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Friends of the Libraries: Old-fashioned skills still in need

January 09, 2014|By Mary Ellen Goddard

I recently read a research report, "How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace," by Alison J. Head, . PhD. Dated Oct. 16, 2012, it suggests there is a distinct difference "between today's graduates who demonstrated how quickly they found answers online and seasoned employers who needed college hires to use a combination of online and traditional methods to conduct comprehensive research."

The research for this report, sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, used a variety of methods to collect data: telephone interviews, focus groups, in-depth interviews with employers and more. It showed that graduates of private and public universities as well as community colleges were more likely to just search the Internet for answers rather than a combination of Internet and "low-tech" skills. What are these "low-tech" skills? Employers expected hires "to develop and use social networks with many stakeholders during the research process, ... to engage members of a collaborative team ... be able to use non-digitized information sources." They wanted new hires to be able to conduct online searches, but at the same time, they wanted them to have social skills and to be able to scour a bound report.

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As "each new crop of college graduates is more than likely to be 'born digital,'" the report says, these low-tech skills are becoming "disappearing competencies." Actually, all students, not just those in college, but those in elementary and high schools, should not depend on the Internet alone for information. They should sharpen their "low-tech" research skills as well to make sure that all relative sources are utilized. They would then be much more prepared for what employers want when the time comes to join the workforce.

I will be talking about libraries of the future in my next column. There are a number of different opinions on this, ranging from those who believe strongly in a library's role in the community to those who seem to think they are — or will be — not important. If you have an opinion you would like to share, send me an email at costamesalibr@gmail.com.

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