I have one trailing anecdote and observation from my attendance at the recent American Association of Law Libraries annual meeting based on the session Multitasking Millenials: Blessing or Curse?. The session was intended to analyze the types of conflicts that can result with multitasking law students and new associates and create specific strategies to minimize them. The first part of the session featured a professional trainer discussing the use of games and a variety of personalization in introductory legal research classes. The second part had a psychologist explaining the characteristics of multi-tasking and the generally accepted psychological and personality features that distinguish this generation.
Towards the end of the Q&A a young woman took the microphone and explained that she was, in fact, of the millennial generation and now a practicing lawyer. She had been one of the individuals consulted by the trainer about preferred tactics to enhance the training sessions. She stood to announce that as noted in the psychologist’s presentation she exhibited respect for experience and authority figures. In the case of the training consultation that had trumped honesty.
“What we won’t tell you when you suggest these kinds of tactics is that they’re lame. We think they’re stupid and demeaning. Just treat us like professionals and we’ll learn in our own way.”
Someone else stood to decry the rudeness of multitasking in the middle of the legal research classes that she led. “These students can sit through 26 viewings of Star Wars. Why can’t they muster the attention to sit through 30 minutes of this class?”
This was greeted with lots of sympathy and nods of recognition but not much discussion. It occurred to me that the reason this generation feels free to direct their attention in ways that are independent of what is happening before them has to do with their expectation that all experience is replicable and can be repeated at the time of their choosing. They are the first generation for whom that expectation is reasonably and universally true. They’ll watch your class later if they’d rather invest their current attention in an email or video or the 26th viewing of Star Wars.
You will find much more informed, and targeted insights on the information-seeking behaviors of this Millennial generation in the work of my Research colleague, Lynne Silipigni Connaway. Or see this post by Lorcan on student use of the network..
Jim coordinates the OCLC Research office in San Mateo, CA, focuses on relationships with research libraries and work that renovates the library value proposition in the current information environment.