Several librarian blogs have recently mentioned the very interesting and useful research report by Char Booth entitled “Informing Innovation: tracking student interest in emerging library technologies at Ohio University” which is available free to download in PDF format. Like many libraries, Ohio University libraries have experimented with many Web 2.0 applications in order to stay relevant to students. But the question remained “if we build this, will the students care?” So Ohio University libraries have begun to veer away from the “technolust” towards a “culture of assessment”. The report presents findings of an environmental scan to investigate what motivated student interest in emerging library technologies. Essentially the findings indicate that libraries should not focus too much on Web 2.0 technologies as a means rather than the means to an end and that students still need some “library awareness” to make full use of any medium which pushes information. Some of the technologies may not be needed or effective. Naturally, then, libraries should survey their users to find out what may or may not be useful before adopting a new technology for the sake of keeping up with the trends.
This struck a chord as I have found myself wondering at times whether libraries should be quite so keen in adopting Web 2.0 applications for their users. Some experimentation is fine but often I wonder how useful they are to library users. The generalisations which apply to different generations are just that – generalisations. Not all members of the Y generation are into blogs and instant messaging, for example. This was brought home to me when a friend of my teenage daughter asked me last year what a blog was. She’d never heard of one. I then reflected on the applications my daughter and her friends use. They occasionally use instant messaging and social networking sites and visit Youtube, but they don’t read blogs or Twitter or use RSS aggregators, for example. They may not be typical of her generation but it’s still important to remember not to lump everyone in the same category. Then there are the more mature library users. What do they use or find useful? Libraries surveying their own users is therefore very important.
Char Booth’s excellent and highly relevant report includes a survey template which libraries can use to do a similar environmental scan. Very handy!