In this crazy world of social media and excitable librarians, often enough it’s a YouTube video that helps separate the wheat from the chaff in librarianship, or at least the serious from the ridiculous. They’re Rorschach tests for librarians. Where some librarians see "enthusiasm" or "cuteness," others see "stupidity" or "total embarrassment to the profession." Guess which side of the divide I fall into on this one: What digital natives want from their library.
In this, we hear from a genuine digital native! Well, sort of.
I’ve transcribed the video, just in case you can’t stand watching it for the entire minute. I wouldn’t blame you. I watched it so you don’t have to. It depicts a very cute 3-year-old girl holding a book and delivering the following plausible and impromptu monologue:
"Hi, I’m Abby…and I love libraries…and books…and storytime…but I’m a digital native…and I want an on-line library…that learns what I like…that has lots of multimedia…. I want everything to be quick and easy…. I want to be able to add my own stuff…and share other people’s stuff…I want to be able to do it all from my iPhone…or my ebook reader….I want even more mashed up content…semantic tagging…real time information…augmented reality…geospatial tagging…. I even love interactive touch screens… I know you’re all busy working on this…but I’m a digital native and I want it now…. hurry up and get cracking….ok, bye for now."
The crazy thing is, this was wholly genuine and spontaneous! It really is a "digital native" talking about what she wants, rather than a small child prompted to mouth whatever some grown librarians want us to believe she might want in the distant future.
I’m not sure whether to classify this video as child abuse or as further evidence that twopointopians and oneohonions have the mental development of toddlers. Maybe it’s both.
It starts off believably. Lots of toddlers love libraries and books and storytime. After that it becomes ridiculous. An online library that learns what she likes? I’ll admit my experience with toddler-thought is limited to my nephew when he was younger and a handful of twopointopian librarian blogs, but it seems to me that toddlers like making messes, thinking disjointedly, being the center of attention, and wandering from project to project without ever completing anything. We already know both toddlers and twopointopians like these things, so what else do we have to learn?
Add my own stuff? I don’t even want to know what she would add. Maybe some doodling. Share other people’s stuff? Yeah, that sounds like something toddlers like to do. Not share their stuff, but share other people’s.
And that child has an iPhone? and a Kindle? Oh, right, I forgot, every child has an iPhone and a Kindle in Twopointopia, because in that happy-go-lucky land everyone can afford them. In Twopointopia the rivers flow with chocolate, the mountains are topped with sugar, and shiny gadgets hang from the trees. And everyplace has free wifi.
I definitely believe that she’d like more mashed up content. Peas and carrots, probably. Maybe she can mash up that content and finger paint on her Kindle with it.
But semantic tagging? Augmented reality? Geospatial tagging? What sort of lunacy is this? How can other librarians look at stuff like this and not be embarrassed for the librarians who made this video. Why, oh why, are people subjecting their children to this foolishness.
The next sentence was just sad. Obviously this manipulated toddler had no idea what she was saying, but sometimes she wasn’t even saying it. The subtitles say "interactive touch screens," but I swear the child says she loves "interacting tough screens." Interacting tough screens is perhaps what we get when two car windows collide.
Finally, we find the common ground between toddlers and twopointopians. "I want it now." Yes, child, of course you want it now. You want everything now. That’s because you haven’t developed the capacity for rational thought or the ability to defer gratification like us grown-ups have. It’s an important lesson that children and twopointopians need to learn: we can’t have everything now. It’s not all about us.
I have two pleas. First, to parents. Please stop making your children parrot your beliefs. This video is the equivalent of small children waving placards at political rallies and chanting about how much they love limited government and strict constitutionalism or hate confiscatory taxation or warmongering plutocrats. I feel sorry for those children, just as I feel sorry for little Abby.
Second, to the twopointopians and oneohonions, please stop bombarding us with stuff like this. I say this for your own sakes, because I feel sorry for you as well. You just embarrass yourselves when you praise such tripe. We know you desparately want attention, but then you get all mad when people give you the attention you deserve. It would be less embarrassing for everyone from little Abby to shiny librarians if videos like this were never made or promoted.
I realize I’m harming myself here, because stuff like this is like gold for the AL, but I’m not thinking about myself. I’m thinking about the children, and the librarians who act like children. They say the children are our future, but they’re wrong. By the time the children become our future, most of them act like adults. If only we all could.