· How would students regard a service that regularly notifies them, via Email, of the best new sites in subject areas. Yes, "I need!" was the response 55% of the time in assigning a 5 or a 4. Men and women were alike in wanting this service.·
Scale: 5 = I need!, 1 = not important
Should the library rate web search engines, noting their strengths and weaknesses? Yes, say over 70% who rated their need at a 5 or 4. Since they use search engines to keep current and to find new sites, this is a strong vote of confidence in our ability to help. Women, statistically, want this service more than men do.
Scale: 5 = I need!, 1 = not important
MH Chi Square Probability = .038
· Live (reliable) links to web sites from the library catalog? Among the highest positive responses, students want this type of service, with 77% rating their need at either a 5 or a 4. Females are statistically more supportive of this idea than men, but men were not far behind, often marking a 4 (28%), and five (37%).
Scale: 5 = I need!, 1 = not important
MH Chi Square Probability = .017
Other ideas suggested for how the library could help:
Rate the accuracy/Authoritativeness of information sites (the seal of approval idea).
We should not fail to be impressed by the trust and confidence students place in librarians as they turn to us for help. It is a clear indication of the regard in which librarians are held as highly knowledgeable about information. We truly are expert in this and have much to offer users and providers of information services. If we believe, as many do, that the Internet is like a flea market, a huge jumble of good and bad, then we have an opportunity to help people because "we know where the good stuff is". Edna St. Vincent Millay's prophetic poem comes to mind as I write this last sentence; she speaks of a direction for us to take including responsibility for what she calls the loom:
Upon this gifted age, in its dark hour,
Rains from the sky a meteoric shower
Of facts...they lie unquestioned, uncombined.
Wisdom enough to leech us of our ill
Is daily spun, but there exists no loom
To weave it into fabric.
Conclusions & Recommendations & Musings:
Some questions for follow up by other researchers:
· Are the results of independent study in computer mediated environments an improvement over the quality of work based in exclusively print approaches?
· Are academic libraries now organized (space and staff) in the best way to aid in the information-gathering and answer-seeking processes of the WEB? Is the computer commons approach truly the best way to deal with student information needs?
· How might we better assure that students use the WEB in productive ways for coursework?
· What WEB skills do graduating high school seniors need? What skills should we seek to inculcate in first year students? What are the implications of the gender differences in this study?
One objective of our enabling users to operate at increased levels of independence on the Internet would be to realize cost containing economies that would free up librarians to work with users on an individual basis to achieve greater success in using the WEB.
What are librarians now doing to help users? The effort is hardly insignificant. Examples exist at the national level, from the ALA/AASLs "700+GreatSites" for children (www.ala.org/parentspage/greatsites/, to Berkeley's Librarians' Index (sunsite.berkeley.edu/InternetIndex/), to most libraries engaged in the following:
· Programs of instruction in information literacy (even if not yet quite a flow experience) that help students with 'Net navigational issues including how best to use search engines.
· University libraries as enterprising WEB publishers of their unique, special collections, using the WEB as the medium. Examples include Duke's Scriptorium and Berkeley's Sun site, with numerous, splendid publications, all for free and global access on the WEB.
· University libraries acting as gatekeepers, with their multifaceted home pages on the WEB, often with subject listings of selected links to WEB sources along with a plethora of other connections.
· A few libraries integrate Internet resources with books in the on-line catalog, with hot links from multiple access points, connecting the reader to the site. One article takes this idea to a point further out. (Note 2)
· Our "gateway" on-line catalogs increasingly give students access to search engines along with access to other WEB based reference tools and full text services. tools,
· Subject bibliographer and branch libraries maintain "personal" or subject based web pages that include lists of "best sites", among other informative listings.
In addition to these efforts, the results of this study suggest other initiatives.
A strong conclusion from this study is that we should be exploring and making the most of the technological juxtapositions available to us, just like the commercial sector is doing on many for-profit sites. To achieve these will require heightened levels of experimentation by libraries and technical collaboration with the commercial sector. Heightened connectivity will require our working closely with providers in mutually beneficial ways, with the sole purpose of assuring the best arrangement of these services for the user.
By technological juxtaposition I refer to something as simple as the ability to cut and paste the URLs in this paper into Netscape for connecting or as complicated as the NYPL/ONLINE Bookstore with Barnes & Noble, both linkages and partnerships made possible by hypertext connectivity. The concept is driven by the notion that most resources are highly amenable to connection in multiple ways. Sites and bases bumping up against each other, caroming in new directions, may be the best way to find what does work best. There is no road map, "there are only adventures", to quote Roy Tennant. So why not explore the what of providing full access to Encyclopedia Brit. links, all 65,000 of them, separately from the on-line encyclopedia, possibly via the on-line catalog!.
A sample suggested by this study of a simple opportunity for a university library:
when we know of the whereabouts of excellent information-rich, durable sites (now numbering in the thousands) librarians establish the metadata for these resources so that:
a. Individuals searching the Internet by way of a search engine have improved probability for finding the site because of the specificity we can introduce in the finding aids used by search engines.
b. Students searching our on-line catalogs can find the site, among other information resources, click to get to it, work in it and get back to the library site to find and use other resources. This implies, correctly, that the library maintains the site connection, and makes adjustments over time. This could be as simple as running a weekly check up on connections or for working with site producers in "pushing" current and customized information similar to that described below.
c. When a new site is added to the library's catalog, the loading in of the metadata record triggers an email of the URL and descriptive data to those users who have indicated on their profiles that they want to see relevant new items.
The Internet has many metaphors, a garage sale, a wilderness, the unknown. One that works well for this paper is that of a great sea. Joseph Ciotti, a professor who teaches the course, "Voyaging" in the Hawaiian Islands, sums up the two ways of looking at navigating in the unknown: "The Western Man looks at the Ocean as a barrier. The Polynesia man looks at the ocean as a road, an important way to get from one place to another". We might want to borrow some from the Polynesian's reliance on the winds, the clouds, the sun and the stars to help guide us towards new services and traditions.
Acknowledgment & Notes:
Much appreciation is expressed to the following for their support: John Little, Robbin Ernest, Tracy Hull, Kelley Lawton, Carson Holloway, Jennifer Madriaga, Bercedis Peterson, Erick Larson, Ilene Nelson, the staff of the Lilly Library, and to David Ferriero, University Librarian for his sponsorship of this research.
1. Research results from Vanderbilt's "Project 2000: Research Program on Marketing in Computer-Mediated Environments" (www2000.ogsm.vanderbilt.edu) and the book by Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: the psychology of optimal experience, New York: Harper & Row, 1990. For some personal measure of "flow," compare your learning experience viewing television or movies or listening to a lecture to engaging a highlyinteractive web site. like a recent one for Whitman (http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/whitman/)
2. David Shenk, The World Wide Library, Synapse. September 2, 1997. (an Internet based publication).He proposes that the WWL be a regimented, filtered, ultra-reliable segment of the WWW containing all the best stuff from the best libraries in the world.
Copyright 1998 Duke University
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