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Book Chapter

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Libraries have long embraced service-oriented, user-centered approaches. Consider Ranganathan’s 1931 theory Five Laws of Library Science, which includes three clearly user-centered tenants (every reader his/her book, every book its reader, save the time of the reader) and two that arguably hint at a user-centered approach (books are for use, the library is a growing organism). Despite such early user-focused theories, early research into information seeking focused not on user needs and behaviors but on “the artifacts and venues of information seeking: books, journals, newspapers, [...] and the like”; this method of investigation persisted through the 1960s (Case, 2002, p. 6). The 1970s, however, heralded a shift toward user-centered investigations. Of particular influence was the work of Brenda Dervin, who challenged ten assumptions she determined dominated and distracted research concerning information seeking. While Dervin’s research focused on adult public library users and their general, everyday information needs, her ten assumptions resonated with academic libraries serving the more formalized information needs of the higher education student. Along with other like-minded researchers and practitioners, Dervin’s challenges of these “flawed” assumptions led to a paradigm shift in both library theory and practice. In the spirit of the ever-evolving library organism and in support of user-centered academic library services, resources, and spaces, the authors propose repurposing Dervin’s ten assumptions and challenges to better reflect and serve today’s traditional higher education student. Even a cursory glance at the literature concerning today’s traditional student will reveal stark differences in the information environment, practices, and behaviors of these students as compared to Dervin’s original population. The proposed study will focus on students entering higher education now--more specifically, the newly identified and emerging Generation Z. Loosely encompassing those born in the mid 1990s through 2010, Generation Z overlaps the Millennials; however, Generation Z can be distinguished from the Millennials in that its members have never lived in a “disconnected world.” The ubiquity of smart mobile devices with direct connections to multitudes of free web authoring services, online social networks, information outlets, and collaborative platforms empowers these students to consume and produce information in ways heretofore unimagined. Likewise, from SMS, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to Google+ Hangouts, FaceTime, and Skype, this generation is developing an instinctive set of behaviors and expectations about information access, consumption, and creation. Such technologies allow content to be ever-changing, individualized, and personal, requiring students to develop critical skills to recognize and accommodate for these information characteristics. How exactly does this collaborative, individualized, evolving information environment affect Generation Z’s information seeking behaviors? More importantly, do the behaviors and expectations of this new generation call for a new approach to our so-called user-centered services? By examining the literature, conducting student surveys, and observing student behaviors, all through the lens of Dervin’s assumptions, the authors hope to define and challenge similar assumptions about and by Generation Z in order to realize the possible implications of such assumptions on our interactions with these students and the faculty we work with to serve them.

Book Title

Not Just Where to Click: Teaching Students How to Think About Information