Can the internet substitute for library searches?

George F Edick edickg at RPI.EDU
Mon Oct 7 08:20:22 EST 1996


I would like to put my 0.02 cents in here:
>I find myself a bit concerned about a trend I am seeing more and more
>frequently on the discussion lists I subscribe to.  What I
>notice happening is students sending very basic "topical" queries to
>appropriate discussion lists in place of (I believe) the "old fashion"
>library search. 
>I guess I have 4 questions:  First, have others noticed such a trend?

I'm not sure I see a trend just yet, but I suspect it's just around the
corner. I "encourage" (e.g., force) my students to consider the library as
their first line of attack in researching a problem, then to consider the
net as a possible additional source of information. The problem is that they
have no way of knowing anything about the quality of what they find on the net.

>Second, assuming this trend exists, do you think the value of getting
>students to use the internet for research purposes sufficiently great
>enough to risk a decrease in our future students' ability to use library
>resources efficiently/effectively?

Yes, I think this could be a real problem.

  Obviously, in the best of all worlds,
>students should be using both types of resources to produce quality work
>and meet their assignment objectives.  Thus, my third question is this:
>How does one successfully convey to students the value of using the
>internet without (mis)leading them to believe that libraries are no longer

I suppose the best way would be to have them research a particular topic.
First, have them find what they can on the net within a certain time frame -
then give them the same amount of time to repeat the search in the library
and compare the results of both searches in terms of the amount and quality
of material found in both cases.

 My fouth question is tangential:  Do you think the internet
>will eventually make libraries obsolete?

Only if two conditions can be met: (1) if 100% of the material found in a
university library can be accessed, and (2) if one can find a way to make it
cheap, convenient, and efficient to download huge amounts of material (e.g.,
the contents of entire books). I don't believe either condition can be met
by current technology.


>Any thoughts or discussion you have regarding these questions (or their
>inherant assumptions) would be most welcome.  I would very much like to
>to hear both instructors' and students' views on this topic and my
>Rob Alba
>Department of Botany
>The University of Georgia
>robalba at
George Edick
RPI - Dept. Biology
Troy, NY  12180
edickg at  

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