ER&L 2013: Listening to Users

“Belinha has more than good looks” by Francisco Martins

What the “Google Generation” Says About Using Library & Information Collections, Services, and Systems in the Digital Age

Speaker: Michael Eisenberg, University of Washington Information School

We’ve moved from scarcity to abundance to overload. We have so many great resources our students don’t know where to begin. They’re overwhelmed.

Think about how our computing technology has evolved and shrank in both size and price while increasing in power over the past 30 years. Where will be 20 years from now?

We live in a parallel information universe that is constantly feeding information back to us. The library is anywhere anytime, so how can we best meet the information needs of our users?

Project Information Literacy seeks to answer what it means to be a student in the digital age. They have been assessing different types of students on how they find and use information to get generalized pictures of who they are.

Why, when you have an information need, do you turn to Google first and not research databases?

Students ignore faculty warnings about Wikipedia. They still use it, but they just don’t cite it.

Students aren’t really procrastinators, they’re just busy. They are working to the last minute because every minute is highly scheduled. Have we changed our staffing or the nature of our services to help them at point of need?

Students don’t think of librarians as people who can help them with their research, they think of them as people who can help them with resources. They are more likely to go to their instructors and classmates before librarians during the research process. The hardest part for them is getting started and defining the topic (and narrowing it down). They don’t think librarians can help them with that, even though we can, and do (or should if we aren’t already).

Students are more practiced at writing techniques than research strategies. Professors complain that students can’t write, but maybe writing shouldn’t be the only method of expression.

Most students don’t fully understand the research process and what is expected. They need clarity on the nature and scope of assignments, and they aren’t used to critical thinking (“just tell me what you want and I’ll give it to you”). Most handouts from profs don’t explain this well, focusing more on mechanics and sending students to the library shelves (and not to databases or online resources). Rarely do they suggest talking to the librarian.

Students are not the multi-taskers we think they are, particularly during crunch time. Often they will use the library and library computers to force themselves to limit the distractions and focus. They use Facebook breaks as incentives to get things done.

After they graduate, former students are good with technology, but not so good with low-tech, traditional research/information discovery skills.

Information literacy needs are more important than ever, but they are evolving. Search to task to use to synthesis to evaluation — students need to be good at every stage. The library is shifting from the role of information to space, place, and equipment. Buying the resources is less of an emphasis (although not less in importance), and the needs change with the academic calendar.

What do we do about all this?

Infuse high quality, credible resources and materials into courses and classes. Consider resources and collections in relation to Wikipedia. Infuse information literacy learning opportunities into resources, access systems, facilities, and services (call it “giving credit,” which they understand more than citing). Provide resources, expertise, and services related to assignments. Re-purpose staff and facilities related to calendar and needs. Offer to work with faculty to revise handouts — emphasize the quality of resources not the mechanics. Offer flexible and collaborative spaces with a range of capabilities and technology, less emphasis on print collection development. Consider school-to-work transitions in access systems, resources, services, and instruction.

Beyond formal instruction, what are the ways we can help students gain the essential information literacy skills they need? That is the challenge for eresources librarians.

michael gorman needs a hug

I can hear the clattering of keys as bloggers and other Web/Library 2.0 fans gear up for Gormangate Round 2, but aside from this little note, I intend to refrain from joining. Frankly, after skimming through Gorman’s latest pronouncement (no link love from me, sorry), I have to wonder if he’s just itching for some attention now that he’s had about a year off from being in the public eye as ALA President? Someone send him a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People, please.

source: snarkivist's icons on LiveJournal

interruption – gorman & ala

I promise to get back to writing up my thoughts on the NASIG conference. It’s been a busy two weeks. As you can see, I ran out of what I had written while at the airport and I haven’t had the energy or time to get back to it.

Meanwhile, I read Karen’s thoughts on the latest Gormangate episode, and they became the final tipping point in a decision I’ve been trying to make. As a result, I bring you my open letter to ALA, which I also sent to them by email this afternoon:

Dear ALA,

Some years ago, I let my membership lapse because my income and expenses were such that I couldn’t afford to continue it. Since that time, I have found myself in a better paying job and I have been thinking about re-joining the association. However, I have been unimpressed by president-elect Michael Gorman and the anti-technology, anti-progress statements he has been making publicly in the past several months (re: bloggers, Google Print, etc.). Since he is the future leader of the association, I have to wonder if ALA is right for me.

I have concluded that if the majority of members would choose a leader who prefers the past to the present, much less the future of librarianship, then it’s not an organization that I need to be a part of. For now, I will participate professionally in other areas of librarianship, and perhaps reconsider membership in the ALA sometime after Gorman’s tenure.

Respectfully,
Anna Creech

luddite with a heart of gold

Chuck Munson has a soapbox pronouncement that is sure to burn through the ranks of librarian bloggers as quickly as Michael Gorman’s anti-blog people essay. However, unlike Gorman, Munson doesn’t come across as an elitist ass. He makes some good points and some points that others are likely to quibble with. I hope he is heard, and in return hears his critics. My own quibble is with the following statement:

“These tech savvy librarians are also the ones responsible for the disappearance of books and other printed materials from our libraries. They want to turn libraries into everything but LIBRARIES. They want fancy new buildings to showcase technology. They slash periodical budgets so more tech can be brought into libraries.”

As the Serials and Electronic Resources Librarian, my responsibilities are to provide our users (students, faculty, and staff) with the best information using the most appropriate format within the limits of my budget. In my book, there are two types of periodical publications: those that need to be browsed in print and those that are used for research where only one or two articles are needed. For the latter, electronic subscriptions and full-text aggregator databases make sense. For the former, print subscriptions makes sense. I also take into account other factors such as the inclusion of illustrations and format when choosing electronic subscriptions over print. The reality is that most undergraduate students prefer to download and print articles on demand, rather than pulling the bound volumes off of the shelves and making photocopies (not to mention a total aversion to anything in microformats). A quick literature search will reveal a number of articles on user preference regarding print versus electronic.

If the periodicals budget is getting slashed, that is only because the university isn’t funding the library to the level it should. In fact, the biggest problem I face is the annual subscription price increases, regardless of format. I’d like to implement some cool tech toys that will make it easier for our users to locate information, but my budget can barely cover what we already have.

I think that Mr. Munson’s rant is motivated by his personal experiences and does not necessarily speak to the library profession at large. While we tech librarians love to congregate around the virtual water cooler and geek out about the newest tech toys, our musings about library implementation of those toys does not imply that we want to turn libraries into some sort of Matrix-like cyberworld. Anything that draws in users and provides them with tools to find accurate information is a good thing in my book.

ouch!

I just read Michael Gorman’s scathing critique of the librarian blogosphere’s response to his op-ed piece on Google in the December 17th edition of the Los Angeles Times. If you have access to the February 15th issue of Library Journal, it might be worth your time to give it a read. Aside from snubbing his nose at the “Blog People,” Gorman writes the entire lot of us off as non-intellectuals in the following few sentences:

“Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex text. It is entirely possible that their intellectual needs are met by an accumulation of random facts and paragraphs. In that case, their rejection of my view is quite understandable.”

I vaguely remembered reading some thoughtful critiques of his op-ed, but in searching for them, I could find only this one. Granted, there are quite a few bloggers who may fit his description of the Blog People. However, if he thinks that all of the so-called Blog People are that intellectually dull, I shutter shudder to think what will come of ALA with this egotistical snob as the president.

Update 4:17pm: The Digital Librarian has linked to the LJ opinion piece by Gorman, which I didn’t realize was also online.