About Me

Internet Use


Consulting &


Workshops & Speaking





Email about this website

DRAFT - please comment to Lubans1@nc.rr.com (Copyrighted: John Lubans, 2000)

March 9, 2000 Initial findings:

Study 4: Internet Use (February, 2000) among 3rd year Students
Duke University
Durham, North Carolina, USA


John Lubans, Jr.

E-mail: Lubans1@nc.rr.com

Web: www.lib.duke.edu/lubans/john.html

In February of this year I surveyed students from the class of 2001 about their use of the Internet. Many of these students, when freshmen, took part in my first Internet use study in 1997. Fifty-nine (59) students, or 33% of the statistical sample, responded to the e-mail questions. (see Notes for study details).

Study 4’s focus is on all aspects of student Internet use.

Unlike the first three studies, Study 4 was not limited to academic uses.

All four studies’ (now with over 700 student participants) have found that students use the Internet in multi-faceted ways for information seeking and finding, and that their use of the Internet is diverse and on the increase.

Internet use is pervasive and interwoven into the fabric of student life. The Internet serves personal interests and awareness needs and educational purposes. It is a channel for communicating and a channel for finding things out. It is a way of learning.

Internet access to the library is but one facet of the multiple approaches students now use to learn. What may have been an exclusive role for the library as information gatekeeper is now shared with bookmarked news and subject sites, search engines and other Internet sources. Students use the Internet independently, without intermediation.

Because of the way the Internet is evolving -rapidly, dynamically, unpredictably –planning is difficult. If any system can be said to be self-organizing, it is the Internet!

That said, there are more than a few motivational and directional clues to be found in present patterns of student use. For one thing, libraries ought to be shifting existing budgetary resources toward the technology and applications of the Internet. Doubling or tripling the percent of the budget now spent on "technology" is my conservative suggestion.

Support for the library’s web sites (a first priority), the selection of quality pay or free sites for hot links, the merger of data bases (including the library catalog), and the linking with national efforts to provide high quality access to the best web sites, all require support well beyond current levels. The library’s web page is now central to the library’s architecture. The design of that page ought to take into account what is working best on and and how students use the Internet. And, quintessentially, that design should involve users in a substantial way.

Finally, trying to anticipate student information needs three years out or more, (read strategic planning) will have minimal returns on the effort. Instead, I recommend that you take the time required for formal planning and put it into experimenting with new approaches and arrangements. Besides, it’ll be a whole lot more fun.

What do students do on the Internet?

Here is what students do, arranged in order of frequency (a 5 ="very frequently" and 1="rarely or hardly ever".) Where applicable, I have included the average scores from Study 3.

4.9 _E-mail. In Study 3, the score was 4.7

3.9 _Using search engines to find information

3.7 _Visiting your bookmarked sites (Study 3's "Visiting favorite sites" scored 3.65).

3.1 _Surfing

(usual purpose): Women: for class, specific information, job searching, friends’ web pages, career information, fun, travel, research projects, news, ideas for papers.

Men: favorite sites and links, news, necessity in class, shopping, stocks, news, "to send stupid links to friends", etc.

In Study 3, for educational uses only, surfing scored 2.7.

3.1 _Using library provided Web info sources (including the lib. catalog) (W3.3/M2.8) In Study 3, using library-based guides and databases = 3.5.

3.1 _Communicating with faculty and classmates on course work

3.0 _Staying current with news (Women 2.5/Men 3.5)

2.7 _Listening to music (MP3s or live) (Women 2.3/Men 3.1)

2.0 _"Shopping" via E-commerce sites (Women1.8/Men 2.2)

1.2 _Chatting in "chat rooms" (Study 3 = 1.5)

_Other: Men: Gaming, fantasy sports, instant message.

Web presence:

Fifty percent of the men said they have a personal web page. Women claim significantly fewer web pages (38%) than the men. However, that over a third of the women do have personal web pages suggests a not negligible adoption of the new technology among women.

And, there may be valid reasons why fewer women decide to have a web site.

Forty percent of the students in Study 3 had a personal web page.

Is Internet use growing?

Yes, students say their use of the Internet since their freshman year (1997) has increased.


- 73% of the women and 64% of the men claim increased use;

- 32% males and 24% females say their use stayed the same

How has their Internet use changed?

E-mail communication was most mentioned by men and women.

Also, for men, e-commerce,

searching or "looking up information on the fly", the first resource for info.,

using class web pages (much more so),

keeping up with the news, and

listening to music

Many women mentioned using bookmarks and bookmarking information,

staying current and connected with what is happening in the world (news),

using online notes for courses,

consulting course web pages ("All my courses now have web sites").

job and career searching, and

starting research papers on the Web, "...any courses that I have to do research, I usually start my research at the Net".

One mentioned "web assignments" made in class as a driver.

Another said her use was for finding confidential answers to questions.

After School?

Most students believe their Internet use will continue after graduation and for many it will increase in the next few years:

- 56% of the males and 40% of the females say their use will increase

- 40% of the males and 48% of the females expect their use to stay the same

- 5% of the males and 13% of the females say their use will decrease

In Study 3, projecting five years out, 70 percent saw an increase in their dependence on the Web for information resources.

Search tool preferences:

Yahoo rules the search engine roost. But, the jockeying for position continues (see Google’s upward bump) and will do so as students discover the strengths and weaknesses of the various tools. If libraries were to rate search engines and offer guidance in their use, our students would be pleased.

Scores are on a scale where 5 = "very often used" and 1 = "least or never used"). Men rated using other search engines slightly higher than the women did, e.g. see the score for Google.


Study 3

4.1 _Yahoo (W4.2/M4.0) 4.2

2.6 _Alta Vista 2.8

2.5 _Excite 3.0

2.2 _Infoseek 2.6

1.8 _Lycos 2.3

1.6 _Google (W1.4/M1.7) 1.3

1.1 _DejaNews Not scored

_Other: Women: Snap, Netscape, Webcrawler, GoTo, HotBot.

Men: GoTo, MP3agent.com, Metacrawler, AskJeeves. Ask.com

What ideas do students have for libraries?

Several mentioned their satisfaction with current library applications of the Internet, "… I think (the library) offers a wide range of opportunities and valuable teaching and learning aids."

But, many offered concrete and philosophical suggestions in response to the open ended question: "In this Internet era, what more should the library be doing?"

The Library as Internet Portal:

W. The library put together a wonderful web page under Public Docs and Maps for my class, PPS 114. It’s been extremely helpful, and I know a lot more classes would like to have something like that (emphasis added). Also, I think the library should encourage more professors to put readings on e-reserves. Some of my professors are hesitant to do this, although it makes life easier on everyone involved. Cheers.

W. Keep updating (library) software so it runs quickly, and make clear accessible links for research.

W. Making research materials accessible and having books and online methods available.

M. Beginning a more comprehensive listing of library services on the web and allowing more electronic access to that information.

W. Specific links to current event sites or e-mail (for overdue) books and (help people know) how to recheck out books on line….

M. Develop internet resource pages for each major and field of study that incorporates web sites of relevance. This has been done in some areas, but they are mostly tailored to particular classes. You should be able to click on a particular field of study and be presented with the top informational sites in that field. The library should facilitate access to information and make it fun to learn, to feed your mind with information. The library could really be an electronic window into the wider world. In some respects it already is, but it could expand its opening onto the world much more.... The library shouldn’t just concentrate on putting its own resources online – it should bring more information in from the outside – by doing so, it can multiply the resources available to students exponentially. Bring the world in, make it accessible to students and fun to study.

M. Ensuring that the (library’s) page is as user friendly as possible – that people can access the page, its links and inform users of the actual personnel available in the library to assist in searches.

More online resources:

Thirteen (13) students asked for more net-based resources: In their own words:

More microfiche on the net.

More journals/texts available on the net.

More online searching so you don’t need to use a real library (emphasis added).

Increase electronic collections. Archive/special collections/journals available for internet access.

Maybe have more journals online. I think that the library is doing a good job!

Make as much library holdings accessible on the Internet as possible.

I really like all the databases that are online with the library; to make that more extensive would be great though it’s already really nice.

M. It should try to have more books, etc. available online so that students can access it without need(ing) to actually go to the library.(emphasis added)

M. Perhaps encouraging more professors to take advantage of the internet. I’ve found my classes that have web pages (with course syllabus and related links) to be much more interesting and encourage outside research. (emphasis added)

More classes/instruction:

M. …offer occasional help classes for computer illiterate people to go over basics like web and telnet, etc.

W. Maybe the library or OIT could offer an introductory course in e-mailing, using web resources, etc at the beginning of each year.

W. Perhaps increasing knowledge of what is actually there – many things I use at the library or on the web I would not have known about until I accidentally stumbled on it.

M. The only difference that might be effective would be extra training – I feel that few people actually know to what extent the library web site can be helpful. (emphasis added)


W. More printers, more IBM computers, better service of computers.

M. Getting faster computers.

M. More computers.

W. Providing as many computers as possible to students.

And, finally, a clue for library building planners:

M. I don’t use the Internet at the library....


"Study 1" on the Internet phenomenon was conducted during the Fall 1997 semester, reaching 235 college freshmen at Duke.

"Study 2" was of 226 seventh - tenth grade school children who spent the 1998 summer on the Duke campus.

In "Study 3" two hundred and one students shared how they use the Internet for academic purposes during the 1999 Spring semester in Duke University’s Lilly Library.

The majority (146) of these students were freshmen at Duke University. Fifty-five older students presented a slightly more mature, but strongly similar, response to this study.

School Library Journal carried a summary of Study 3 in their September, 1999 back-to-school issue: www.slj.com/articles/articles/articlesindex.asp

The first three studies asked students who came into the library to complete an on-line questionnaire on computers located in the Lilly Library lobby. Lilly is the library on Duke's East campus where first year students live. In the summer, East Campus is where the pre-college students live.

"Study 4". E-mail questionnaires (see Lubans web site) were sent to 177 randomly selected juniors.

Fifty-nine (or 33%) responded to my call and the promise of a Class of 2001 picture taken during their freshmen year in front of the Lilly Library on Duke's East Campus.

Of the 59 responding, 25 are males and 34 are females. Ten percent (5 women, one male) declared themselves as Arts & Humanities majors; 40% said they were Social Sciences majors; 40% indicated they were majoring in Science and Engineering; and, 10% claimed the "other" category, including 3 with double majors. One student did not indicate a major.

John Lubans writes and consults on Internet use and (not unrelatedly) interesting organizations, like the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, currently the Duke Women’s Basketball team and in early 2001, the leadership of the Opera Australia Orchestra by Ms. Simone Young.

He also gives leadership workshops for middle managers in public and academic libraries and writes the "On Managing" column for the American Library Association’s journal Library Administration & Management.

He serves on the advisory board of the Electronic Publications Initiative at Columbia (EPIC) for Columbia University Press and consults on Internet usability with a variety of Internet publishers.

He is the Deputy University Librarian at Duke University. Starting in the mid-1980s he developed strong team and participatory management structures for his administrative areas of responsibility: Acquisition, Serials, and Cataloging. Under his leadership, over 100 full time staff quantifiably raised their productivity to the top of their peer groups among large research libraries in the United States and Canada.

He can be reached at 919 493 4979


March 9, 2000