Will Unwound #833: “Orange is the New Black”August 12, 2013
I had an interesting ah ha moment on the golf course last month. There was a U.S. Kids golf tournament underway on the 18 hole course where I typically play. Because of the tournament I was forced to play the adjacent 9 hole, par 3 course. Every now and then I would look over at the “big” course and was struck by all the orange. I climbed a grassy knoll by the third tee and took a closer look. What I saw was a lot of little Ricky Fowlers.
Who is Ricky Fowler? If golf has a rock star it would be Ricky Fowler. He dresses in hip hop style on the course. He’s got the kinky choker necklace with the little medal medallion, the flat billed hat (which he sometimes wears backwards), the soul patch, the long hair, and the day glo colors, of which orange is by far his favorite. Here is Ricky in all his orange splendor.
You have to understand that of all professional sports, golf is most like librarianship in image. It’s generally considered to be boring unless you think watching the flight of a little white ball barely perceptible against the azure sky is exciting television fare. Its older professionals dress like old fogeys (white belts, saddle shoes, pleated pants) and its younger professionals dress like young fogeys (white belts, saddle shoes, pleated pants). It’s the only sport I know of in which the spectators are supposed to be quiet. Yes…quiet! Does that ring a bell, librarians?
As a result it is not a sport that appeals to young people. But Ricky Fowler is changing all that. Ricky Fowler is cool, Ricky Fowler is young, and Ricky Fowler is turning kids on to golf.
The Ricky Fowler factor is all about the concept of diversity. The young attract the younger. Herein is where there is one more connection to librarianship. Our profession celebrates the concept of diversity. Problem is we don’t have it. I speak at a lot of library conventions and I see a lot of white…white hair and white skin.
How do black people feel when they walk into a library and they see nothing but white librarians? As a profession we have been asking ourselves that question since the mid 1960s. Problem is we haven’t done much about it despite all the effort we have put into affirmative action employment practices.
But now we have a new diversity problem. This new generation of kids – the digital natives – constitute a completely different tribe of youth. They have new ways of communicating and new social mores. If you don’t believe they are different consider this fact – they are buying fewer cars than any generation before them. Fewer cars! I never thought that was possible.
How do we reach the digital natives? I think the only way is to hire them. That’s right. I think we need to start targeting digital native MLS candidates for library positions. I know it sounds like age discrimination but how else are we going to appeal to the young?
I guess there is one other way – somehow convince Ricky Fowler to get his MLS.