NFAIS: User Behavior in a Digital World

By Hawkins, Donald T. | Information Today, September 2012 | Go to article overview

NFAIS: User Behavior in a Digital World


Hawkins, Donald T., Information Today


Users today access and consume information quite differently than ever before. In fact, their behavior continues to transform libraries and information products in a variety of ways.

That's why NFAIS presented a workshop in mid-June that examined changes in the digital environment and the effects on libraries, educators, students, and information providers. Although there were only about 25 attendees at the actual event, more than 130 participants provided a record-breaking virtual audience to discuss emerging technology and more traditional behavior in information gathering. But despite any far-reaching changes, the bottom line is simple: Librarians are still needed, and the human connection--staying engaged with the information user--is alive and well.

Keynoter Carol Tenopir, a professor at the University of Tennessee, pointed out ways in which digital content has changed how scholarly materials are consumed: Users are going for the most convenient resources at any given time, including "pulling a book off the shelf, which is still quite common," she said.

Scholars still rely heavily on library ejournal collections to keep up-to-date on their research and writing projects. While many scholars are reading ejournals on their own screens, others connect to the library remotely, especially when they need to dig into the archives for older articles. But when it comes to books, they prefer print and tend to select their own ebooks directly from publisher websites instead of library collections.

Marilyn Geller, collection management librarian at Lesley University Library, discovered that many faculty members suffer from what she calls "technology anxiety" and remain suspicious of online content that has not been peer reviewed. To relieve their anxiety, she suggested inviting them to vendor demonstrations for new products to get acquainted with vetted content. Faculty members are also concerned about student plagiarism and students' tendency to select content based on accessibility, not quality. Geller sees the need for librarians to help users "because navigating the information landscape has become very complex."

For Kara Masciangelo, information management specialist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Research Library, today's reference model is not sustainable. Reference desks are no longer a point of service; instead, they have morphed into a consulting function on an on-call schedule. Giving the reference consultants private offices enhanced the customers' perception of them as professionals. And even library services have changed, from lending iPods and Kindles to instant messaging to video training for remote customers. …

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