Monday, April 09, 2018

Need for A Stronger Role for Libraries in Digital Information Consumption

With all the fuss during the past year on the reliability and truth of information, especially that available through the digital media and the news media, has led to renewed interest on how people can be confident about the information they have available to them.

As part of the research on this topic, Pew Research Centre did a survey last year on the types of information available and the feelings and attitudes of people about that information. They explored factors such as the following. "How interested are they (consumers) in the subject? How much do they trust the sources of information that relate to the subject? How eager are they to learn something more? What other aspects of their lives might be competing for their attention and their ability to pursue information? How much access do they have to the information in the first place?"

An analysis off these factors led to a conclusion that two main elements contribute to the level of their enthusiasm about information - "their level of trust in information sources and their interest in learning, particularly about digital skills."

Other studies have shown that people must have some trust in the information in order to be able to use it intelligently. But what to trust in the digital world, particularly that of the internet, is a difficult challenge. Levels of sophistication about information reliability tend to vary with levels of education. Also, gaining access to the information requires a certain level of digital skill with the tools being used. This in turn requires some desire to learn those technologies. This desire to learn varies as well. Often the level of sophistication about the information and the desire for learning follow the same track in tandem.

While the Pew study concluded that there is not a "typical user" out there because of the spread of the variations across the population, there is an obvious possible role for a learning mechanism for those who are at all willing to take part in learning activities, which according to the results constitute a large proportion of the population. Pew points to the libraries as a possible resource in this effort.

AS the Study says, "Library users stand out in their information engagement. Overall, about half (52%) of adults have visited a public library or connected with it online in the past year. Those library users are overrepresented in the two most information-engaged groups. Some 63% of the Eager and Willing were library users in the past year, while this is true for 58% of the Confident. Additionally, both groups are much more likely than others to say they trust librarians and libraries as information sources."

Something to think about, especially for those who think that libraries are obsolete. Here's a link to the Pew Study.

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