Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Library Research 2.0

College students today need to be bilingual in their research. On the one hand, they need to know about traditional kinds of inquiry and the rich range of resources now available online and through databases. On the other, they need to know about research that is enriched by media, social discovery, and Web 2.0 resources and methods. One might call this newer approach "Library Research 2.0." Let me show you how it works.

As soon as I used that phrase, "Library Research 2.0," I immediately asked myself, "Who else might be thinking about this?" So I Googled "Library Research 2.0," and opened up a few tabs in my Chrome browser based on the top search results. One of these led me to a Google Doc presentation, "Library Research 2.0," posted by librarian Maria Accardi. Doesn't Ms. Accardi look friendly? It certainly was friendly of her to post her presentation rather than limiting its reach to the people at her university.

[I'm going to be pointing out my process in bracketed remarks. Note here how I began my research. I began writing my thoughts in a blog post, which led me to a meaningful Google search. This is the digital principle of "create" (writing) leading to a companion principle, "consume" (seeking info). But I was NOT using Google to turn up static sources by themselves. I searched to find PEOPLE. This is a huge difference from traditional research approaches, bringing the principle of "connect" into the picture very early on.]

I glanced through Ms. Accardi's presentation and discovered she'd given training last November about four "free, web-based tools that can help enhance, simplify, and streamline the research process." These included RSS feeds, citation tools, social bookmarking, and Google Docs -- all tools that I know are critical to researching today. Looks like Maria Accardi and I have been thinking along similar lines.

[In other words, I measured the result of my search in terms of finding someone already associated with the area I am researching. I was looking for social-topical relevance, not just topical relevance.]

Encouraged, I dug deeper. A widget on that site showed Ms. Accardi's social bookmarks through del.icio.us. Tags included "information literacy" and others that also confirmed that she is looking into the same things that I am researching right now. So, I clicked through to see her Delicious bookmarks.

[Do you see what's happened in my process here? I'm treating this person not just as a source of one piece of relevant content, but as a filter to a set of content that could relate to our common interests. Doing this both helps qualify her as a reliable source (as I see the types of things she's bookmarked) and it can lead me to additional relevant content.]

One of her bookmarks was to something called "Project Information Literacy," which I discovered is an effort from the University of Washington's Information School "to understand how early adults conceptualize and operationalize research activities for course work and 'everyday life' use and especially how they resolve issues of credibility, authority, relevance, and currency in the digital age" ("About"). I bookmarked this site using my Diigo social bookmarking (using the Chrome browser extension for Diigo, actually).

[Are you seeing the pattern? After using a content search to find a relevant person; I used that person as a launching point back to content of interest. Then, I began a second-level approach to research: intelligently gathering  sources through bookmarking. This is important, since I'm now using my own process of "consuming" (filtering and selecting potential sources for my research) to create a kind of intermediate content (a bookmark), just as Ms. Accardi did through Delicious. But because these bookmarking services are social, my bookmark is now of use to a larger community (my own set of bookmarks, my writing group on Diigo, and the general public bookmark stream in general on Diigo). Someone at some point may use my bookmarks in the same way I just used Ms. Accardi's.]

The Project Information Literacy site pointed me to a peer-reviewed article about "How college students use the Web to conduct everyday life research." I looked it over. It's very current (April, 2011; this is May, 2011), and quite large (25 institutions, 8300 participants). It had some great information, such as the stark reality that college students turn to social sources for information (friends, family, classmates, social networks) far more than they go to instructors, research databases, or the library; and that the criteria college students use for judging the credibility of a website has much more to do with the interface design than whether it has a bibliography or is recommended by a librarian. Bookmark. This source lends credibility to a major point I'm trying to make in this post -- that the new mode of research should be more socially oriented, since college students are already wired to find information that way.

A lot of people think that Web 2.0 is complicated, or that it requires learning a lot of new tools. In this instance, I used several first-generation web features (a search engine, a website, a PowerPoint presentation), and only one Web 2.0 tool, social bookmarking (Ms. Accardi's bookmarks on Delicious; my own on Diigo).

I would say Library Research 2.0 is less about sophisticated tools, and more about learning to connect people to content through social intermediaries. It's about having the habit of drawing from and contributing to a community of fellow learners and researchers who freely share their journeys of inquiry so that others can build upon your research in the informal way that I built up Ms. Accardi's. If you don't know how to connect to content through people, you aren't yet fully present in the digital age. This was just one way that worked well. What ways have you used?

[By the way, I emailed Maria Accardi right after composing this post, asking for her input if she had any.]

1 comment:

  1. Hi Gideon! Thanks for your comments on my presentation. I just sent you an email, and I see now that you have in fact looked at the Project Information Literacy reports that I referred to in my email. I agree that Web 2.0 is less about tools and more about people--how people produce, create, and share information. In this digital age, the hierarchy of expertise has been flattened; anyone can be an expert. This makes it all the more important for researchers to think critically about their information findings and how credibility is defined.