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Presented at ACRL 2013: Imagine, Innovate, Inspire, 10-13 April 2013, Indianapolis, Indiana (USA).
The academic community has many available ways to engage in the information environment, making physical and digital libraries one option among many others. Library resources often are not the first or even second choices of students and the academic community, who often choose the more convenient, easier to use open-access sources. To make evidence-based decisions, as recommended in the 2010 ACRL Value of Academic Libraries report, it is necessary to identify how, why, and under what circumstances individuals use the various available systems and services. The Visitors and Residents project, a three-year longitudinal study, uses the digital visitors and residents framework to track US and UK participants’ shifts in their motivations and forms of engagement with technology and information as they transition between four educational stages. In Phase 1 of the project, 30 participants were interviewed (15 UK and 15 US) from the Emerging educational stage, which spans late stage secondary school and first year college/university. A sub-group of these participants were selected to engage in an ongoing diary process. The activities in Phase 2 have focused on interviewing participants from the later educational stages and extending the diary process and the coding and analyzing of the Phase 1 data. This paper focuses on the semi-structured interviews with US and UK subjects in the Emerging educational stage. It will identify the point in information-seeking cycles in which these learners engage with institutional services, for example, the “interface” between platforms such as Wikipedia and Google Scholar and institutionally-provided services. It also will identify the modes of engagement that learners are using at different educational stages and the motivations behind these uses, such as texting with peers, vs. using email in “formal” contexts. Many digital literacies are developed by learners in a trial-and-error manner. This study identifies these user-owned literacies and explores their relationship to, and effect on, the pedagogical approach of academics and the advice given by support/library staff. Initial results highlight the importance of convenience as a crucial factor in information-seeking behavior. There also are indications that as users progress through the educational stages, the digital literacies they employ do not necessarily become more sophisticated. These findings will have important implications for academic librarians in the design and positioning of systems and services in the context of the open web, such as digital literacy instruction, virtual reference services, and digital collections.
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