Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Great Expectations or, Where Do They Get These Ideas?

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

Great Expectations or, Where Do They Get These Ideas?

Article excerpt

Things are not the way they used to be. Current students do not think of research in the way that their predecessors did, and they are not interested in "five-miles-in-the-snow" stories of what previous generations had to do to find information. Even people who graduated in the early 1990s had a vastly different research environment in an era that can be referred to as B.W. (Before the Web).

Instead of focusing on how to get students to approach research in the manner in which many librarians are accustomed, perhaps we should look at the world through their eyes for a moment. If academic librarians and database producers looked at students' use of the World Wide Web--other than for research--they might begin to understand why student expectations of finding information ("You mean I have to go find the actual paper journal to get this article?") are so unlike those of nonstudents. Even a brief tour of some popular Web sites can be quite enlightening. An informal poll of student assistants in our library indicated that their information seeking on the Web for purposes other than research tends to fall into three general areas: entertainment, shopping, and "current events." The following list is a sampling of the kinds of Web sites they find appealing.

Entertainment Sites


Chat rooms are sites on the Web in which people can carry on "live" conversations with others. During the registration process, individuals choose usernames and passwords that enable them to "login" to a chat room. Some chat facilities even allow participants to choose graphic representations of themselves that appear on the screen when they enter a chat room. Chat sites have a wide variety of "rooms" to choose from, each with its own particular topic or theme. A recent sampling from the popular site "College Club" included rooms hosting chats on sports, Mormonism, love and relationships, poetry, a chat in Spanish, and one called the "Idiot Box" for "TV-aholics" that provided the opportunity to watch live television while chatting. Some examples of chat room sites are College Club ( and Yahoo Chat (


Computer games have become quite sophisticated since the Atari days, and the games available on the Web are no exception. Some games are educational while others are skill games utilizing high-tech sounds and graphics just for the fun of it (see the bowling game on the Coca-Cola Web site). Fantasy sport games blend fact and fiction. They allow players to create teams (baseball, football, racing, etc.), but the "points" are tabulated using real and current data from actual sporting events. The Stock Market Challenge teaches the ins and outs of stock buying and trading. Although there is no real money involved in the game itself, some sites award monthly prizes for the best stock portfolio at the end of each month.

There are also the old standbys: board games (chess, backgammon, etc.) and card games (Gin, Hearts, Pinochle, etc.). What is the advantage of playing these games on the Web? Instant opponents! Whenever you can spare thetime--between classes, etc.--there always seems to be someone out there in cyberspace ready to play. Some games "wait" for players and opponents simply to play their round whenever they have time. Of particular note for students is the fact that playing all of these games is free of charge. Web-based games can be found at a large number of sites, including Yahoo Games (, Sandbox (, and Coca-Cola (


Shopping on the Web (e. commerce) has definitely become big business. Virtually everything imaginable is available for purchase on the Web. Some campuses offer workshops devoted entirely to shopping on the Web. Sites frequented by students seem to fall into three general areas: auctions, online stores and specialty shops, and tickets. Here is a small portion of some shopping sites popular with college students. …

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