The 2006 ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology is available for your browsing/reading pleasure. Almost all (94%) students surveyed use the library's online resources/web site and most use these resources monthly. (page 44) Students studying in the social sciences and the humanities have the strongest skills using online library resources. (page 51) Almost three quarters (73.9%) of students think that the use of information technology in their courses improves their ability to do research. (page 77)
Additional factoids on student skill level when using online library resources (page 49-50):
- 1 in 10 students (9.4%) never use or rarely use online library resources
- 46.9% of students use only basic features
- 43.7% of students use advanced features and these students are probably Seniors and studying in the social sciences
- 43.9% of Seniors use the basic features of online library resources compared to 52.8% of Freshmen
- 50% of Seniors use the advanced features of online library resources compared to 36.9% of Freshman
The most revealing, not surprising, and disturbing thing I noticed while browsing the report is the undergraduate student quote appearing directly under the title of Chapter 6, Information Technology and the Student Academic Experience. "I no longer have to go to the library for research and carry books home. Now, I have the world of knowledge at my fingertips."
It's true that academic libraries are spending huge amounts of money to provide access to as much electronic content as possible for student and faculty use. Librarians are all too aware of the real cost of providing this access. Librarians also are quite aware that our students, faculty, administration, and state legislators don't fully grok the costs involved with delivering content to the desktop/laptop.
The more troubling part of the quote is the implied concept of having access to everything at the desktop/laptop. The student does not realize how little content he or she can access. The student will never realize this because he or she has no need to go to the library and interact with a librarian. It's all right there "at my fingertips."
I realize this is conjecture, but based on observation and conversation I'm confident that my speculations are valid. I also suspect that most administrators (outside the library) believe that the "world of knowledge" is readily available on the desktop/laptop and that library budgets are more than adequate to provide access to that "world of knowledge."
Okay, I'm done preaching to the choir. The report contains a lot more information on student usage of technology. So, make sure to take a look at it if you have a chance.