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* Monday, November 7, 2005

Digital Utes

US Youth Use Internet to Create

“The Pew American and Internet Life Project research suggested that 12 to 17-year-olds look to web tools to share what they think and do online.

It also said they were much more likely than adults to read and have a weblog.

The report found that those who did have blogs were far more likely to remix and share music and images.

A third said they shared their own work - artwork, photos, stories, or video - with others online. Girls were more likely to do so than boys - 38% compared with 29%.

Nearly one in five who use the net said they used other people's images, audio or text to help make their own creations….

‘These teens were born into a digital world where they expect to be able to create, consume, remix, and share material with each other and lots of strangers,’ Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, told the BBC News website.

‘In a very literal sense, the whole world's a stage for them.’ ” [BBC News]

What excellent timing for this report to come out! Very interesting statistics, however I know that every librarian out there is reading this report and thinking, “But what about the kids that don’t have access to the knowledge or tools to do this?” That’s the participation gap, and I think libraries need to start thinking about somehow filling it. I’ll be the first to admit that it won’t be easy, but we’re probably these kids’ only hope.

Of course, this report should also have you asking yourself if these kids can mash your library’s content into that mix, and I don’t just mean what’s in your catalog or databases. No, I mean your online guides, local history projects, podcasts, events (both online and offline), blog posts, RSS feeds, and more. What kind of an online presence does your library even have available to them for this kind of thing? It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it?

I just can’t resist a few more excerpts from the article because it’s so illustrative of what I’ve been trying to say on this site.

“The research noted that those who blogged were also far more likely to use instant messaging, search for news, and buy online.”

Is your library offering IM reference yet? If not, you should be. And we should be using blogs, RSS, and aggregators to teach better searching (and information literacy in general).

“A third (31%) said they downloaded video so that they could watch them when they wanted.”

This generation is completely shifted, and it’s what they expect. You have to start shifting your services so that they can take advantage of them when they need them and where they need them. Don’t just sit there waiting for them to walk up to the reference desk in your physical building.

“Out of those young people who do download music and video from the web, 75% of them agreed that downloading and file-sharing was so easy that it was unrealistic to expect people not to do it.”

Don’t you long for the day you could hear kids talk about online library services as being “so easy that it was unrealistic to expect people not to do it!”

“ ‘These teens would say that the companies that want to provide them entertainment and knowledge should think of their relationship with teens as one where they are in a conversational partnership, rather than in a strict producer-consumer, arms-length relationship,’ he said.”

This gets back to the whole 4Cs thing I’ve been talking about lately regarding social software and library websites: conversation, community, commons, and collaboration. These kids want interactivity, and they want to be able to contribute. And that includes contributing to their libraries, if we let them.

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