October 5, 2006

Email is for old people

Posted in Articles of Interest, Web 2.0 / Medical Library 2.0 at 11:33 am by Alexia

So says this report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, as cited in this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

A 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project called “Teens and Technology” found that teenagers preferred new technology, like instant messaging or text messaging, for talking to friends and use e-mail to communicate with “old people.” Along the same lines, students interviewed for this article say they still depend on e-mail to communicate with their professors. But many of the students say they would rather send text messages to friends, to reach them wherever they are, than send e-mail messages that might not be seen until hours later.

Ignoring the fact that we librarians just might qualify as “old people” this statement what can hospital librarians get out of this?  Unfortunately, more work for us if we wish to remain relevant to an upcoming generations of users.  Today’s undergraduate’s are tomorrow’s medical students, nursing students, residents, doctors, nurses and even administration.  Getting them into the library, both physicall and virtually, will require getting out to where they are as well as getting them to come to us.

Some students at the University of Maryland at College Park, for instance, say they would rather keep talking to professors and campus officials through e-mail.

“I like to separate my personal life from my school life,” says Amanda J. Heilman, a freshman studying animal sciences at the university.

Not only might our younger patrons wish to separate their personal from work life, we also have to remember our established patrons who have become used to what we do and are not as willing to try out new technologies.

How exactly might we reach these younger patrons?  Some of the universities in this article set up pages on MySpace.  I’m not seeing this happening in the hospital library world.  Honestly, our residents barely have time to eat let alone peruse MySpace on a regular basis.  Other universities offered a text messaging service.  I see this as a possibility.  I see patrons wanting to receive a text message when their searches are done or their articles have arrived.  And since most cell phone companies have a mechanism to sent text messages via a web form, all we would need is the phone number and cell provider and we’re good to go.  IM may be a trickier alternative.  At my place of work, most IM applications have been disabled.  That is unfortunate because I see IM as being potentially helpful for patrons who have a hard time physically coming to the library.  IM would offer a synchronous alternative to phone calls and email.

What does this all mean for us?  It means it’s as important as ever to keep up with new technologies and new uses for old technologies.  It means that we have the unenviable task of using the new technologies to draw in the younger generation of patrons without alienating our more established patrons.  It means finding a balance that is both effective and time-efficient.



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