acknowledged and taken seriously also from the younger point of view.
Of course my information from the countries listed in the beginning of this post are mere random rumours. I think IFLA’s NPSIG can have an absolutely crucial key role here, bringing together these movements and at least helping them be aware of each other. But what concrete could this mean? Perhaps some sort of a network of activists, who would regularly chat about some aspect of “new professionalism” over some instant messaging system, Skype or somesuch. New professionals could also agree on some mechanisms to solve common problems. Another idea is to compose a graphical timeline of key events, to serve as a backbone for reflection.
How does this sound to you, do you think the generational digital gap works two ways?