Teaching Paradigm Shift

The need for digital resources to support the paradigm shift
Part 4 The analysis

Discuss current library usage. I am aware that the holdings and borrowings analysis is flawed, because it does not show what is used in the flex centre on a daily basis by students who do not , in general, use the circulation desk or remove resources from the library. Anecdotally the flex centre is in continual use during the 5 teaching days of the week, however the majority of students are either using printed resource material as a study guide or are accessing the internet. Those using the study guides are usually involved in learning how to use specific software such as the Microsoft Office Suite or MYOB or a web page development tool. Those using the internet are usually researching topics provided by the teaching staff or carrying out private searching. There are a number of units delivered on line using webCt as the delivery platform. Although the flex centre is used for the formal delivery of classes, the computers are used primarily to run the software being studied or to provide internet access. A small number of students use the facility on a drop in and undertake private study basis. The library as such has no involvement in the delivery of the content or the instructional design of the material used. As shown on the holdings and borrowings chart the main digital content access relates to the recreational CD collection. The chart also indicates the low level of borrowing against holdings in many cases, is this an indication that the text based resources are out of date and not relevant?. My observation is that there is less use of the text based resources and more activity on the internet.

This means that this library may be allocating space for the storage of resources that are no longer in active heavy use and which could be replaced with more terminals giving internet access. This highlights the unfortunate decisions now having to be made by library staff, do we keep text based resources just in case, especially those with low usage, do they keep buying text based resources which quickly go out of date or do they now allocate the money to online subscription databases giving access to full text resources which are constantly updated and are easily searchable. Is it better to find the Mona Lisa on line in the Louvre or look it up in an old art book? Is an animated version of the Bayeux tapestry more interesting than a print in a book? All questions that need to be asked. But for this specific library times need to be a changing, if the new crop of learners is to be engaged.

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So what is the answer? The project so far has endeavoured to collect information about the current situation , about current perceptions and about current team behaviour. The indications so far are that the service offered by the Devonport campus library may not be satisfying the needs of the teaching teams especially in the light of new training paradigms. If this trend continues and the usage statistics become more formally incorporated into financial reviews it will not be long before someone asks the question “How much longer do we need to support an under utilised resource?” To formulate a solution it is necessary to see what is happening elsewhere in the world. A simple CUIL search using the phrase “Digital academic libraries” soon provides an intriguing answer. There is a major growth in the availability of on line academic libraries supplying digital resources many of which are tailored to teaching programs. It is becoming apparent that other libraries are being faced with a similar scenario to that faced by the Devonport Campus Library, namely a change in teaching practice followed by a change in the type of resource/support that is needed from the Library.

The cynical response to all of this is the negative one of putting “bang for your buck” before more academic response. In other words for the expenditure of a number of dollars what provides the most economical service, and in many cases digital technology is winning over Library expertise. It is seen to be much more cost effective to replace physical libraries with digital online resources. It is evident from both anecdotal evidence and attached reports that the move to digital resources is gaining pace. It has even been reported that some major US universities are trading in libraries for computers under the mistaken notion that all information is on line and that all users of on line resources have well developed research skills. In truth the ‘Google’ generation are in general horizontal searchers in that they flit from site to site in an attempt to find the answer to a question without investigating each site in detail. Once the answer is found it is simply cut, pasted and ‘owned’ by the student, copyright it seems is an irrelevance.

As vocational training delivery matures in the 21st century the old notions of lock step, and classroom based delivery are quickly being mailed to the museum of technical education. On line, blended, work based , project based are all mantras of the new age. No matter which format is chosen it is underpinned by the ready availability of digital material. The material is interactive, fast moving, relevant and adaptive so would it not be used. The changing nature of students is also dictating the training methods used , the ‘sesame street’ generation have short attention spans, are visually not textually focussed , and need to be kept interested all the time. Fast moving digital resource material developed to match the Y generation is needed if training is to succeed. Text based learning now has a limited audience, hence the move to computer based access to digital/digitised material.

What does this mean for the traditional library? Falling use of the library as an institution worldwide has led to a number of countries desperately trying to revive the flagging patient. By embracing computer/digital technology. The number of internet ready pcs has increased rapidly, the use of Web 2.00 technology accessibility has also increased rapidly, the environment ha also changed to become more focussed on the actual information needs of society. While books will still remain as a staple of any library environment they will ultimately make up only a small part of the resources available subscriptions to on line databases and digitised resources will become the norm. The library space will be more focussed on meeting the needs of a much broader cross section of society. The TAFE library will fair no better, more and more delivery will depend on visual technologies, on digital resources and on the internet as a source of information . The dynamic of the library will have to change from simply managing resources to actively promoting the research skills of library staff. Library staff will also become trainers, facilitators and mentors supporting the needs of patrons. If this paradigm shift is not accomplished , teaching staff will simply find and mange resources themselves. Library staff need to become more proactive in how they interact with teaching staff, determine teaching needs and satisfy the teaching needs.

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