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."

16 comments:

thelady said...

I kind of picked up on the whole "Twitter is for adults" thing but I didn't realize the only sites they looked at for entertainment/news was Facebook. I'm a cataloger and I admit I use google or wikipedia to do subject cataloging. Sometimes LCSH doesn't have the common form of a term cross referenced.
I only had to write 2 real research papers in high school. The rest of the papers we were given all of the sources by the teacher.

joshroby said...

Don't be fooled; Facebook is blogging — just a highly structured, very aggregated sort of blogging. The current crop of kids are growing up on Web 2.0, which means their interface is aggregated and targeted. They don't go out and get information, they set up filters and subscribe to feeds that brings the information to them (even if they don't realize that's what they're doing).

On the other hand, teachers who allow encyclopedias like wikipedia as sources are giving their students a profound disservice. :(

Megan said...

Sigh... I'm not surprised by this. Of course, students may not know what a "database" is but may know it by name. We've found that when we ask first-years about searching databases, they're blank, but when we ask about searching in proquest or infotrac they perk up a bit more.

Still. GAH.

Library girl said...

I taught my kids how to research. Without a librarian for a mother, they would not have known how because it is not taught in schools.

Chatty Kathy said...

really I'm not surprised. That's what makes the freshman year so tough for many kids, but then again, in today's society we have many many many more people continuing on to get Master's and PhD's because that's now the smartest group....no longer those with Bachelor's degrees. Having a bachelor's degree almost means nothing nowadays.

Chatty Kathy said...

"nowadays" -- Haha! that's pretty lame!

Spencer said...

Thank you for sharing this information. It doesn't surprise me too much, though it does remind me how much of an uphill climb academic librarians have. This complacent attitude is pretty common for the teens and undergrads--not desirable but common.

Still, I'm always wondering who new freshmen and other undergrads really are and what they do, so your blog post here has been useful in addressing my interest.

ri lemon law said...

My 13-year-old and her friends are all into Myspace and not really into Facebook. It's a social thing more than educational, a different way to keep in touch outside of texting.

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Winnie M said...

"The cream of the crop?" So, these are the kids that bullied and excluded my son and his friends in high school. These are the kids that can afford to wear the latest clothes and attend the ivy league schools. These are the kids who are in class (and at the library) sucking up to adults. My son and his friends were the ones cutting class and putting fear into the local librarians when they went in the library because of the way they dressed. And yet . . I once heard a discussion of hockey morph into a discussion of the work of daVinci and Michelangelo. These are not stupid people. They have all gone into fields they enjoy (my son is a chef) and one of them is PhD teaching biology at a university. So, what are you doing to make the mariginalised teens feel welcome in your library? What about the ones who can't afford the technology? The ones who wouldn't be welcome at a program with your "cream of the crop"?

Katya Pereyaslavska said...

OMG! I am loving your blogs! I think its about time that librarians should start promoting our field and at the very least seem somewhat awesome!

having said that I just started a http://theapatheticlibrarian.blogspot.com/

LOL! Look at me...the depressed!

The Apathetic Librarian said...

OMG! I am loving your blogs! I think its about time that librarians should start promoting our field and at the very least seem somewhat awesome!

having said that I just started a http://theapatheticlibrarian.blogspot.com/

LOL! Look at me...the depressed!

Anonymous said...

This is great..Sometimes schooling is tired. Have some time to relax. Try joining Teen Chat in one of the famous Dating Chat Rooms to meet new friends.

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