British Library Dubunks Myth of a Google Generation

January 11, 2009

Libraries are fighting for money and a role in the digital world. The plight of white shoe publishers is well known. Newspapers, once the life blood of information, are now stuffed with soft news or, what’s worse, old information. The shift from desktop boat anchor computers to sleek hand held devices is moving forward. Flag ship PC vendors like Dell Computers is in a fight for Wall Street respectability. The television and motion picture pasha believe that the fate of the traditional music publishing business is not theirs.

On January 16, 2008 (the date and the information come from this source), the British Library press room issued or issues or will issue “Pioneering Research Shows Google Generation Is a Myth.” The news release summarizes the study Information Behaviour of the Research of the Future. Here’s the link I located but it did not work without some clicking around. The report strikes me as something developed in an alternate universe where the Googleplex and its information system are small potatoes indeed.

bl image

He does not exist, but this member of the Google generation made it to the cover of the British Library debunking the myth study. In the future, this lad will be retrieving information from a mobile device, no PC or library required thinks this addled goose.

The study was, according to the press release,

Commissioned by the British Library and JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), the study calls for libraries to respond urgently to the changing needs of researchers and other users. Going virtual is critical and learning what researchers want and need crucial if libraries are not to become obsolete, it warns. “Libraries in general are not keeping up with the demands of students and researchers for services that are integrated and consistent with their wider Internet experience”, says Dr Ian Rowlands, the lead author of the report.

Now this paragraph seems to suggest that “something” has happened and that libraries must “respond urgently to the changing needs of researchers and other users.” My hunch is that libraries are not surfing on the Google but paddling along trying to keep Googzilla’s spikey back in view.

bl study

Most of these curves head south, right? © British Library 2009 and presumably in the universe which I inhabit.

The news release also suggests libraries must turn to “Page 2.0”, which I presume is another silly reference to the made up world of Search 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, and Web 2.0. The news release from the future ends with the mysterious phrase “The panel:”.

Keep in mind that I am writing this notice on January 11, 2009, at 9 30 am Eastern time. The news release is from the future. It has a date of January 16, 2009. One would think that the British Library, operating outside the normal space time continuum could do more than tell me that the myth of the Google generation does not exist. Clever headline aside, libraries must define a role for themselves before funding dwindles even more. University libraries might be grandfathered into the institutional budget. Other types? Might be a tough sale.

In my opinion, what does not exist among some in the library profession  is a firm grip on the hear and now. I am 65, and I think the Google generation exists. I wish it were not so, but it exists and the world one hopes will be better for the generation’s presence. Libraries seem to exist in a medieval world. Even Shakespeare is in step with the shift from paper to digital information. Consider Hamlet’s statement from one of the versions of the play crafted from Shakespeare’s foul papers:

Let us go in together,
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint—O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together.

No myth this, sprites.

Stephen Arnold, January 11, 2009


2 Responses to “British Library Dubunks Myth of a Google Generation”

  1. Neil Infield on January 12th, 2009 4:14 am

    Hi Stephen

    I hate to say it, given the fact you spend most of you time on the cutting edge or looking beyond it, but this information is (nearly) a year out of date.

    However, I think the quote from Lynne Brindley is as relevant as ever.



    Dame Lynne Brindley DBE, Chief Executive of the British Library, said of the report findings: “Libraries have to accept that the future is now. At the British Library we have adopted the digital mindset and have seized many of the opportunities new technology offers to inspire our users to learn, discover and innovate. Turning the Pages 2.0 and the mass digitisation project to digitise 25 million of pages of 19th-century English literature are only two examples of the pioneering work we are doing.”

  2. Google: Betting on Demographics : Beyond Search on January 21st, 2009 12:02 am

    […] about my poking fun at the British Library research reports. You can read these Swiftian essays here and here. Libraries are in a tough spot. With the financial crisis expanding, libraries are now the […]

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta