Yesterday, Stephen Abram blogged about how generations are labelled. He was prompted by a recent YPulse press release that announced that Millennials don’t like being called Millennials and Gen Xers hate that title too. This isn’t exactly news, but I appreciated Abram’s closing remark:
Of course every generation hates being labelled. There’s been a whole bunch of kevelling on some blogs recently about this (interestingly by my unscientific survey mostly by Gen X bloggers. it seems to occur every year around the time of the Beloit fun list.) People forget that the Millennial label was the result of a huge survey done by ABC years ago where Millennials chose it. As soon as something becomes a label many people reject it. It’s pretty funny actually. Then again, you have to get over it. If I spent as much time rejecting labels as some folks do and rejecting the label Boomer and trying to prove I am not a stereoype I’d never get anything done. Labels are useful in the moment for conversations and then we move on. Hopefully mature people recognize diversity in any cohort.
I guess I should stop rolling my eyes every time somebody starts talking about Millennials, and focus on what they say after that. I think Abram hits the issue on the nose, in that people often rely on these cute labels to paint everybody with the same brush in a certain age group. Instead of lumping a bunch of people into a stereotype, why not examine that population for a better understanding? I seem to face this in two different ways professionally- other librarians pandering to users, and the profession trying to understand the “NextGen” (an equally idiotic term) librarians.
Trying to pigeon-hole Millennial patrons seems pretty insulting to me, but I guess that’s because I’m technically one. When people start arguing about the need to follow the patron and infiltrate their on-line life by using Facebook or Second Life, it seems that they forget to ask themselves if it’s going to pay off. Will these wild Millennials actually respond to service there? (Nevermind that most of the Millennials I deal with seem to either hate or be blissfully ignorant of Second Life.) That’s not to say that the new generation don’t have a different relationship with information than previous ones, but that you need to think about what you’re doing before jumping onto some tool. Detach it from the brand and look at the function.
This cuts back to the profession. I’m tired of being told that the new, NextGen, Millennial librarians only want to work with websites and blogs. Really? Every single one of them? That’s not to say that a bunch of us love dabbling in that world, and that it’s a new field of the profession, but it’s not for everybody. That’s just another annoying stereotype, which I guess I validate, but that’s a whole other issue.