Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Internet: a drowning pool?

Excellent article, "The Internet: Is it student lifesaver or drowning pool?" by Ryan Quinn in the North Adams Transcript on college libraries. Please read the WHOLE thing.

He quotes the Pew Internet and the American Life Project from two years ago that indicated college students were more likely to use the internet than the college library. Happily, that trend seems to be changing according to Rebecca Ohm, a reference librarian at Sawyer Library at Williams College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"Libraries are at the forefront of using technology," she said, eager to demonstrate how the library's Web site made it easier for students to search the dozens of indexes and databases that the college subscribes to electronically. "It can seem daunting," she admitted of the amount of information available. But this may be the very reason students now seek out library resources, which, unlike Web pages, are catalogued for easy access.

A Williams art history major from Schenectady, N.Y., who declined to give her name, said the library has become easier to use than Internet because she can search databases of scholarly journals to locate the full text articles she needs for research projects. And if she gets stuck, she asks a librarian for help. And that, Ohm insists, is what librarians are there for.

"That's why I went into this profession," she said. To help students, and also to expose them to the research tools that they might not be aware of. Ohm said she was appalled when she heard a student had purchased an old article from the New York Times' Web site for $2.95. The library at Williams, she said, has the Times archived electronically back to the 1800s -- all of it free of charge.

I always warned my students...
"Anyone can put up a site and publish whatever they want," he said. He encourages his students to use the library, where they have easy access to "refereed" or "peer reviewed" articles, articles that have endured blind readings by board members of a scholarly journal to ensure quality. Students reported that some professors did not allow them to use a Web site as a source in their research, and almost all said they thought their professors preferred them to use the library.

I am mailing a copy of this article to both of my college kids.

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