If you’d like to read a brief discussion about Web 2.0, user-driven content and the ways in which your average college student searches for information, then the editorial posted on Mar 14 2008 in the Chronicle of Higher Education written by Hurley Goodall is worth a look. Entitled, “Experts versus Amateurs on the Web“, you can click here to read it.
The author writes that as Web 2.0 tools evolve sites such as Mahalo – which calls itself the “world’s first human-powered search engine”, and Knol – a new project from Google – will become increasingly important to the so-called Google generation, who are used to finding information fast but are less adept at gauging the utility, comprehensiveness, currency or credibility of the information they find on the Web.
While the Google generation may not be using academic libraries collections (or the services of academic librarians) as much as previous generations of college students, their need for services produced by information professionals has never been greater. Information professionals review, compare and select subscription databases, index and manage vast amounts of incoming print or online resources, construct meta-data, guide both novice users and experienced faculty on what to choose to search – and how to search it effectively.
Because technology librarians are working constantly to keep the “back-end” humming 24×7, the front-end of the academic library – the home page – works seamlessly. We provide the essential roadmaps for users to navigate a constant supply of information.
Nothing in either the front-end or the back-end remains the same. Just in the past 5 month alone, there have been entirely new platforms for our subscription databases Web of Science, OVID SP, InfoRetriever (reinvented by Wiley as Essential Evidence Plus) and an upgrade for EBSCO was announced for later in 2008.
When a user logs into a database and finds that everything about their familiar search engine has changed… this confronts the novice user like a smack in the eye. After spending time learning to navigate one search page and one way to print or download – the user is shocked to find that they must re-learn how to search quickly and efficiently all over again. This is not unlike coming home at the end of the day, opening your front door to find that while you were away, your significant other has changed the carpeting, furniture, wall colors, drapes and then gave the cat away!
This brief editorial caused me to revisit where we were before Web 2.0. For example, look back to the year 1995… Email was new, we were pre-Blackberry and pre-Google, some few had cell phones, only physicians carried pagers, there was no wireless anything. Most information resided in the library – in print – and you had to be here to use it. Librarians and publishers were just getting started on digital collections of journals.
The past does not predict the future when it comes to technologies in information. Where we are in 2008 in terms of information-seeking, database searching, Web 2.0 application or searching technologies can provide no yardstick for the world in which libraries and our core users will dwell in 2018. All kinds of new things will crop up by then, count on it!