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Data shows SBU students use web library more, despite Pew research

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According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2013, only 53 percent of adults aged 30 and over agreed with the 62 percent of those aged 16 to 29 who said that some important information is not on the Internet. (MEGAN MILLER / THE STATESMAN)

There is a curious duality that recent studies show regarding college students and how they get their information.

A 2013 Pew Research Center study found that 62 percent of those between the ages of 16 through 29 said there is a lot of useful, important information not on the Internet. Those ages 30 and over agreed only 53 percent of the time.

Dr. Thomas Woodson, an assistant professor in the Department of Technology and Society, thinks that perhaps because the younger generation is so tech savvy, they have learned to know the internet’s flaws.

“Millennials know a lot about technology and the Internet and they see Internet ‘trolling’ and how easy it is to post false information,” Woodson said. “As a result, I think they are skeptical of some the information they encounter on the internet and will look to non-internet sources to find more information.”

But the other half of the problem is the question of what “non-Internet sources” college students look to, and how frequently they do so.

For Seawolves, these sources are found in the stacks of the Melville Library.

Yet according to the Stony Brook University Libraries Research and Instructional Services (RIS) of 2012 to 2013, the library website traffic has steadily risen over the past four years–rising about 18 percent since 2009.

The average duration of a website visit has gone up by about two minutes since last year, and the total online library reference questions has also increased. The most frequent inquiry is how to access JSTOR from the library website.

In one statistic, the library website in 2011-2012 had about 7,300 visitors from an Apple iPhone, an increase of 565 percent from the year before.

Therefore, the concept of a library has taken on a much more electronic presence among students at Stony Brook. Research Services Coordinator and Head of Reference for the library William Glenn says it is because of the “Internet generation.”

“They have grown up in a very different world,” Glenn said. “The two biggest dates, in terms of marking historic generations, would seem to be 1977, with the introduction of the personal computer, and 1994, as kind of a kickoff date for the Internet.

Things changed dramatically after those events in libraries and in the society at large.”

In the article “Information Commons: Meeting Millennials’ Needs” from 2010, Joan Lippincott said, “One of the most important things a library can do as part of its planning process is to conduct some type of needs assessment of its student population. It is important to collect information on the actual needs of students and not just on needs perceived by librarians, who are frequently from a different generation.”

College students of this generation have many different needs than those of old.

“The younger generation has different learning requirements and preferences than older generations,”  Woodson said. “Libraries are actively pursuing programs to better meet the needs of students. They rent tablet computers, build learning websites, engage in social media and hold a myriad of seminars to train students and professors to be teach and absorb information.”

Professor Edwin Tjoe, who teaches a class in technological trends, thinks that the vast amount of information available on the Internet might deter student exploration of a physical library.

“I don’t think younger people are aware of all that’s inside of a library to an extent,” Tjoe said. “Sometimes people are astonished at the amount of material.”

Tjoe even proposes that parents play a part in the younger generation’s preference of the internet over library.

“Some parents might feel all the information’s online so they’re child won’t need to go into a library to learn some things,” he said.

In “How Do I Get a Campus ID? The Other Role of the Academic Library in Student Retention and Success,” a study was cited from 2007 at California State University, Monterey Bay.

Data analysis in that study showed that about half (47 percent) of all inquiries made by students were related to either hardware or software problems with the Internet systems in place.

It is safe to say that percentage has gone up since then, as all signs are beginning to point to a new kind of library that can be carried in a bag.

“I think libraries will be around for a long time,” said Woodson. “Libraries may not have as many rows of books but there will always be a need for a library-like space in the community.”

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