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Academic users still using tangible materials

Thanks to LISNews for pointing us to this October 2005 Survey of Library User Studies by Thomas Mann of the Library of Congress. Mr. Mann’s roundup of recent studies of university student and faculty information habits show that printed and other tangible materials continue to play an important part in academic life.

The academic users in these studies are not luddites. Most of them use the Internet for quick answers or as a first stab at research, but according to the 2003 study Dimensions and Use of the Scholarly Information Environment, shows that college students still value tangible information:

This study found, based on over 3,200 interviews, that 55.4% of all respondents (and 59.7% of undergraduates) still regard browsing library bookstacks as “an important way” to get information. 1 Two thirds of the faculty and grad students use print resources for research all or most of the time (73% for teaching). 52% of undergrads use print resources for coursework all or most of the time. (The figure was 72% for grad students.) More than 90% of them agreed that print books and journals “will continue to be important sources for me in the next five years.” . . . 59% of undergrads still use print abstracts and indexes, 93% use printed books, and 81% use print journals (97% of grad students use print journals). Only 28% said they “find reading information on a screen satisfactory.” 86% of students feel that “my campus library meets most of my information needs.” 55% still regard browsing the stacks and journal shelves as an important way to get information–and only 35% use the library significantly less than they did two years ago. 14% want more print journals as compared to 11% who want more e-journals–and 89% want more books.

The other studies highlighted show similar results. Perhaps Congress, the Government Printing Office, and even some in the depository library community should be paying closer attention to these conclusions. Or at least, Congress should be funding research to see what people really want and need, rather than simply making assumptions.

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