Who Uses What? Report on a National Survey of Information Users in Colleges and Universities

Deanna B Marcum, Gerald George


Time was when ambitious scholars began their research by consulting the paper card catalogs and finding aids of their campus libraries, corresponding by mail with professors, librarians, and archivists elsewhere about available resources, and checking the bibliographies of already published, printed works. Then they holed up in carrels in library stacks to study printed works available there and from others by interlibrary loan, hoping all the time for financial aid to travel to other repositories that contained needed books, journals, and paper documents. In the meantime, yesteryear's professors also put printed course materials physically on reserve in campus libraries for their students, who laboriously scribbled notes to take back to their dorms, where they penned or typed their course papers (making corrections with White-Out), and stayed up late reading expensive, bulky textbooks to prepare for exams.The advent of Web-accessible, digital information has made all that seem, if not yet obsolete, at least quaintly inefficient. Today's professor may sit in the comfort of a home or office to do research, employing a computer to search electronic card catalogs, e-journals, and huge databases of digitized scholarly information. Also said professor may prepare "distance-education" courses and PowerPoint presentations, post class assignments and reading materials electronically through "courseware," and send e-mail answers to questions from students, who use computers both to find information and to write their "papers." At least this is the expectation of colleges and universities that are investing heavily in computer infrastructure and digital resources for research, teaching, and study.But to what degree is the supposed transformation really happening? How extensively are professors and students using the new digital resources? How comfortable are they with electronic information technology? How radically is itchanging how they teach, study, and undertake research? And what are the implications of these changes for higher-education administration?

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