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Dear friends and colleagues,

I am writing an article about the (pardon the pun) "net impact" that
electronic information resources-- especially the web and web-based
resources-- have had on school libraries.  My focus will be on secondary
libraries, the venues where students should be learning to read, think,
research, and write in a reasonably scholarly fashion commensurate with what
will be expected of them in college and beyond. The main issue I want to
attempt to address is "has access to the Internet improved the quality of
the research experience, in PRACTICE, for the students you serve?"

What do you think? Has it? If you have Internet access--whether it's wide
open or quite restricted-- I want to know how it has changed the daily
action on your library floor AND more importantly, the action between your
patrons' ears. Are you kids tapping the quality stuff that you take pains to
make available through the net? Are they ignoring better resources available
in other forms?  Are they SYNTHESIZING their findings better? SEARCHING more
effectively? Being more SELECTIVE?

Since most of these questions require anecdotal evidence, I want to hear
from you. No-- I NEED to hear from you, in order to make the article
accurate and professionally/personally resonant. Please consider sending
this e-mail back to my address with your responses added to the questions
below. I am aware that the active members of LM_NET do not represent a clean
sampling of school librarianship, so I would also appreciate any contacts
(telephone) for other librarians in your area if you can provide some or
give me suggestions regarding where to obtain some phone numbers.  If you
wouldn't mind me calling you for a brief interview, leave your phone number
as well.  Provide as much info as you'd like below. Feel free to ramble and
spew if you have a strong opinion or related story, for instance, you'd like
to share.

I thank you so very much for your time.

1. If your library has Internet access, in what year did you begin providing
access to your students?

2. Do you make web-based private (subscription) databases available for your

3. If so, do you feel your students utilize them as much as they should? Do
they realize the difference between private database libraries and
information publicly available on the Internet?

4. Do you think ubiquitous access to the Internet has resulted in students
being impatient with a research process which uses other, non-net based,

5. Do you think Internet access has decreased your circulation figures in
any areas of your collection? How about your general traffic?  If there have
been changes, how do you feel about them?

6. How much, if any, time and money do you spend making library resources
available on the web?

7. It has been suggested that people typically read linear text from
computer screens for only brief periods. Web developers are often critical
of sites that contain too much text. I sometimes wonder if web searching and
"surfing" habituates readers not to attend to linear text for sustained
periods and if, as a result, written knowledge which takes more than a few
minutes to read is being largely ignored.  Do you worry about stuff like

8. Presumably, the academic world wouldn't require students to write papers
or do other research projects at all unless it was assumed these exercises
stimulated and demonstrated curiosity, systematic inquiry, rhetorical
ability, the ability to rationalize and synthesize and many other important
intellectual capabilities.  What impact, if any, has Internet access had on
the young researchers you encounter?  Have their general reading, writing or
thinking skills changed?

9. Like many school librarians, I administer a web site from my library on
which quality databases and other Internet-based resources are made
accessible to those inside and outside our facility.  Sometimes, I find out
that they are being used by classes and individual students who used to come
to the library to do their work but no longer do, since the resources are
globally available. Moreover, I often find out that the resources are being
used without any instruction at all. Sometimes, I find out, for instance,
that kids have no idea that these subscription resources are any different
in origin from anything they might find on the public web.  I realize that
I've made more "good stuff" available, but I have blown my "teachable
moments" completely.  It's a big dilemma. Have you experienced it?

10. Do you think the Internet has encouraged plagiarism?

11. Is that a big problem?

12. The web, and even many subscription databases these days, puts
information that originally appeared in diverse sources like reference
books, newspapers, television programs and magazines in what amounts to one
big electronic pot. It's hard, I find, to get teachers, let alone students,
to ask the question "where did this come from?" when they're looking at a
document. Have one-stop electronic resources diminished students' skills in
selecting appropriate sources for a given information task-at hand? Have
they made such skills obsolete?

13. Do you feel like the teachers in your school take adequate pains to
insure that your students turn in research papers and projects that are a
result of their own intellectual efforts?

14. As a school librarian, I have made a career of carefully selecting
appropriate resources for the students I serve. I find myself, increasingly
often, trying to explain to students and teachers who want to, for instance,
jump onto Google on one of our library's machines and just grab the first
thing they see that seems to be relevant to the task-at-hand, that to allow
that to become the way we research would be antithetical to what I was hired
to do--select quality resources and instruct in their use. What do you think
about that?

15. If you think there are other big questions about the Internet's impact
on scholarship and on school libraries, write about them here. Also list any
solutions for this little constellation of issues you may have applied:

Thanks again. If you do not wish any of your comments to be used in print,
please specify. I will post a draft of my article in a couple of weeks.

Jeffrey Hastings
School library Media Specialist,
Highlander Way Middle School
511 North Highlander Way
Howell, Michigan

voice 517.548.6293
fax    517.545.1407

School Library Media Specialist

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