LIS Research Coalition Conference 2010

I attended the Library and Information Science Research Coalition on Monday and Professor Andrew Dillon’s session dovetailed nicely into CILIP ‘s discussion on Defining our Professional Future. It’s timely to reflect after a busy spring on the role of library and information professionals into the future. Andrew Dillon stimulated consideration of the speed at which the field of information is accelerating – I can still remember punching holes in cards as part of the RGIT course, as it was then, as part of computing and also booking times to access online databases. Today’s students are being blue-toothed adverts and downloading books with one tap on their iPhone. What is more, they are uploading and publishing in a flexible way, unimagined by their predecessor generations, for whom the 3 decker novel was a revolution.

There are two things I’d like to pause for reflection on. The first is the skills which are needed to function in this whirlpool of information. Dillon regrets the passing of ‘deep’ reading skills. There is the example stock market traders who consumer vast amounts of information – working banks of split screen computers and making decisions based on their skimming and scanning abilities. The ‘digital natives’ have made ‘power-browsing’ into an artform but are they losing out in depth of comprehension by being in a constant state of partial attention? What forms of information literacy skills do they need to survive and thrive? Dillon reported on an experiment with a range of techno-savvy undergraduates in the States, where a piece of information was displayed in Encyclopaedia Britannica web pages and also in Wikipedia format (actually it came from neither source). The students were asked to evaluate for credibility, with Britannica securing a higher level of support. Do we ask students scrutinise the content or just the reputation of the information provider? As we roll out the Ask Scotland service our own skills come under scrutiny and we cannot be found wanting, if information services are to survive.

The second thing to think about is the mediation role of the librarian. Since before the People’s Network we have been claiming that library and information professionals play an important mediating role between information hunter and information provider. As new technologies develop and people are more readily able to access information independently, we have to ask ourselves if this gap is narrowing and whether the LIS staff will be squeezed out?



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