CiL 2008: What Do Users Really Do in Their Native Habitat?

Speakers: Pascal Lupien and Randy Oldham

Unsubstantiated assumptions about Millennials cause libraries to make poor choices in providing services and resources. Lupien and Oldham spent some time studying how students actually use the tools we think they use. They used typical survey and focus group methodologies, which make for rather boring presentation recaps, so I won’t mention them.

Study found that only 9% of students used PDAs, and tended to be among older students. 69% of students had cell phones, but only 17% of them have ever used them to browse the Internet. 93% of student have used a chat client, and most have used them for academic purposes several times per week. 50% of users had never used online social network applications for academic group work.

The focus groups found that students preferred email over online social networks for group work. Students are more willing to share the results of their work with friends than with other classmates.

42% of students has never played online games, and men were three times more likely to do so than women. Only 4.1% were involved with online virtual worlds like World of Warcraft and Second Life.

The survey respondents indicated they were more likely to go to the library’s website first rather than Google. The focus groups also confirmed this, in addition to indicating that the library had the best sources of information despite being the most difficult to manage.

Students are reluctant to mix personal and academic computing. The uptake on online social networks for academic use has been slow, but will likely increase, and we have to ask, “is this the best use of our resources and time?” Our priorities need to be more on improving the services we already offer, such as our websites and search tools. “Rather than looking at technologies & trying to find a use for them in our environment, we should determine what our students need & seek solutions to meet those needs.”


Speaker: John Law

Proquest conducted a survey of seven universities across North America and the United Kingdom, involving 60 students. As with Lupien and Oldham’s study, they conducted it anonymously. Observations were conducted in a variety of locations, from the library to dorm rooms. They used a program like web conferencing software to capture the remote sessions.

Law gave an anecdote of a fourth year student who did all the things librarians want students to do when doing research, and when he was asked why, the student gave all the right answers. Then, when he was asked how long he had been doing his research that way, he indicated something like six weeks, after a librarian had come to his class to teach them about using the library’s resources. Library instruction works.

Course instructors are also influential. “My English instructor told me to use JSTOR.”

Brand recognition is fine, but it doesn’t necessarily effect the likelihood that resources will be used more or less.

Students use abstracts to identify relevant articles, even when the full text is available. They’re comfortable navigating in several different search engines, but not as well with library websites in locating relevant resources. Users don’t always understand what the search box is searching (books, articles, etc.), and can find it to be discouraging. A-Z databases page is too unmanageable for most users, particularly when starting their research.

Students are using Google for their research, but mainly for handy look-ups and not as a primary research tool. Those who use Google as a primary research tool do so because they aren’t as concerned with quality or are insufficiently aware of library eresources or have had bad experiences with library eresources.

Librarians, students use Google and Wikipedia the same way you do. (We know you all use those tools, so don’t even try to deny it.)

Students laughed at surveyors when asked how they use online social networks for academic purposes.

CiL 2008 Keynote: Libraries Solve Problems!

Speaker: Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project

[Prez of InfoToday, in his introduction, announced that 2202 attendees are registered for this conference with 49 states (no one from Wyoming), Puerto Rico, D.C., and 18 countries (7 Canadian provinces) represented. 186 speakers and moderators this year!]

[House-keeping note from Jane Dysart: The men’s restroom on the ballroom level is now a women’s restroom, so the guys will have to go up to the exhibit level. There was much rejoicing.]

Rainie began by apologizing for not originally including librarians as stakeholders in the work of PIALP. This year, his new grant proposal lists librarians at the top, which was well received by the audience. He thanked librarians for their active involvement with the Pew project.

Bloggers were thanked for raising awareness of the Pew project, and for praising Rainie’s past presentations. Yay, bloggers! New media rocks. “Blogging is about community and connection as much as it is about publishing.”

In 2000, studies showed that most Internet connections were via dial-up, and no one was using wireless. In 2007, more than 50% of Americans now access the Internet via broadband, and 62% connect via wireless, both through computers or through cell phones. Wireless connectivity is decreasing the digital divide, and it also responsible for the resurgence of the value of email. “The reports of the death of email are premature.”

Information and communication technology tools are now so interconnected that it’s changing the way we think about information storage and retrieval. The Internet is becoming our storage device, which we access through various portals such as cell phones, TiVo, and yes, computers.

39% of online teens share their creative content through sites like Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube. 33% of college students blog, and 54% read them. However, many are blogging through social networking tools or course management tools and they don’t necessarily identify them as blogs. Avatars are now considered to be creative content, which is something I hadn’t thought about before.

A recent grant research with funding from IMLS and in partnership with IUC, PIALP looked at how folks get information from government sources to solve problems. 79.5% of the adults surveyed had, in the past two years, had an information need that could have been satisfied by information from government agencies. Gen Y (18-30) were the most likely to have visited a library in their search for information (62%), followed closely by Gen X (31-42) at 58%. (Psst… 60% of online teens use the Internet at libraries, up from 36% in 2000!)

Don’t listen to the naysayers who claim that the Internet is killing libraries. Public library users are more likely to be Internet users. Those who are information seekers are more likely to be adventurous in exploring information sources. Broadband users are also more likely to use a public library, and there is no difference in the patronage of libraries based on ethnicity. Young adults are more likely to visit a library to solve a problem than any other age group!

Users talked to library staff to solve their information needs slightly more than using the technology provided by the library, which were the top two ways that they found solutions to their problems. Gen Y users are generationally most likely to return to a library. Rainie thinks that because Gen Y users have been forced to use libraries through school projects, and they have seen how libraries have grown and changed over the years to meet their needs, so they have a good feeling about libraries as a source for solving their problems.

Rainie’s take-away message is that libraries need to do more publicity about how they can solve problems. “The people who know you best are the ones that keep coming back.” Let’s tell our success stories to more than just each other, which we already do a pretty good job of. Give our fans the tools to evangelize and provide feedback, and they can have a significant impact on raising awareness of libraries. Create a comfortable environment for “un-patrons” so that they aren’t afraid to ask questions and learn the technology. Become a node in social networks. (For example, Facebook apps for searching library resources or communicating with reference librarians may not be as unwanted as we might think they are.)

Rainie is an engaging speaker that I look forward to hearing from him in the future.

future of cell phones

Talk of the Nation had an interesting segment today on the future of cell phones. Jenny will be pleased to know that guest Walt Mossberg uses a Treo. The audio is available after 6pm Eastern. You could also look and see if a radio station will be broadcasting the show online in the next few hours, if you’re eager to listen right now. RSS for the show is also available, if you’re interested.

Ooh! I just noticed that my favorite public radio tool now lists public radio podcasts.