The Internet vs. the Library: A College Student Perspective

by Rosalyn Eishen | @rosalynchoo Remember the long days and late nights in the college library? Pulling all-nighter’s with your cheek stuck to the pages of a dictionary (haven’t realized you’re drooling yet)?  Remember getting lost in all those shelves of books, and using the card catalog?  If you remember these things—you must have been in the library pre-1999 (before the Web 2.0).  Ever since then, internet usage has been steadily increasing, while libraries have seen a decrease in book usage.

According to a study done in 2002 by Steve Jones and Pew Internet Research Center, The Internet Goes to College, 73% of college students say they use the internet more than they us the library for information research, while only 9% say the opposite. More recently, Cisco Connected World Technology Report from 2011 indicates that one of five students (21 percent) have not even bought a physical book (excluding textbooks required for class) in a bookstore in more than two years – or ever.

As a college student today, I have not once checked out a book from the library for school research in my entire college career.  Is that sad, or just changing times?  Of course I read books for good literature, but when it comes to studying, I rely solely on the internet (thanks, Google).   Many of my peers are the same way—when we have group projects that require heavy research, we all meet at the library, but not as they used to, with a stack of books in front of us.  All of us meet up with a laptop/tablet in hand, desperately scrambling to find a table next to charging outlets.

The tools available for college students online include multiple thesaurus, dictionary, grammar and study guides, research databases and search engines of all kinds.  Email is widely used across universities to communicate with teachers and peers.  Social media has also been utilized in education—I have a class now that has a Facebook group where the teacher posts interesting links/ materials for the course, while students comment and collaborate within the group. This makes perfect sense considering that Cisco also reported that about nine of 10 (91 percent) college students and young professionals (88 percent) globally have Facebook accounts, and one-third (33 percent) of them check their Facebook accounts at least five times per day.

I asked friends on Facebook, “When did using the internet become the primary way to research/ do assignments instead of using books in the library?? “  And my sister replied, “When it stopped involving having to get dressed”.   The internet is convenient.  College students like working in their pajamas (who doesn’t?).  Some college students even go so far as to say they couldn't live without the internet. According to Cisco's report, 55 percent of college students and 62 percent of young employees say they could “not live” without the Internet.  And with the multitudes of educational tools, more and more students will be relying on the World Wide Web.

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