Libraries Innovate to Serve Digital Natives

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Libraries are essential in providing equitable access to digital resources for their communities.  Being born into the digital age does not guarantee access to digital technology; consequently, what exactly it means to come of age as a “digital native” is up for interpretation. Clearly, however, young people think differently about information: how to find it; how to assess it; how to share it; and how to create it. This poses challenges and opportunities for libraries to reach younger patrons in new and compelling ways.

Chicago Public Library applied the research of cultural anthropologist and author of Living and Learning with Digital Media, Mizuko Ito, to its founding principles for YOUmedia, a teen-centered learning, creative and social space at the city’s central library. With satellites across the city, YOUmedia supports connected learning in which teens engage in inquiry or creation in an area of their own choosing—independently or collaboratively, using state of the art resources, and with facilitation from librarians, digital mentors and guest artists.

Anecdotal evidence would suggest that digital natives turn to their screens with questions before they will approach other humans. At Portland State University, librarians developed a tool to help the library broaden the reach of its reference services. Library DIY is a self-service tool that guides students through an online reference interview towards resources needed to start a research project, locate materials, use library equipment, and more.

To those of us who are a bit older, digital natives seem to adapt to new technologies effortlessly. San Francisco Public Library taps into these abilities through its Teen Computer Corps—a program that pairs tech savvy teens with library patrons who need assistance with anything from basic operational questions to more advanced activities. The Teen Computer Corps also teaches library patrons how to avail themselves of the many digital resources available through the library.

Learn more about how libraries are innovating in response to societal trends on the Libraries Transform website.

Visit ALA's Center for the Future of Libraries for an indepth view into the impact of societal trends on libraries.

Center for the Future of Libraries

The Center for the Future of Libraries works to identify trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve; promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future; and build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues. Learn more at www.ala.org/libraryofthefuture.

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