The impressive surroundings of the British Library made a delightful, if strangely incongruous, setting for the Eduserv Foundation Symposium 2008. Several hundred people listened to luminaries from the world of journalism (Bobbie Johnson of the Guardian and Jem Stone of the BBC) as well as the practical but forward-thinking experts from higher education (including Chris Adie, University of Edinburgh). What did it all mean to you, me and every other learner on the planet? In some ways, not a lot: if we want to find out things, we all have umpteen different methods of doing so and very few of us call first at a library, no matter how prestigious. Instead, we Google, text, email, use an IM service – even talk to the person sitting next to us. (Who will probably Google, text, email, IM etc on our behalf.) However, what was interesting was that several hundred academics were sitting there seeing this user-driven multiple-platform use of information services as both perfectly normal and not just acceptable but to be encouraged. As Geoffrey Bilder reminded everyone, checking sources is still vital and no one doubts the immense value of repositories such as the British Library but higher education has already undergone a quiet revolution, one it may not yet have reflected upon and one that the laggards are still forecasting: days and weeks in a single library with a notebook (and no sandwiches) are no longer a rite of passage and automatic commanders of respect; today’s revered academic is the person who can best use the technologies available to access relevant information fast and then synthesise it to create something new and get it out into the ICT-enabled world as fast as possible.
Posted by: Gillian | May 9, 2008