Thursday, February 28, 2008

Information behaviour of the researcher of the future

The University College Lond (UCL) CIBER group recently published an interesting and strange report on "information behavior of the researcher of the future". The study was "was commissioned by the British Library and JISC to identify how the specialist researchers of the future, currently in their school or pre-school years, are likely to access and interact with digital resources in five to ten years' time. This is to help library and information services to anticipate and react to any new or emerging behaviors in the most effective way."
So they focus on the "
Google generation" which they define as "those born after 1993 and explore the world of a cohort of young people with little or no recollection of life before the web."
The goal of the study is to find out if they "are searching for and researching content in new ways and whether this is likely to shape their future behavior as mature researchers?" And "whether or not new ways of researching content will prove to be any different from the ways that existing
researchers and scholars carry out their work?" And finally "to inform and stimulate discussion about the future of libraries in the internet era."

Interesting! And this report has lots of nice insights and thoughts. The "strange" part is than many statements are uncertain or cannot be validated. So this gives the study a somewhat open end or, at least, a call for more research on this topic.

I'll pass on some highlights:

  • Based an a global survey it was found that the Google generation "college students still use the library, but they are using it less (and reading less) since they first began using internet research tools". I also see people in general are using the library less. But I do not see them reading less. I think book sales have gone up since the Internet has surged. And furthermore at university and college I don’t see less study books; I still see the students have to read the same amount of pages - on average.
  • I'm glad this report seems to put the difference between the Google generation and the others in perspective, saying that the differences aren't that big.
  • The changing way in using libraries does have implications for librarians. I find that librarians, as do literature researchers, should really step forward and show that information searching is a tough job and you have to learn to do it. Foremost you have to learn to judge the search results and relate them to each other and compare them. These skills are also being taught at college and university, but could be given more stress. At least I see the literature researcher in our company leading the way and showing, in practice, what their expertise is. The stuff they come up with I hardly ever find on the internet!
  • The report mentions "skimming" as being new. Is that true? My dad is definitely not from the Google generation, but he skims better than I do…
  • I think and I see the virtual library (as Google Print and Google Scholar) as supplementary of the physical library. Yes, we now, in this era, start with the search engine, sift out what we need, compare and judge sources, see what other’s say of those sources and select/print/buy on the relevant ones. Isn't that wonderful? Librarians should step up and offer searching and ordering services to customers! If they're the pro's, let them show that to us! So "reversing the process of dis-intermediation", as the report concludes, is not the way to go. I don’t think you can reverse it, you should connect to this process (yes, "avoid decoupling") and show why "intermediation" is needed.
Well, just some remarks on this insightful report and I'm looking forward to more research on this topic. Because these results are not only interesting for librarians but also corporate information and knowledge management, for instance.

By the way, another summary can be found
here.

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