Higher Education and Emerging Technologies: Student Usage, Preferences, and Lessons for Library Services

By Cassidy, Erin Dorris; Britsch, James et al. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

Higher Education and Emerging Technologies: Student Usage, Preferences, and Lessons for Library Services


Cassidy, Erin Dorris, Britsch, James, Griffin, Glenda, Manolovitz, Tyler, Shen, Lisa, Turney, Linda, Reference & User Services Quarterly


This study examines the utilization and preference of popular Internet and communication technologies among students at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), a Carnegie Research Doctoral University in East Texas. The researchers wished to study the local relevance of various technology trends reported in librarianship literature and then to use the survey data to inform decisions regarding library service development. A survey was conducted to investigate student ownership of electronic devices and student usage of technologies such as text messaging, Twitter, RSS, podcasts, social networks, Second Life, and others. Survey results indicated that, while students do not wish to experience an overwhelming library presence on all social networking and Internet media, most do wish to have basic library services easily accessible through a few of the most popular social networking and Internet technologies. The investigators identified some unique trends in usage among their local population and have adjusted certain library services and plans in accordance with their findings. Other libraries are encouraged to study their own users and develop new services based on those users' needs rather than popular trends or surveys which may be based on radically different user groups.

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As social networking and Internet technologies make significant strides in innovation and development, technology mediums for individuals to communicate with one another have increased exponentially. Although librarians have been early adopters of many information technologies, attempting to develop and maintain a presence on all available social networking and Internet communication mediums is a costly and inefficient service model for most libraries.

Thus, selecting the most effective communication technologies for delivering library services has become a major challenge for many librarians. Furthermore, rather than blindly adapting the most visible emerging technologies touted by popular media, librarians must tailor library service delivery options to the distinct needs and preferences of their particular user population.

The purpose of this study is to survey student library users' utilization and preference of popular Internet and communication technologies at Sam Houston State University (SHSU), a Carnegie Research Doctoral University in East Texas. Given that the university campus is located about an hour north of the Houston metropolitan area with a large population of commuter students, providing a virtual library presence beyond the physical campus is vital for improving the user experience. Moreover, since many of the students are also first-generation college attendees or students whose age or life circumstances is considered "nontraditional" among college students, it is also important for the library to examine the needs and technical abilities of these distinct user groups. A survey was developed to study students' ownership, usage, and perception of popular social networking and Internet technologies, and whether students would like to utilize library services offered through these technologies.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Today's typical college students have grown up with and been exposed to all manner of technologies in many aspects of their lives. On a daffy basis they use computers, online social networks, cell phones, text messages, Twitter, RSS feeds, wikis, blogs, online learning tools, and much more. How students integrate these instruments into their lives has been the focus of much attention and research. Today's students, being familiar with second-generation technologies popularly known as Web 2.0, can find and use information; produce content in various formats such as posts, blogs, or videos; and push content to recipients by various media such as phones or computers. (1) However, specific skills, attitudes, and practices can vary among groups.

Librarians at Kent State University studying Web 2.

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