Generational Divide: How Does this Affect Librarians?

This post is a response to  the article written by Mike Males. In it, Males analyzes the generational gap between teens and adults, and how this affects the library.

“Are generational divisions so irreconcilable that libraries must physically separate young people from older patrons, perhaps to the point of restricting or banning youth from adult library spaces or libraries themselves?”

(Males, 2013, p. 152).

I believe that older generations will always be threatened by younger ones. When rock music was first popular, older generations criticized the “punks” who listened to music that they considered blasphemous. In a time where technology has become such a significant part of our lives, older generations view youth today as spoiled and lazy. The younger generation is glued to their phones, obsessed with Pokemon Go, and blind to the world around them.

Teens also will never escape the stigma that they are stupid, angsty, and driven by their hormones. That, it seems, is a stereotype that every new generation of teens will endure. Just yesterday, I was telling some friends about the discussions we’d been having in class. I told them about how we’d talked about adults and their perceptions of teens. Unsurprisingly, their opinions on teens were equally negative.

“Teenagers are idiots,” one friend said, “I should know. I was one.”

As Males’s article discusses, this stigma has found its way into public libraries. We live in a world where most people are afraid of things they don’t understand. That is why we are divided by generational gaps and, as the article also discusses, by other factors such as race.

This makes the job especially difficult for the librarian. Our job is to serve the public, regardless of their background and whether or not their experiences are different from our own. It’s harder then, when we live in a world where stigmas that work against teens are drilled into us as adults. Librarians all want to say they don’t feel this way about their teen patrons, but can they all really say it? We all have our own personal prejudices, and need to be aware of them.

One way we can cater to teens especially is through technology. While many adults like to point out all the flaws of technology, it has become an extremely critical part of our lives, and teens are no exception. Libraries can use technology as a way to cater to teens. This is why libraries should offer technological resources. As Hartman, Hughes-Hassell, and Kumasi state, “While technology is not the only aspect of teen lives that is important to libraries, it is probably the most pervasive element causing a need for a shift in library services for and with this age group” (2014, pp. 4-5). Implementing technology in libraries will show teens that we’re not here to criticize their ways. Using technology to help serve teens isn’t going to fix everything, but it’s a start in the right direction.

It is naive to think that we can change the way the world thinks. We can’t. We can try, but perhaps we’ll never be able to banish stigmas that transcend generations. That is not our job. Our job is to serve and mentor teens. We want teens to see that not all adults see them in a negative light, and that we’re here for them. However, we must take note of stigmas, and bear them in mind when trying to think past our own personal prejudices. Nobody said it was easy, but it’s our job.


Braun, L., Hartman, M., Hughes-Hassell, S., and Kumasi, K., with Yoke, B. (2014). The Future of Library Services for and with Teens: A Call to Action. 

Males, M. (2013). Tribalism versus Citizenship: Are Youth

Increasingly Unwelcome in Libraries?. In Bernier, A. (Ed.). Transforming young adult services (pp.151-169). Chicago: ALA editions.





2 thoughts on “Generational Divide: How Does this Affect Librarians?

  1. Good post! I am interested in hearing more about your thoughts when you say that “older generations will always be threatened by younger ones,” especially on how these struggle manifests in libraries. For Males is clear, but the YALSA Report showcases ways to try to welcome teens, but perhaps those initiatives still privilege certain views? Especially after reading Chelton’s article or the opinions of other adults about teens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      It just seems, to me, natural that older generations feel this need to criticize the younger ones. It perhaps sounds too simplistic to say it’s just the way things are, but I feel like it sadly is! It goes back to fearing things we don’t understand. The new generations always introduce new challenges and a different culture, and that is foreign to the adults who came before them.

      I edited the post where I comment on the YALSA Report, and I think that one of the best ways to serve teens is through technology, because technology is such a big part of their lives today. Many adults criticize teens for excessive use of technology. If libraries implement technology we show that we’re looking for ways to support them, through things that they value.


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