For the last few years, librarians have increasingly seen people use online search sites not to supplement research libraries but to replace them. Yet only recently have librarians stopped lamenting the trend and started working to close the gap between traditional scholarly research and the incomplete, often random results of a Google search.
“We can’t pretend people will go back to walking into a library and talking to a reference librarian,” said Kate Wittenberg, director of the Electronic Publishing Initiative at Columbia University.
Ms. Wittenberg’s group recently finished a three-year study of research habits, including surveys of 1,233 students across the country, that concluded that electronic resources have become the main tool for information gathering, particularly among undergraduates.
“We have to respond to these new ways,” Ms. Wittenberg said, and come up with a way to make better research material available online.
That means working with commercial search engines like Google and Yahoo to make ever more digital-research materials searchable.
Undergraduates like Ms. Maxianova and her classmates are not the only ones conducting research from their computers. Faculty members also do it.