In the Information Age: Do Physical Spaces for Knowledge Matter?


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Gwenda Thomas impresses the need for physical information storage places in libraries

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In the Information Age: Do Physical Spaces for Knowledge Matter?

  1. 1. In the Information Age: Do Physical Spaces for Knowledge Matter? Or, Redesigning for the Next Generation Libraries: challenges & critical issues Gwenda Thomas Rhodes University Library
  2. 2. Rhodes University Eastern Cape
  3. 3. Highway Africa: Consider these media comments… <ul><li>Highway Africa began 12 years ago to help African journalists learn about the Internet </li></ul><ul><li>Journalists are “drivers” in the use of digital media & the Internet </li></ul><ul><li>Journalists are creative users of cellphones, e-mail & the Internet & are adept at multi-skilling </li></ul><ul><li>The future vision for Highway Africa is an Institute for the study of the interface of journalism, media & digital technology </li></ul>
  4. 4. So what is the future vision for libraries in the Information Age… <ul><li>Does the library as place have relevance </li></ul><ul><li>How should library space be best used </li></ul><ul><li>Who exactly regards academic libraries as an “institutional good” </li></ul>
  5. 6. Challenges of the new reality <ul><li>Rethink assumptions about academic libraries </li></ul><ul><li>Reshape & revitalise library spaces </li></ul><ul><li>Rebrand libraries & information professionals </li></ul>
  6. 7. Rethink: does library as place have relevance <ul><li>Will library provide appropriate study & learning space for next 10-15 years </li></ul><ul><li>What purpose & needs will space serve </li></ul>
  7. 8. Disconnect 1: Academic library practices @ crossroads <ul><li>why bricks & mortar in the digital age </li></ul><ul><li>why have academic libraries not changed in 30 years </li></ul><ul><li>why so many PCs in the new library design - it’s just a vast IT lab </li></ul><ul><li>if ‘Googlers’ don’t read – why do we need a new library </li></ul><ul><li>… but it is all available electronically! </li></ul>
  8. 9. Disconnect 2: Library users are no longer a captive audience <ul><li>Users have alternatives to look and find information </li></ul><ul><li>They can by-pass the library to meet information needs </li></ul>
  9. 10. Disconnect 3: ‘Silver Surfers’ fast catching the ‘Google Generation’ <ul><li>Googlers born after 1993 in an Internet dominated world </li></ul><ul><li>1 st stop is Internet & Google </li></ul><ul><li>… but the new reality is </li></ul><ul><li>Older users catching the digital waves </li></ul><ul><li>Generation differences are blurring in the digital age transition </li></ul>
  10. 11. Google Generation information behaviour traits <ul><li>Impatience in searching & navigating </li></ul><ul><li>Zero-tolerance for any delay in satisfying information needs </li></ul><ul><li>…but is this characteristic of only young information users </li></ul>
  11. 12. ‘ Silver Surfer’ information behaviour traits @ Symposium <ul><li>Horizontal information skimming </li></ul><ul><li>- skim & bounce between webpages </li></ul><ul><li>Navigation </li></ul><ul><li>- spend as much time finding way as viewing </li></ul>
  12. 13. ‘Silver Surfers’ <ul><li>Viewing </li></ul><ul><li>- power browse for quick wins </li></ul><ul><li>- average time on e-book/e-journal site is 4-8 minutes </li></ul><ul><li>Squirrelling behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>- downloads (especially freebies) squirrelled away </li></ul><ul><li>- no evidence of extent to which content is read </li></ul>
  13. 14. Disconnect 4: Info savvy vs Techie savvy <ul><li>2007 HESA study among SA Employers </li></ul><ul><li>Access to technology not improved search & evaluate skills </li></ul><ul><li>Challenged to articulate information needs/effective search strategies </li></ul><ul><li>Little time spent evaluating relevance, accuracy & authority of information </li></ul><ul><li>Technologically more literate but not more information literate </li></ul>
  14. 15. Redefine services: know your users <ul><li>Library intensive in research & teaching </li></ul><ul><li>Expect intensive involvement by library & information professionals </li></ul><ul><li>Expect library instruction & assistance </li></ul>
  15. 16. And keep them close (and your non-users) <ul><li>Independent information behaviour </li></ul><ul><li>rarely feeling the need to come to the library or consult information professionals </li></ul><ul><li>Admitted demand for physical space & study areas will increase </li></ul>
  16. 17. (And your lost users…journalists) <ul><li>Expect library to maintain print collections & access </li></ul><ul><li>Want library to be gateway to global information resources </li></ul><ul><li>Expressed concern about: </li></ul><ul><li>- poor IL skills </li></ul><ul><li>- library experience for 1 st generation students & young researchers </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  17. 18. Reshape & revitalise physical spaces as a desirable “draw” <ul><li>“ Engage” users with the building </li></ul><ul><li>Highly visible & convenient location to access </li></ul>
  18. 19. Reshape study & learning zones across the library <ul><li>Inquiry service interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Information Commons </li></ul><ul><li>Chill corners </li></ul><ul><li>Informal interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Reflection </li></ul>
  19. 21. Reshape study & learning zones across the library <ul><li>Group interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching & instruction </li></ul><ul><li>Collections </li></ul><ul><li>Services </li></ul><ul><li>Self-service </li></ul><ul><li>Ranges of study seating </li></ul>
  20. 22. Rebrand perceptions <ul><li>Avoid brand association of library synonymous with books </li></ul><ul><li>Deal with dissatisfaction expressed across a range of services </li></ul><ul><li>Move library mind-set from traditional content focus to dynamic user-facing orientation </li></ul><ul><li>Branding is about information professional skills not only services </li></ul>
  21. 24. Conclusion <ul><li>Information specialists have a formidable responsibility in the Information Age </li></ul><ul><li>It is imperative to stay close to the user community </li></ul><ul><li>Respond to data about our users </li></ul><ul><li>Really get information literacy onto the agenda </li></ul>
  22. 25. The final word… “ People want what they want when they want it. They don’t want something else, they don’t want less than they want, and they certainly don’t want it at some other time”. H I Forsha The pursuit of quality through personal change 1992
  23. 26. Thank you!