Dinosaur warning!

Is the traditional library in danger of becoming a dinosaur? Well, a new report, issued on 16th January and commissioned by JISC and the British Library, warns it may do if libraries don't change to keep pace with digital trends.

The report challenges the common assumption that the ‘Google Generation’ – young people born or brought up in the Internet age – is the most adept at using the web. The report by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an ease and familiarity with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to asses the information that they find on the web.

The report ‘Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future’ also shows that research-behaviour traits that are commonly associated with younger users – impatience in search and navigation, and zero tolerance for any delay in satisfying their information needs – are now the norm for all age-groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.

The study calls for libraries to respond urgently to the changing needs of researchers and other users and to understand the new means of searching and navigating information. Learning what researchers want and need is crucial if libraries are not to become obsolete, the report warns.

The findings also send a stark message to increasingly lack-lustre Brown government - that young people are dangerously lacking information skills. Well-funded information literacy programmes are needed, it continues, if the UK is to remain as a leading knowledge economy with a strongly-skilled next generation of researchers. Will the government see the dangers and cough up some funds? Do a dog's lips move when it reads?

Dame Lynne Brindley DBE, Chief Executive of the British Library, said of the report findings: “Libraries have to accept that the future is now. At the British Library we have adopted the ‘Wiki’ view and the ‘Beta’ mindset. We have seized many of the opportunities new technology offers to inspire our users to learn, discover and innovate. However, we must do more and welcome the report findings, particularly the need to equip users of all age-groups with wider information and digital literacy skills.”

Dr Malcolm Read, Executive Secretary of JISC, welcomed the publication of the report, saying: “These findings add to our growing understanding of subjects that should concern all who work in further and higher education – the changing needs of our students and researchers and how libraries can meet their needs. We hope that this report will encourage debate around these important questions. We hope it will also serve to remind us all that students and researchers will continue to need the appropriate skills and training to help navigate an increasingly diverse and complex information landscape.”

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