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How students are engaging with libraries on the brink of Web 3.0

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The student as consumer

Changing expectations

One of the most important ways in which things have changed is that libraries must offer more – both in terms of facilities and support – because students have become more demanding.

So does this mean that students want to be spoon-fed? Or do they see themselves more as "consumers" who expect good value for money?

Customer service

Helen Westmancoat, deputy librarian and teacher fellow at York St John University, UK, (YSJ), believes that students want better customer service for the higher fees they now pay.

Greater liaison between academic departments and library staff is helping. At YSJ, students learn about the library and its facilities through problem solving.

Helen says:

"From a librarian's point of view, information retrieval is a transferable skill, one which we would like to see embedded in the curriculum. Some academics are more receptive to this than others."

Space planning

Many issues of how students engage with libraries are linked to design and lay-out. At YSJ the library is in a stylish, modernist and purpose-built building and has plenty of open plan areas.

"With problem-based learning, space is important. Students tend not to like serried ranks and to prefer clusters and zoned areas where they can have more space, so two or three people can work together", says Helen.

However, some staff have suggested that this can create problems for Dewey Decimal. If books are widely separated by a more open plan design, students might be more inclined to browse (hoping to find books serendipitously) rather than use the catalogues correctly.