Open Conversation: About Trust

openconversationlogoJan: Hi Michael. I enjoyed the slides of your Hyperlinked School Library: Explore, Engage, Celebrate keynote at ASLA 2009 (Australia School Library Association) very much and I want to ask you some questions about it. Talking about the continuous online computing Generation Y or Google Generation you pose the question: “How can we help them to be good digital citizens”. I wonder how you see the difference between ‘good citizens’ (which most baby boomers think they are) and ‘good digital citizens’?

Michael: Jan, greetings from Queensland, Australia! You hit on an important question. Maybe there isn’t much of a distinction these days between being a good citizen and a good digital citizen. However, issues surrounding privacy and sharing personal information via social networks and future social tools are part of digital citizenship and should be part of educational programs in schools and libraries.

Jan: You say: “Technology has caused students to approach life differently, to adults nothing has changed”. Is there a growing gap between adult citizenship and the moral values of the Google Generation?

Michael: That’s a quote from UK Web Focus Brian Kelly. It speaks to the changes covered in books like Born Digital ? digital natives have grown up with access to the internet. Technology is woven throughout the fabric of their lives, it’s not an add on as it is for some adults. Some digital natives are totally plugged in while others at the other side of the line might use some tools only. Same can be said for adults; power user digital immigrants might live and breathe iPhones, Facebook and ‘always on’ continuous computing, while other not so digital counterparts still record appointments in a daily diary. It’s a continuum of use and adoption that’s fluid and ever-changing. It’s never too late to immigrate into a more digital lifestyle — to whatever level of use you are comfortable with. Sure, there’s a gap but it’s easily closed. I’d suggest immigrants work a bit to understand what the natives are up to and for the natives to learn from the immigrants as well — especially in libraries, where seasoned staff understand institutional memory and culture.

Jan: You talk about ‘performing a kindness audit under library staff. This will undoubtedly reveal some unfriendly types in the library. How can we change the unfriendly ones? Is there a positive trend in changing from distrust to trust?

Michael: I’m really taken with the current discussions of kindness in libraries. Isn’t it part of our mission? It should be. Unfriendly types might need a bit of gentle coaxing and engagement to understand that the role of the library — school or public — is a bit different than it used to be. Voices may be raised. Games might be played. Sometimes an unfriendly attitude, as evidenced by signage and policy, is simply a way of trying to control or deal with the unknown. Talking to young users about their needs and interests is a great first step to coming together. Trusting them is too. Anecdotally, I’ve heard that the teens who use library services will follow guidelines and contribute when given a level of trust and freedom instead of hard rules and barriers. David West, senior manager at Moreton Bay Region Libraries, a speaker on a panel with me today at the Queensland Public Library Association meeting, said by encouraging Runescape play amongst a group of young boys at his library, they were now ‘engaged in the life of the library’. That’s certainly what we want for our digital natives who’ll grow up appreciating what the library offers.

Note from Michael: In 2009 and 2010, I wrote a column for a Dutch library magazine called Digitale Bibliotheek with Jan Klerk, Librarian at City Library of Haarlem Netherlands. Our editor, Karolien Selhorst, gave me the go ahead to republish the columns here. We wrote and published these pieces in English. Called “Open Conversation,” the articles gave Jan and I a chance to discuss all sorts of topics related to libraries, technology and trends. We took some unique approaches during our time writing together. I appreciated this chance to collaborate on an international level.