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Magazines > Online > July/August 2005
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Online Magazine

Vol. 29 No. 4 — Jul/Aug 2005

The HomePage
Talk About My Generation
by Marydee Ojala
Editor • ONLINE

“It’s a generation thing.” I kept hearing this from bloggers at the Computers in Libraries conference last March, as they convinced themselves that only the young blog incessantly and that older attendees discounted their devotion to newer technologies, such as instant messaging and wikis. I’m still hearing it in various information professional venues, particularly recent graduates trying to find jobs in the library and information science profession. Put simply, I don’t believe it. I don’t think age has anything to do with adopting (and adapting to) new technologies, particularly when it’s information professionals we’re talking about.

Now I do agree that job hunting is a painful experience. Finding a job is difficult; finding a job you love is even more difficult. This is not, however, the first time period when jobs have been scarce in libraries and information departments. Those who received their graduate degrees in the mid-1970s also experienced a dearth of opportunities. That was the decade that saw the introduction of online databases and electronic information. Newly minted librarians proudly bragged of their cutting-edge online searching skills, frequently to potential employers who didn’t understand the power of the online force.

Those newly minted librarians of the mid-1970s are 30 years older. Does that mean they’ve suddenly lost their passionate belief in new technologies? I don’t think so. On the other hand, I’m not convinced that every young information professional today has a blog, prefers IM as a communication medium, adds folksonomies to data, or routinely contributes photos to Flickr. Some do, some don’t.

Being caught up in the excitement of creating new ways to access information is a heady experience. Some of the articles in this issue of ONLINE discuss practical uses of blogs, instant messaging, and chat reference. I’m excited that these authors consider ONLINE a cutting-edge, technologically savvy publication. I’ve always thought we were, but it’s rewarding to have that belief validated by newer entrants to the information profession.

All generations bring something unique to the table. Electronic information fundamentally changed how we viewed information. It became less linear. New access points evolved. But it was a small community that used and understood the first electronic information revolution. Social networking tools will move that process along. It is changing the definition of publishing, indexing, and librarianship. It expands the information community beyond libraries and information professionals. It’s the second electronic revolution and it’s not generation-specific.

Experimenting with technology, finding useful applications, and championing information access and creation is not a generational thing. It’s a mind-set, an attitude of openness, and a willingness to take risks. Let’s not have age wars interfere with the basic mission of the information professional—getting information to the people that need it, when they need it, and in the form they need it. Whatever their generation may be.


Marydee Ojala [marydee@xmission.com] is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters to the editor to marydee@xmission.com.

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