August 08, 2007
Resources, Data, or Tools
Are libraries offering resources, data, or tools to support instruction? Is the difference in the actual terms used just word play? Do libraries not market tools for instruction and only focus on research? Are library tools not good enough?
The Wired Campus (Chronicle of Higher Education, August 8, 2007) highlights a project asking educators their top ten lists of learning TOOLS. It has caused a ripple in the library profession communication channels as NOT one library tool once mentioned by the first 88 learning professional to respond.
Some have proposed that there is a difference between information resources and learning tools. Libraries do advertise and promote many of the learning tools mentioned but none of the subscription-based or library-design resources made the list.
I think all might be true.
First, surveys should define the meanings of words. But another view is that libraries have a reputation of developing our own terminology. Does that terminology make sense to users? Maybe library patrons do not fully grasp the words "database" or "resource". Maybe the simpler word "tool" is easier to grasp.
Second, libraries have always been good at marketing to people in the physical buildings, but marketing to more and more online patrons can be tough. Online competition is severe.
Finally, maybe we are not focused enough on instruction as a reason to use the library resources. I openly promote a database called Knovel as an instruction tool. I would not take credit for that stance though. One of my professors shared with me how he uses it for in the classroom activities. He feels it is a strong method to demonstrate chemical engineering calculations and develop real understanding. It is closer to how graduates would conduct such calculations in the real world.