The Google Generation and Library Skills

What the Google Generation Doesn’t Know or 

Get off of my Lawn!

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How has Google affected research skills?  Are library patrons getting the facts?  Are the facts they are getting ‘real’?   Do they know how to find information or what questions to ask? How is the technological immediacy of information balanced against quality?  Do rolling stones still gather no moss?  Many opinions were offered on these subjects and more when  Kevin O’Kelly of the Somerville Public Library asked Publib members:

         “is ignorance of the skills of the pre-Internet age limiting their (high school students) ability to function in the Internet age? ”

To which the Publib Chorus responds:

Thy cnt spl.  Vowels are a thing of the past. Seriously, they can’t spell. They can’t find things, sometimes even on Google because even Google can’t make heads or tails of what they are trying to say.   ~ Dusty Gres – Ohoopee Regional Library System  (editor:   SMS language avoids vowels)

Ay?

I was assisting a middle-schooler with her homework when I noticed she had written that the two official languages of Canada were English and Sumerian. I pointed out her mistake, but even if she had turned the homework in and gotten it wrong she would probably still have discovered that Yahoo Answers isn’t the best resource. And I don’t know about others in my generation, but I rarely find myself’ following the shiny blue hyper-links all over the place in some sort of internet-induced ADD rapture (unless it’s Wikipedia, in which case all bets are off – that site is an easy time-suck). ~ Theresa McNutt – Red Oak Library 

The truly disturbing thing is that back in the day, patrons who couldn’t use the book resources got no information and came to us for help.  Now they will actually get something with their poorly constructed search strategies and they’ll be happy about it.  It’s hard to educate someone who thinks they know what they’re doing. ~ emilie smart – East Baton Rouge Parish Library

. . .Often they finally do come to me, and the only thing left to do is to employ the backhoe method to help them.  I ask ‘what piece of information do you need to have when you leave that you don’t have now?’  … They are entirely too trusting.  They will believe anything if a search engine produces it.  They need to have that talk about not all is gold that glisters and not every search engine is righteous in its presentations.  They don’t know the difference between a site that is there to sell something and one that is there to provide information.  …  They are willing to show others–including librarians–how to manipulate the technology in exchange for being shown how to manipulate information.  Together, we have possibilities. ~ Kathleen Stipek –  Alachua County Library District   

As a member of “generation Google” I respectfully disagree.  It’s a vast  generalization to say that an entire generation (or all young people,  etc.) don’t know how to search online, use an index in a book, or any number of other assumptions. Some younger people don’t know how to do these things; that’s for certain. But neither do some adults. It’s unfair to say that, just because I grew up using computers and the  Internet, I don’t know how to use a library in the traditional sense; or  that I don’t know how to correctly and successfully search for
information online. ~ Amanda Dias – Rodman Public Library

I find that just as many middle aged and older adults have basic book finding and research questions as younger ones. ~ Jesse Ephraim – Roanoke Public Library

I have found that fewer young people have an understanding and appreciation of the Dewey Decimal system.  As we migrate to eBooks and other things digital, I also think about children reading about this strange system (Dewey) that was used to arrange an old technology (books) a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. Which leaves me to wonder if Dewey will ever have a place in a completely digital world? … are the same basic skill(s) needed to find, use and evaluate information changing?

How would our ancient predecessors have handled a change in information technology?  It would be interesting to consider how the Roman era librarians of Alexandria would have handled the change from housing half a million papyrus scrolls to a lesser number of paper books.  What changes in society and technology would have effected them?  (And we all know how the changes in society, politics and history of their times influenced the end result of the Great Library of Alexandria.) ~  Dana L. Brumbelow – Alachua County Library District

 many people of ALL ages now just turn to Google and don’t go any further when looking for information. For me it’s really a question of reminding people that unlike the web, a book doesn’t just suddenly disappear, the way a website will if the internet connection is severed. ~ Teresa Eckford

Pretty much anything off the Internet, regardless of source, if it sounds remotely plausible, will satisfy many questioners. Certainly no one wants to wait the few minutes for a librarian to find the correct information in an actual reference book – just take whatever Wikipedia offers.  And it seems that many teachers, having grown up with the same attitudes, don’t have the sense to demand authoritative sources.  Or, perhaps, even to be aware that they exist.

One of my favorite books, “The Franchise Affair” by Josephine Tey rightly skewers the tabloid press of the 40s.  The crazy tabloids my grandmother subscribed to have move comfortably to the web. Batboy lives!  And I’m having a Martian love child next month!  
. . .  Often research skills are taught in school, but patrons want to take the easy way and have you hand them information.  I’ve encountered this often as a K-8 school librarian.  Several teachers complained to the principal that the students didn’t know how to find information or use the library.  This was after years of being taught how to do both.

I asked the teachers to bring classes in to see what the problem was.  The teacher would ask, “Where would you find information on XYZ?”  A room full of shrugged shoulders and vacant stares.I responded, “Really?  Where is the first place you would look for the information?”  Miraculously hands would go up and they suddenly remembered they would use the index to the encyclopedia and then locate the volumes indicated.  They would explain about the different Dewey classifications and using the OPAC. ~ Paula Laurita – Athens-Limestone Public Library 

 
Yellow Journalsim

Yellow Journalism

“Yellow journalism” goes back to the beginning of journalism! So do highly-regarded books that contained errors, slanted viewpoints, careful omission of important facts, etc.No matter what the medium, “logical fallacies” will always be common. Politics in general relies heavily on them, as do many other factors in life. Critical thinking can be taught, but the emotional and social variables that undermine the process can never be fully overcome.

 I would even suggest that the concept of “authoritative sources” in general tends to downplay critical thinking while appealing to emotion and social pressures.  ;)  Knowing how to manipulate the technology is an integral part of librarianship today.  Librarians should know more than the students in that regard, and should work hard to keep their knowledge current.  In most cases, that means studying on your own time for no pay, just as folks in other professions do.

. . . There are some simple ways to improve Google searches dramatically – when I have trouble finding things via Google, it’s usually because the information simply isn’t online, or it’s so obscure that it takes a lot of extra work (which is true of old style print searching, as well).  Though indexes are more precise, they are inherently much more limited. ~ Jesse Ephraim – Roanoke Public Library

The Pew Research Center [somewhere] discovered that, really, under-twenty-somethings aren’t really all that net-savvy. They found it a misconception that next-genners can fix a computer in their sleep. Stroll through any public library’s teen area and watch them actually try to find info by Googling – it’s laughable, sad even. I’m not sure Google gets enough credit in terms of info. organization. Its services just get a bad rep because of its users. ~ Michael Schofield

 
As professionals we should be aware of, and keep up to date on, both library(research) methods _and_ current information technologies. ~ Carl William Long -   Reading Public Library
 
 I think some patrons would love a drive through window! I my case as a public law library – “one divorce packet, no children, to go please.” ~ Virginia Eldridge  Grayson County Law Library

 What really gets to me about these kids-these-days-and-their-darn-computer-boxes discussions is the knee-jerk assumption that a different skill set is an inferior skill set. Lately I’ve enjoyed pointing people to Socrates’ Phaedrus, written around 370 B.C., in which he rails against the new technology of the printed word and its deleterious effect on the mental habits of future generations. David Malki, author of Wondermark, has a really good blog post about it here: http://bit.ly/fnDHxu     

Socrates

I assume that a listserv full of librarians isn’t going to side with Plato in condemning the written word, but he’s not entirely wrong. A dialogue with a knowledgeable person can be much more illuminating that reading a book written by that same person. Plato’s error is his failure to see that the written word has its own strengths to offset the ways in which it is inferior to the spoken word and his refusal to seek out and exploit those strengths rather than lamenting those inferiorities.

Computers have produced a cultural upheaval to rival that wrought by writing and we’re well the point of no return. We’ll better serve ourselves and our patrons by looking to fuse our competencies with those of the Googleites than by grousing about what the kids don’t know. ~ Andrew Fuerste-Henry – Carnegie-Stout Public Library

. . . this ability to synthesize information into thoughts (especially written thoughts) that young people seem increasingly to be missing. I’m not sure if it has to do with how, or where they are getting their information; whether the inability to use an index or to structure a good online search is part of the problem. But I do know it’s a very real problem. I see it all the time, both at work and when I serve as a judge for local debate tournaments.  ~ Tom Cooper – Webster Groves Public Library

I think this is probably the most significant point to be made on this topic, and gets to the heart of the matter. How to help patrons who don’t know they need help? ~  Mark Hudson  East Baton Rouge Parish Library

And teachers and the Internet and their assignments for children…. I can’t figure out if it’s Google-era teachers or old, seasoned veterans who apparently give assignments and say, broadly, “You need information from a book, from a magazine article, and something from the Internet.”  Period.  I used to think it was older teachers who really were backward and knew nothing of the Internet, but thought it was something that everyone was “doing,” so his/her students should “do” the Internet for an assignment, too.  But I’m not so sure.  Then again, having had experience as a parent, I’m not always sure if kids who say, “The teacher said I need something from the Internet,” and then volunteer no further info, despite the best reference interview I can muster, are telling the truth.  Maybe the teacher gave precise directions and exact websites to try.  (That does happen, in about 10% of the cases, or some ridiculously low percentage like that there one.)  Maybe the teacher spoke intelligently and well about How to Find Good, Accurate Information on the Internet.  Or not.  Or has never been in the public library.  Or perhaps has.

Hittites in Love

And then there are all the official documents sent home for parental signatures at the beginning of the year, baddly ritten with pore grammer an speling an runonsentencez, and who produced *those*, I wonder.  Google-ites, or Troglodytes?  (Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites, Hivites–oops, now I’m getting carried away with names from the Bible, and am risking political incorrectness in public.  Or on publib.  Stop me now!) ~ John Richmond – Alpha Park Public Library

A brief summation of the Google Generation thread, with abject apologies to the Rolling Stones. :) ~ Tongue firmly in cheek, ~ Sarah Howison  – New Richmond Branch Library 

(You! Kids!) Get off of My Lawn

They live on the Internet and they can’t read an analog clock
And they eat junky foods till you can hear all their arteries clog.
They trust Google way too much, and they don’t know how to use an index
They cite Wikis in their papers and good lord, I don’t know what’s next!

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!

Their phones are ringing Bieber in the library all of the time
They answer them out loud, ignoring all the posted “no cell phone” signs.
You say “Hang it up, kiddo, or I’ll have to ask you to depart.”
And they act as though you’ve stabbed them all the way down into the heart.

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!

They barely use a vowel, they communicate only in text-speak
And for all the sense it makes to us, they might as well be sending Greek.
We snoop around the stacks and assume that all their acts are obscene
No wonder they seem to think librarians are all kind of mean!

We say You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
You! (You!) Kids! (Kids!)
Get off of my lawn!
Keep off the grass ’cause you’re not allowed
On my lawn!   ~ Sarah Howison  – New Richmond Branch Library

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