December 19, 2014

The Cusp Generation

I was late to college. It’s a bit of a long story, but suffice to say I graduated with a B.A. approximately six years later than my peers. And that made all of the difference.

If I had followed the normal path of graduating from high school and going directly into college, I would have graduated in 1979. Unfortunately this would have been before computers really came into the forefront with such microcomputer models as the Commodore PET. As it was, I was starting to program in BASIC in the early 1980s, when I also decided to get my library degree. The combination was clear — if computers were about information, then wouldn’t computers be essential to libraries? My first software program, before I had more than a year of junior college, was an interactive library orientation program.

When I decided to get my library degree I first needed to get my Bachelor’s degree. Since I really want to be in a basement all the time (where computer labs were back in the day), I decided to major in geography and minor in computer science. My CS classes covered the computer requirement at UC Berkeley’s School of Library and Information Science like a blanket — I knew more CS than they required. Perhaps it isn’t surprising, then , that when the Internet came along I was an early and thorough adopter.

Meanwhile, some of my friends from the 70s and early 80s had missed the boat. Not all, mind you, but some. Enough to notice. When I searched Facebook I was happy to discover friends I hadn’t communicated with in many years. But others I’ve yet to find. This made me realize that people of my generation reached adulthood right at the cusp of the huge change that first computers, then the Internet wrought.

We are the Cusp Generation. Some of us made the transition to online communication. Part luck, part timing, part personal preference or natural ability. But some were left behind.

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Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.

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