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Digital Literacies in Higher Education: The Digital Library

Key messages from the JISC-funded project focussing on postgraduate students at the Institute of Education

The Digital Library

The Digital Library is a core element in students’ study and orientation towards the digital. The concept of a digital library would appear to be an important one for students, irrespective of mode or level of study – this is largely due to the increasingly distributed nature of their study practices (see previous key messages).

Students on face-to-face courses (MA, PhD, PGCE) make frequent use of the physical library space and its resources but also rely heavily on its digital resources. They use the physical library space to study, browse and borrow books and other resources, for training and workshops and, less frequently, as a social space.

Students studying wholly at a distance (OMRES) or in a blended mode of study (PGCE) rely more heavily on digital library resources, using these to access journals, ebooks, course materials and to participate in online study communities (discussion, collaboration, sharing).

Online User Behaviour

The evidence provided by one student who created a story board of his searching trajectory (see 'Research' on the opposite image) noted the following:

  • the clunkiness of IOE Library Catalogue;
  • the expectaton that the Library Catalogue would operate like Google and provide access to online resources;
  • that IOE Resources are limiting (unlike Google which provides a wider context) but are directly related to the student's studies;
  • that the student wants the Library Catalogue to mimic Google Scholar so that it shows abstracts and provides citation information;
  • that it is frustrating to have to click so many times to get to and authenticate electronic journal articles especially when accessing remotely;
  • that the current browser setup (IE opening links in new windows) is confusing and irritating;
  • that knowing how to store information is as important as finding and accessing relevant eResources; and
  • that there is an assumption that Google Scholar provides access to subscribed resources rather than the Library.

Key Messages

The overarching message from students is that they want a digital library but ...

1. They want it to be open, efficient and relevant to their needs (for study, access to information, managing and organising information, community-building, sharing and discussing, collaboration, training, etc.).

2. They want digital resources to be made available easily and quickly (single logins, one-click access, ability to download and store on personal devices) and they want to be able to edit/annotate these digital resources. They are cost-conscious and have limited finances for multiple subscriptions.

3. Where orientations are less positive, this is not so much focused on the technologies themselves but on the issues, practices and processes around their use.

4. A majority of students appear happy to use digital technologies to support their learning but express a desire for support in identifying relevant, useful, time-efficient technologies and adequate, reliable, more open infrastructures for using them in a distributed manner.

Workflow of a PG Student producing an Academic Text

image of workflow of PG student producing an academic text. First step:using IOE Library computers and books with Library catalogue and Google Scholar. Second step: Reading and Note taking, reading, handwritten notes, organising notes and printing. 3rd step Writing 1: Library computers, drafting, tutor feedback and email. 4th step, editing, submitting in person, printing, subtmitting online via blackboard. Throughout backing up work and peer support.