SuicideGirls Wonder What ALA is Thinking

SuicideGirlsBy reading Library Shrine, I just discovered that the SuicideGirls posted some thoughtful commentary regarding the recently concluded American Librarian Association (ALA) conference in D.C. The commentary isn’t exactly glowing… But it is extremely insightful. It’s also exactly what today’s Librarianship needs, critical commentary about library related issues by a key demographic, young half-naked goth girls. I’m dead serious. The SuicideGirls called ALA on some really dumb stuff, things I myself commented on over at Inside Higher Ed.

Apparently, during the conference ALA guest speakers discussed how librarians can better reach teens. They talked about how teens are “digital natives” and, therefore, need to be approached differently than other generations stressing exploration at their own pace, and a kid glove approach to instruction. Playing video games was the foundation of the discussion, and stressed repeatedly throughout. I do believe that gaming in libraries should be more prevalent. However, what really irritated me was the following comment by James Paul Gee, “’Lowered consequences of failure’ is a key value to embrace.”

I don’t think that letting teens fumble about aimlessly “discovering” how things work in the library is a good idea. Nor do I think that we should expect less of teens today than we have in the past. As I commented over at Inside Higher Ed, when we start talking about diminishing consequences, we should be prepared to lower our expectations as well. I’ll let the SuicidGirls have the last word here. They really do represent the demographic we are trying to reach, so their thoughts are of paramount importance: “Onward, soldiers, toward a brighter and more intelligent future for tomorrow’s youth. Let’s not everybody rush all at once.”

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~ by Woeful on July 2, 2007.

23 Responses to “SuicideGirls Wonder What ALA is Thinking”

  1. Anyone ever sneak a Subway sandwich in? Also, do skate rats like to do tricks in the parking lot?

  2. So. Um. Did Needham previously work for Fox News?

    Cripes, it is bad enough news programs have become unintelligible forays into sensationalism, bad journalism, propoganda and misinformation — if libraries go that way too the whole f_cking county is done for.

  3. Hi Max: I have no idea what these people are thinking. Needham is actually a VP at the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). This is the organization that provides all of the Machine Readable Cataloging Records (MARC) to most of the libraries Worldwide. I can only hope that the news writers got things way out of context.

    When I was in library school (not too long ago), the buzz was about exemplary customer service. There’s a lot of talk in the profession right now about Web 2.0 and how libraries can adapt these technologies to help keep teens coming back. In fact, the term “Library 2.0” has been used to define a nebulous paradigm that extends beyond technology to other areas of library service… As in, “that” can be more 2.0! More “social.”

    Subsequently, many libraries now provide IM reference services, experiment using cutting edge gizmos like Twitter, provide access to video games, and some have even set up shop in Second Life. This is all exciting stuff, but in the end we shouldn’t sacrifice civilization on the altar of technology just to get one more Irregular into the building.

  4. Most of my current experience with library services is writers cut off who are in my workshop who have to use the library to access the workshop because either their cable or their computer is down.

    The number one problem there is an inability to print out enough pages and a stop watch on internet/computer access.

    These are not twelve year olds. Which apparently is the demographic what’s his name is looking for. These are adults trying to utilize facilities at libraries.

    They have one similar problem though. A time cut off on the computer.

    If you are attempting to read and critique pages, you cannot do it in a 30 minute session. You are watching the clock. And especially cannot do it if you cannot print out the pages.

    And games? There is a serious misunderstanding of computer games going on here if anyone thinks “teenage” concentration is “short” and playing computer games takes something like five minutes. “Games,” if you are good, take hours.

    Your people are nimrods. No offense.

  5. It’s a numbers issue; people, PCs, and $$$. There are only two ways to provide enough access, shorten the duration, or buy more PCs. We would LOVE to buy more PCs, but we hardly have any budget (think microscopic fractions of each tax cent), so we usually wind up shortening the duration to provide enough access instead.

    You would be amazed by how many people want that 30-45 minute slot! We could probably cut it down to 15-20 and still be booked solid all day long. And that’s on machines still running Windows 98! We work magic with stone knives and bearskins. Actually, shortening the duration is better for us because when the bean counters see the statistics on how many people used the service, it provides a certain level of job security, and might even make them poney up more cash… But we would really rather buy more PCs if given the choice. That said, we also provide open WiFi access to ease the burden on the fixed workstations as well.

    Games do take a long time, and that’s probably where they got the idea for the lamely named after hours “LAN parties” where people (kids) could monopolize the machinery… Again, probably based on a first-come-first-serve basis (and time and a half for the presiding employees)… That pesky budget thing again.

  6. Well I have a short attention span. I can only mantain some sort of horrific subject matter for so long.

    Wait, maybe that applies to teens. Hmm.

  7. When it comes down to it, teens do aimlessly discover things on their own all the time and would much rather do so then come and ask a librarian to help them. I’m not saying that it’s the only way that they should be learning how to use a library. Definitely not, but we need to be realistic about this. If we can’t prevent question anxiety and we can make library systems more intuitive for them then lets do it. Is it lowering the bar? I’m not going to try to argue that. What I will argue is that our current system is cumbersome and gaming inspired technology will at least get them started and get them searching. It may also ease question anxiety and make them more open to asking the librarian for help, so they can implement this idea of “training on demand”. This has nothing to do with a generation feeling as though they are entitled or because they think they’re special. I’m tired of hearing about Twenge and her Generation Me messed up slanted study. They think differently, they search differently, they play differently. That’s what we need to focus on, not whether they will meet “our expectations” or not.

  8. Woeful I’m not sure why it is a bad idea to let teens wander around and make discoveries on their own. This is how I learned most of what I know – exploration and, well, lots of serendipity.

  9. Yes, teens (and elderly blind folks) find stuff on their own in the library all the time… It takes them ten times longer, and they tend to disrupt everything the encounter along the way. The teens are loud like the elderly folks too, but the elderly are loud because they are going deaf, and the teens are loud because they’re obnoxious. Teens also tend to aimlessly roam in groups which annoys some patrons, while intimidating others. This alienates an entirely different demographic.

    While I do think it’s a good idea for teens to explore the library on their own, I believe everyone would benefit if it was done without the Ring Dings, Coke, cell phones, and all the other ensuing chaos along the way. They “think” like self-absorbed brats, because many are. They are beautiful and unique snowflakes, their parents told them so! What they really need, is Red Foreman from “That 70’s Show” to kick them in their asses.

    *** Welcome the the new interactive ADHD-OPAC, it comes complete with pretty music, pretty colors, and lots of pretty buttons to click away at like a monkey. If you can’t intuitively find what you’re looking for, the librarian will be over shortly to coddle you because you now “demand it.” Had you asked the librarian at the beginning, you would already have what you need, and wouldn’t have annoyed all the other patrons for the last hour. Have a nice day 🙂 ***

    Anyway, the SuicideGirls’ article clearly illustrates (directly from the demographic in question), that the approach the profession is taking is dumb. They are telling us flat-out that the prescribed approach is asinine.

  10. Woeful, how the hell can you say that that SuicideGirl article represents an entire demographic. It doesn’t. It’s one person who wrote one blog article. It’s not legit research, it’s opinion. It gives plenty of food for thought but it doesn’t give good reason to dismiss a perfectly reasonable idea just because one talented writer found it to be a useful promt for a snarky article, which is pretty much all SuicideGirls does. It’s sarcasm. Good sarcasm. Would you tell a teen to use this article in their own research? Have you even ever done any research on teens and information literacy? Or do you judge teens simply from what you see, or watch on That 70’s Show, or read on SuicideGirls.

  11. In no way did I mean to imply that the SuicideGirls, or the author of the post in question represents the entire teen demographic, however, the author is certainly representative of one of the key (snarky) demographics we are trying so desperately to persuade and, therefore, the author’s opinion matters. Max also had some really salient observations as to why “we” are nimrods. These are good points that really made me think about why we do some of the things that we do.

    I judge people solely by their actions. Sadly, bad behavior is not the exception, it’s the norm where I work. This isn’t limited to teens either, it begins with their parents.

    Carlene, do you believe that, “’Lowered consequences of failure’ is a key value to embrace”? This is what originally prompted me to write this post… The Suicideirls part was just (really nice) icing!

  12. Teenagers are bored. That is why they roam around in packs and why they cause disruptions. They are bored. Does anyone coming up with these ideas remember what it is like to be a teenager? It totally sucks and is boring as hell so you go look for things to do that are interesting and if there is one reason games are interesting, it is because they are hard. Not because they are easy. Or dumbed down. Because they are difficult and a challenge. Attempts to dumb things down at the library is the wrong approach and a misinterpretation of why games are challenging and interesting to teens. And it will backfire.

  13. I don’t interpret it the way you do…you see it as “lowering the bar”, dumbing things down, expecting less of them. I believe in treating people, not just teens, according to who they are not who we wish they were. Right now teens aren’t very good at finding good information (see Mary K. Chelton, Sondra Hirsch). I think this idea of “lowered consequences of failure” has more to do with focusing on a process first, then the outcome. I also think, my main peeve with you’re comments right now actually stems from the persistent “spoiled brat”, “oh they think they’re so entitled” , “they just need a good kick in the ass” talk. No offense, I realize you maybe being sarcastic also but I just find it to be a useless distraction from what could be a perfectly good discussion about how best to serve customers.

  14. Carleen, this isn’t Crossfire, it’s The Daily Show. If you wanted a meaningful dialog, you should have catalyzed that on your own blog instead of writing the following glib comment, “I was tickled to discover that they have picked up on some library news.”

    Now, I didn’t go over to your house and take a nice big dump on the porch did I? Yet you come over here and call what I do, “useless.” I for one am tickled to death that they think we’re so hip. Thanks for the love.

  15. Woeful, I was thinking of saying your blog is informational and entertaining at the same time. But I wasn’t going to bother you. Then I saw what Carleen said above. So I decided to let you know that I appreciate the excellent work you are doing, and I really appreciate your humor. Good humor is often a sign of great intelligence. Keep it up!

  16. Thanks Safe! I primarily blog as a way to let off steam. This isn’t meant to be a serious forum for professional discussion. Although at times, I do raise some “professional” issues I always try to keep it light (while enlightening). I conduct my professional discussions over at professional library forums either as Woeful, or as myself. The funny thing is, the SuicideGirls thing was an afterthought. I posted as Woeful on a professional academic forum with my thoughts on the subject first, and I was going to let it go at that. Then, I saw the post over at Shrine and I couldn’t resist hooking into the SuicideGirls angle here…

    Like the epaper story. Just as I was wondering about how that technology is progressing, I read a web page over on StumbleUpon discussing it. I did a little research, and discovered that the prototype delivery device resembles a dildo. Perfect blog fodder! All kidding aside, I have high hopes for this technology. I think it’s going to play an important role in how (and what) people read in the future.

  17. Woeful, I understand what you are saying. I keep forgetting what century it is — and I’m relating my own experiences in the library to those of others. I’m thinking of how nice and quiet I was in the library but that was another time another era.

    Now there are cell phones and other modern day distractions that can be quite annoying I’m sure…

  18. It’s a tough balancing act, making it a friendly place that people feel welcome to use, while keeping some semblance of civility.

  19. Woeful, I imagine it’s really no different from a movie theater. People smacking gum and the constant whispering (if they’re not downright having a convo), the loud chomp of food…yes, those things make me want to get medieval on someone’s ass.

    I think it’s about high time I step foot into a library again. The last time I’ve been was 2003. Can you believe it? I even ripped off some books. Well, I mean, I didn’t take them back. I moved and I kept the books.

    I wonder if that is common? You’ve probably written about it somewhere…

  20. Tisk tisk Stiletto… If you still have them, I’m sure they’d be grateful if you mailed the books back. If you live near a library, get a card, it’s free and I’m sure they lend DVDs and CDs. Free is a lot cheaper than Netflix! Hehehe, Then, maybe you can pass along some of your own library stories as well.

  21. I”m not even sure what I took. I”m sure it is somewhere on my shelf. My new library is within walking distance. I hope it’s not as bland as the people who live near me. It’d be great if I unearthed a whole community of freaks. Then they’d wonder why I was hanging out so much.

  22. […] I got myself in trouble the other day. Woeful librarian picked up on my link to the SuicideGirls article and posted his thoughts about it […]

  23. Hey I hope yer doing okay, been thinkin about you lots
    ~Blake

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