Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future (report)

January 20th, 2008 by Gabriel Bodard

The British Library and JISC commissioned the Centre for Information Behaviour and the Evaluation of Research (CIBER) at UCL to produce a report on Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future. It’s well worth reading the full reportin PDF (which I haven’t finished yet) but among the conclusions listed by the BL press release on this are:

  • All age groups revealed to share so-called ‘Google Generation’ traits
  • New study argues that libraries will have to adapt to the digital mindset
  • Young people seemingly lacking in information skills; strong message to the government and society at large

A new study overturns the common assumption that the ‘Google Generation’ – youngsters born or brought up in the Internet age – is the most web-literate. The first ever virtual longitudinal study carried out by the CIBER research team at University College London claims that, although young people demonstrate an apparent ease and familiarity with computers, they rely heavily on search engines, view rather than read and do not possess the critical and analytical skills to assess the information that they find on the web.

This is a very interesting combination of conclusions–although many of us have been observing for years that while our youngest students may think they know everything about computers they often don’t actually know the first thing about using the Internet for research (nor, needless to say, about opening up a computer–either physically or metaphorically–and playing with its innards). That the GoogleGen traits such as short attention span, impatience with anything not in the first page of search results, and readiness to flit from topic to topic in the wikiblogoatomosphere are not restricted to teenagers is not news to we “gray ADDers” either.

The suggestion that libraries, the ultimate custodians of both raw data and interpreted information (and, I would argue, especially schools and universities), need to be functioning in the spirit of this new digital world and serving the needs of our plugged-in and distracted community. Not by making information available in bite-sized, easily identified and digested pieces–that would be pandering, not serving–but by providing educational resources alongside the traditional preserved texts/media. And microformatting it (because our target-audience don’t necessarily know they’re our audience). And future-proofing it.

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