Last month, the British Library issued a report on the research habits and information literacy of the Google Generation. You can call it up by going here and clicking on “Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future,” which is highlighted in the second paragraph. The study examines various myths about people who grew up after the advent of the Internet to see if they have “different aptitudes, attitudes, expectations, and even different communication and information ‘literacies’” than people who grew up in a pre-Net world.
Here is what they concluded:
“College students still use the library, but they are using it less (and reading less) since they first began using Internet research tools.”
“Around 60 percent of e-journal users view no more than three pages and a majority (up to 65 percent) never return.”
“New forms of ‘reading’ are emerging as users ‘power browse’ horizontally through titles, contents pages, and abstracts, going for quick wins.”
Steven Johnson (here) found this quotation cause for optimism, stating that while book-reading may be declining, new and creative forms of reading are developing online. Others disagreed, as this posting at The Chronicle’s Footnoted blog showed.
But let’s go further in the study:
“Research shows that [users] will squirrel away content in the form of downloads . . . [but] there is no evidence as to the extent to which these downloads are actually read.”
“The information literacy of young people has not improved with the widening access to technology.”
“Young people have a poor understanding of their information needs.”
And finally, a trend that affects all ages:
“From undergraduates to professors, people exhibit a strong tendency towards shallow, horizontal, ‘flicking’ behaviour in digital libraries. Power browsing and viewing appear to be the norm for all. The popularity of abstracts among older researchers rather gives the game away. Society is dumbing down.”
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