When I was in grad school, I had an idea to conduct research into the neurological underpinnings of reading on paper vs. computer screens vs. ebooks. While my vision for the project was beyond the scope of what I could accomplish in the program and thus never got started, I’ve continued to be obsessed with this facet of our modern technology. I’ve written about it on this blog before. I continue to follow research being done on the subject.
This article from Scientific American sums up well what we currently know about how our brains process written language through different presentation media. It appears that I’m correct in my belief that these acts of reading are qualitatively different as far as our brains are concerned.
As librarians, we need to account for these differences in our resources – especially when it comes to education and literacy initiatives.
This is simply one of the best summaries I’ve read of the importance of libraries:
Libraries are uniquely positioned to make sense of today’s tsunami-like exposure to information, to allow people to transform facts into knowledge and to move knowledge along divergent paths of practical relevance and unbridled inspiration.
Libraries are uniquely positioned to do this for an audience of all ages and status — children, college students, community members, university scholars, researchers and just plain folks who are just plain curious. From princes to paupers, libraries are a great equalizer and emancipator. In this new environment, we are all students. Libraries — both physical and virtual — are the places where we learn, discover old truths and synthesize new knowledge.
… [L]ibraries have moved beyond being mere repositories for shelf after shelf of printed materials, as valuable as that function is. They are gateways to a dynamic world of information and the manner in which that information is collected, presented and used is as important as the information itself.
When it comes to making sure that all of our services are available on our library’s website, the best strategy is to make access intuitive and obvious.
The mistake that’s all too easy to make (and all too frequently made) is to assume that this means putting points of access right there on the home page.
At certain point, though, this requires either:
Putting so many points of access on the home page that everything gets lost in the chaos and the site loses any sense of focus at all; or,
Prioritizing certain services over others and keeping many points of access off the home page – which triggers our fear that we might fail to address every conceivable patron need in an obvious way, and unintentionally defines unwanted implications regarding the perceived relative value of these services.
Consider the way that many library websites handle online database collections: we list every database we have and let the patron find the one they need. We offer alphabetical listings of our databases, we have categorized lists… we offer multiple points of access to try and provide any given patron an option that might fit how they want to interact with the site.
On a deeper level, I’d like to see more longitudinal studies done on information comprehension and retention when reading ebooks, as well as direct neurological mapping of ebook reading vs. print. I’m curious to know how our pre- and sub-conscious minds deal with the physical differences in the delivery mechanisms. Continue reading “Thoughts on the True Nature of Ebooks”
Ebook services for libraries don’t carry any really controversial or potentially dangerous stuff anyway. Ereaders are for fluff – all the data shows that pretty much no one uses them for serious reading or scholarship. There’s no real danger in exposing ebook lending records because there’s nothing there to get patrons in trouble in the first place. Continue reading “Again with the Ebooks & Online Library Services & Patron Privacy”