Saturday, April 18, 2009

Some Things I Have Learned about Teens

One of the things I have done at my library is develop a YA program - when I arrived there was small collection of YA books and ZERO YA programming (because when a library is under-funded, and in our case, under-staffed, this is the first area to be neglected). I am happy to say that 9 months later there is a nice collection, twice-monthly teen programs, and a Teen Advisory Group (TAG) with 10 pretty dedicated students. That's the good news.

I learned some of the "other news" at this morning's TAG meeting...

We were talking about advertising the next teen movie on Facebook - which works well for reaching the high school kids, but is not as effective at reaching the middle school kids - and I asked how I could get more kids to read the Teen page of the (new) library website. The answer: "We don't look at websites. Kids do Facebook, and that's about it. We'll Google if we have to for a school paper, and maybe check out Wikipedia, but, really, don't bother with the teen page."

Now, I'm not sure how surprised I was by that. One look at my stats tells me that no one looks at the teen page that I slaved away on for days - in spite of all the PR I have done - but I guess I was surprised to learn that high school students don't seem interested in surfing the web at all (gaming sites not withstanding). Oooookaaayyy....

Next up:
"So, I was thinking of having a workshop on blogging - would there be any interest in that?"
"Nah, we say everything we need to say on Facebook."
"Ok, what about Twitter?"
"Twitter is for old people. My mom is on Twitter. Which is cool, I guess, because I didn't know she even knew what Twitter is, but really, what's the point of Twitter?"
Well, I can't fault this question, since many people find no use for Twitter, and those that do are usually connected to a network of other like-minded adults. But again, I guess I was just surprised by the total lack of interest.

Moving on:
"I've noticed on some of your Facebook pages a lot of talk and excitemnet about college. Some of you are getting your acceptance letters back, the juniors are making the rounds visiting schools - what about a Get Ready For College workshop?"
"What do you mean? Like college work?"
"Well, yeah. Um, I noticed just now that you said that you use Google for your research papers. Uh, you can't really get away with that in college."
"What do you mean? How else do you find stuff?"

From here we discussed what, exactly, happens during their paper writing process: they use Google to find websites. They cite (if they are even required to have a works cited page) the websites. They are often required to have one or two "book" sources. They use Wikipedia. They cite Wikipedia (and sometimes get away with it). They LOVE SparkNotes and copy them profusely. NONE of them had ever heard of a "journal" or used a "database."

Back to reality:
"OK, so when you go to college in the fall, you will have to use databases and find journal articles and read books in order to do a paper properly. Wouldn't you like to learn some of that ahead of time? I can show you..."
"Nah. I mean, if we don't know about all that, we can't be the only ones - we'll figure it out when we get there."

Now, I feel I need to make something really clear, here - these kids, the kids in TAG, are the cream of the school's crop. Seriously. Top of the class. Members of band, theater, Student Council. One has been accepted to an Ivy. And not only do they not know what a database is, they have never been required to know.

At this point I must have looked stricken because one of the young men looked at me somewhat sadly and said, "This is why we're here - to tell you how it is and what we do. We're trying to help."

I feel really really old, and completely "uncool."