When asked what their first choice for accessing information would be, ninety percent of respondents indicated that they would choose a search engine. Of those who indicated a search engine as their first choice, several words were repeated in multiple responses, specifically the keywords “quick” or “fast”, “easy”, “convenient”, and “accessible”. Several of these individuals wrote that their choice would depend on the information they were searching for - they indicated that the Internet would be a first choice for “basic” information, while a library or database would be used for “extended research” and “consumer information”.
This is pulled from a survey/paper I did for my Intro to LIS class. The actual question was “The next time you need a source/place for information, which would be your first choice? Why?”
I just thought the answers to this question were interesting, particularly with all the noise in recent years about how libraries are supposedly useless in the new digital age, because everyone goes online for information. I realize, of course, that the sample size for this survey was really small, but look at the results: yes, people do go online for information first, but only if they want a quick, convenient answer.
That kind of fast, short answer (i.e: What time does the mall open? What year did Caesar become emperor? How do you spell “resuscitate”?) was never something libraries were really meant for, at least in my opinion. No one ever rolled out of bed at two o’clock in the morning wondering, “What’s the French word for ‘spring’?” and immediately ran down to the library to look it up.
I wonder if part of the reason people are claiming libraries are “obsolete” as information resources is because everyone is so used to having that instant access to answers for any question that crosses their minds, at any time of day. Maybe these people don’t understand the idea that there are questions that require more in-depth answers than what you get off Wikipedia, or that there are people who can’t find the answer they want and so get help from a librarian.
There’s also the issue of those people who can’t afford computers/internet access in their homes and depend on libraries for free access to these resources, but I’ll save that for another post.