next-gen-ism

Catching up on my LJ reading – I finally had time to read Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk on “Library 2.0”. Full of energy and enthusiasm, Casey and Savastinuk encourage library staff to focus on their users and communities – all of them – engaging patrons as participants and collaborators in the collections and services we offer. The key is not necessarily technology, they go on, but consistently planning, assessing, and adjusting our services – with constant input from and engagement with our users all the while. “If your organization combines … a framework for continual change and customer input integrated into other operations, it will be well on its way to becoming Library 2.0.”

I see the value in saying that something is “library 2.0” or a “next generation library.” It gives us a phrase for capturing ideas, energy, tools, and even a whole way of thinking about the changes or movements happening across the profession. This can be incredibly useful for gathering momentum around new initiatives, peaking curiosity, or simply gathering our thoughts – there’s always so much to take in professionally and sometimes it’s helpful to put things into containers. But something struck me as odd today when I re-read the headline: service for the next-generation library. What about services for libraries right now? Can you be next and now – at the same time?

Although I understand and appreciate the futurists in our professional circles as much as anyone, and I may sometimes be one myself, I wonder if there’s also something a bit condescending or smack-down-esque about the “next-gen” term. Does it conjure up a judgment or dismissal of our current colleagues who aren’t (for whatever reason) future-thinking? If we were all future-thinking could we open the doors, change the light bulbs, and run story-times? Maybe there are spaces or roles for some of us to be thinking about our traditions – and our current activities – in context with future trends or needs? Is there a way to balance it all? Take what’s valuable from each and pull it together into comprehensive, relevant services that bond library staff and patrons alike?

Maybe this is a given. Maybe I’m sensing something about next-gen-ism that really isn’t there for other folks. Let me be clear that I mean no disrespect to the great next-gen “tagged” materials out there. Like I said, a lot of this stuff has influenced my own thinking as I’ve come along in the profession. Part of my musing about this may be that I’m five years in now, and am not so next-gen myself (anymore) and so the term is bringing up questions I’ve never had before.

Is anyone else feeling like their next-gen-ism has flipped over into something else? Can you put whatever it has become to words? Would love your thoughts…