Monday, August 29, 2011

The next generation of library power users

Recently Solomon's words, "There is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9) came up in a conversation about how everything is new and different in the library. Taken on face value, I begged to differ with the wise King of Israel. But I decided that I could forgive his shortsightedness because, after all, he was a product of much simpler times. Seriously, how fast could things have changed in the horse and chariot days? I could see why he thought there was nothing new. He was bored.

Of course, it's not like he didn't try to make life interesting for himself. He married 1000 women, built opulent structures, and amassed more wealth than Donald Trump, Bill Gates, and Oprah put together. But it wasn't the information age. It was the iron age. What kind of gadgets did he have to play with?

Then I mused... What if he lived today? I imagined he would be friends with Steve Jobs, testing every gadget his super secret team of developers (which I imaging exists) was working on even before reaching the beta testing stage. He would be an icon in ExTreme Sports world and would have been the first civilian in space. He would have been strategically involved in the taking of Osama Bin Laden and would have dated all of the Kardashians, Lindsay Lohan, and Cher (probably not in any order.) He was surely the Bruce Wayne of his time.

But beyond being larger than life, he was wise. He also said,
"All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing." (Ecclesiastes 1:8)
With that, I conceded that perhaps, he could have something to say to the Google generation of today.

In his Opening Convocation address, President John Derry spoke on the same theme as my blog post from last week. He even quoted me! He compared the tediousness of writing college research papers in the days when we walked to school up hill in the snow both ways to the ease today of students being able to Google more information than they can possibly imagine from their own computers. I confess that the smiles of the three librarians seated behind him among the faculty dimmed slightly and knowing glances were exchanged with that reference.

Why? Because while the words were right on the money, they reminded us of our challenge to overcome the self-confidence that students have who so easily “find stuff.” I like to say that incoming students are confident, but not competent researchers. The goal is not to find more stuff (the eye never has enough of seeing), but to find the right stuff, to recognize it when they see it, know how to get it, and what to do with it.

It sure seems that in just the seventeen years since Terri Bogan, our Reference and Instruction Librarian earned her Masters in Library Science degree, there has been a lot of new things under the sun. The way information is packaged, delivered, stored, accessed, and shared has changed. That affects not only what she teaches, but the way she integrates information literacy into the curriculum. The popular perception that finding information on your own is easy creates special challenges. Convincing students that getting more information faster is not better, that they need to develop thoughtful questions, and that pursuing them effectively takes more time requires skill.

That's why it was heartening to see seventeen Hope undergraduate students voluntarily attend a session called “Make the Library Your Darling” – an introduction to being a power user of the Darling Library - the day before classes began!

That's why the six hour training day with our student library assistants on Saturday was so encouraging. Of course, it was mandatory, but they were attentive and appeared to be genuinely enthusiastic about learning our new system and being prepared to be of service.

But maybe the most amazing thing that happened last week was something I don't think I've ever heard of before – ever. An undergraduate student contacted Terri to request a personal library orientation before classes began. His academic adviser, Professor Sirvent, suggested that he do so because he had tested out of freshman English which meant that he would miss out on the library instruction that is integrated into the curriculum. (Have you ever seen a librarian do a happy dance?)

These students have started out wisely. They give us hope. I want to believe that if Solomon lived today, he would also be a power user of the library.


Beth Lee, Director of Career Services said...

So glad to see that the OC Live event was such a great help to our new students and such a great encouragement to staff and faculty. We will look forward to next year's sessions with the Darling Library staff!

Robin H said...