Net Gen Challenging Space

23 Feb

In reading Boon, L. (2008) [i], there are some interesting points that relate to library design as a response to the changing clientele that are worth noting while still fresh on the topic of atmospherics.

The clientele that Boon is referring to dubbed Net Gen or the Millenials; and Boon does use these terms interchangeably, have grown up during the age of the internet. A defining feature of this generation is a heavy reliance on the Internet for research. Often all research is conducted via the Internet using google with no physical sources accessed at any point. The reading and accessing of information occurs in a non-linear fashion and Net Gen proves particularly skilled at scanning, browsing and keyword spotting.

In this blogpost I wont be delving into the implications and challenges this poses for learning; such as critical evaluation of sources, in-depth analysis, synthesis, aspects of focus and attention or copyright and acknowledgement of sources. These and more are all concerns that are worth elaborating upon in another blogpost where the consequence this has defining the role of the Teacher Librarian can be examined.  Instead, I wish to focus on the implications this has for both physical and virtual spaces of a school library and the consequent effects on the physical resources of the school library.

The advent of the Internet and the expansion of resources online has been a challenge for school libraries. This has contributed to the introduction of physical spaces to accommodate these changes. Examples include the shift to computer pods and spaces in libraries, the use of Smart boards and media rooms, the shift to online catalogues and so on.

While technology has impacted on libraries and library design there has been another more pressing and pertinent push in how a library operates from a spatial concept. This challenge is precipitated by the school library clientele and in particular students. The interesting point raised by Boon is the ease of  Net Gen in using technology and the fact that technology happens to be the mode of communication and language that this generation is most comfortable with. It is this last point that connects largely to what is particularly important in terms of the library within a school context. The library becomes the conduit between student and the wider school in its ability to be able to accommodate this language that Net Gen feels comfortable with.

Boon purports that the Library can bring students into learning by connecting with students via their favoured way of sourcing information. Hence, the creation of Virtual Libraries and the extension of the virtual space of the library in terms of access points. A student should be able to research from remote points outside the library, from home, via Ipads or Iphones and still be able to access the online resources of the school library.

The consequence for School Libraries is a shrinking of physical resources as many become available online and an expansion of virtual spaces and availability of library resources and curriculum needs via the virtual library. It must be stressed at this point, that Boon links the shrinking of physical resources as being resources linked to scholarly research or information based sources, as more and more resources are available on line in full text form.

On the other hand, a second important function of the library is to connect the student to the love of reading for leisure and hence contribute to a development of lifelong learning through literature. It is this point that is most interesting. For Boon stresses the extension of the fiction section in libraries in terms of physical resources. Thereby promoting the library as a place of enjoyment and comfort in the pursuit of reading for leisure.

In terms of design, I love this idea. It brings my mind back to the time of my weekend visits to the State Library of NSW where I went to spend time studying. Invariably, I always managed to find my way to the comfy one-seaters where I could slowly sink and hide behind a book of enjoyment. (And Yes I often was trying to escape my study responsibility while doing this but it is still categorised as a favourite pastime!)

[i] Boon, L. (2008). I want it all and I want it now!”: the changing face of school libraries. In J. R. Kennedy, L. Vardaman, & G. B. McCabe (Eds.), Our new public, a changing clientele: bewildering issues or new challenges for managing libraries (pp. 173-177). Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited


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