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‘The Google Generation: implications for libraries and librarians’

As mentioned, I attended the CILIP London branch’s AGM yesterday evening. Although I am a member of CILIP London I’d never been to any of their meetings before, or really had any involvement with them, so I can’t say I was particularly interested in the AGM! I went along because I wanted to hear Professor David Nicholas‘ talk after the AGM, on the “Google Generation” research project.

I’d heard a shorter version of this talk before, at an SLA event, but Professor Nicholas had promised to tailor this talk more towards the implications of the research findings for libraries and librarians, so I was interested to hear what he had to say. Several of us were tweeting snippets from the event under the tag #ggcilip, so have a look through if you want to get a flavour of the kinds of points made (and our reactions to them).

One point that stuck out for me was that about the “skimming” and “bouncing” behaviour of users, particularly younger users  – i.e. they read shallowly, and don’t stay on one site/information source for long. Professor Nicholas pointed out that librarians and academics tend to assume that this is a Bad Thing, but is it really? And even if it is a Bad Thing, should we do something about it? Or more pertinently, could we? I thought this was a really good point – it’s such a waste of energy to try to drag users away from their preferred ways of working. It’s important to try to work with users, and tailor the help we offer to the way they instinctively work.

I’m not suggesting abandoning information literacy training, of course, but I do think that it’s difficult to make such training feel relevant to users. Another point that was made was that, in order for information literacy and search skills to “stick”, we need to stress pragmatic outcomes. That can literally be as simple as rephrasing “I can teach you information literacy skills” as “I can show you how to get better grades” (if you’re working with students – I guess the equivalent for working with trainee lawyers would be “I can help you get in your supervisor’s good books by finding the most useful authority quickly”).

Anyway, those were just  few impressions I came away with – there was quite a lot to take in really! It’s a really interesting piece of research, and David Nicholas is quite an entertaining speaker, so I’m glad I went along. I’d recommend having a browse through some of the materials produced in connection with the Google generation project, if you haven’t already – the BBC’s Virtual Revolution site is well worth a look, although it’s been around for a little while so I doubt that’s news to anyone!

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4 comments on “‘The Google Generation: implications for libraries and librarians’

  1. I’ve looked into this before – http://thewikiman.org/blog/?p=359 – and it seemed to me that the Google Generation act much like we do anyway. As I said in the post above, it’s not the generation defining the technology; it’s technology defining all of us.

    So I don’t see the skimmy research style as a bad thing, really, as many of us do it and it seems to work alright… So why not help facilitate it?

    That pragmatic outcomes thing I feel needs to apply to the entire WORLD, really… the world of libraries, anyway. In almost everything, we don’t stress the benefits (to the people we’re adressing), nearly enough.

    • I KNEW I’d seen something really well-written on the same points before – completely forgot it was your post! Was hunting through my Google Reader for ages, trying to figure out where I’d seen it (I really need to tag interesting posts better…)

      Yes, absolutely agree that the skimmy-research thing really isn’t a problem. Really don’t think it’s worth getting hung-up on promoting the “right” way to research – just find out how you’re users are actually using information and help them improve their own processes.

      I’ve had a post in draft for ages about the whole pragmatic/relevancy thing, and tying it in to the language we use… May have to dust that one off and see if I can shape it into something readable, it’s a bit waffly at the moment!

  2. If you’re looking for some good practical and pragmatic information literacy resources I can highly recommend the Facilitating Information Literacy Education (FILE) website http://www.ilit.org/file/indexfile.htm. Although it’s mainly aimed at medical librarians I think the same principles apply to other subjects!

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