Thursday, May 17, 2007

Will students ignore your university if you don't digitize?

Do students care about digitization or do they care about access? Will students bypass your institution of higher learning if you don't digitize your collections?

Recently I heard a call to action that said educational institutions should digitize or they will find themselves being less desired by prospective students. However, students don't care where they information came from, they just want information. So if you can give them the information they need by digitizing your collection - great! If you can give them the information they need by licensing an appropriate digital collection - great! If you point them towards someone else's freely available collection, that's also good! If you spent money on other tools or services that will help them with their information quest, they'll like that too!

It is all about access. Students don't care where the information came from or how you acquired it. They only want to know that it is there when they need it.

The bottom line -- as you think about your potential digitization programs, don't forget to think about possible alternatives. If you looked at it from your users' point of view, is there an alternative that would give them the same "bang," but might cost less or be less of a hassle for you? It is worth thinking about. A better solution may come to mind.

BTW as I think of "access", I am reminded that "access" also tells us why students don't understand many library web sites. Those web sites are often designed so that the user has to know something about the information they are looking for. Is it a digital collection, a periodical, a book, or an article in a database? They don't care. In fact, those options just stand as barriers between them and the information they desire. And what do barriers do? They drive people away. (And this is why many libraries are rethinking the design of their web sites.)

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1 comment:

Laura said...

Hi Jill -

I've also heard it said that prospective students of the future will add digitized collections into their evaluation criteria when selecting institutions (wish I could remember who said it and where...I suspect it was at DigCCurr).

I agree with you that students don't care where the information they get comes from. However, I do suspect that future students will care about "digitization" as it pertains to the work that they create.

I see a growing ePortfolio movement in undergraduate education. I think students who go to the effort of producing ePortfolios and their associated content will want that content accessible in the long term.
It is useful to have your intellectual work online when you're interviewing for jobs etc. I can forsee digitizing physical media as a service libraries provide to students pulling together their ePortfolios.

The growing availability of ETDs could also could be an opportunity for providing digitization services. I'm picturing digital photos of accompanying artworks, for example.