An interesting article in the THES this week focusing on “Internet is fostering a ‘want it now’ culture among students” isn’t that much of a shock I’m sure to any librarian reading this. For years we’ve struggled to satisfy the insatiable demand from students for materials that aren’t available locally or even on the internet. Document Supply times have improved dramatically in the last 10 years, but even in the late 90s the idea that a student might have to wait up to three days for an article reprint from the British Library caused many a look of shock and horror.
Thankfully secure electronic delivery has drastically improved the turnaround time, but it’s not instantaneous. And physical books, well they still take their time. There’s also the Amazon effect to consider – libraries get the best bang for their buck that they can by using various book suppliers who give us handsome discounts. But the students (and myself to be honest) are used to buying books from Amazon, at a discount, and getting them pretty rapidly (though, I have noticed of late Amazon have become victims of their own success as their turnaround has slowed down). Satisfying this insatiable right here, right now demand continues to be one of the most pressing drivers for us librarians in making sure we advocate access to ejournals, open access repositories and ebooks at the forefront of our service delivery.
Sometimes though, I reflect that this raises in the students a rather false impression of how the world outside the Ivory towers operates. Things take time. It’s been a fact of life, and even a global Internet culture isn’t going to allow physical items to come any faster than the speed of post (wuth Sundays off). As services become increasingly focused on satisfying the espoused customer needs rather considering any deeper questions such as “Is it healthy to serve everything on a plate – isn’t learning to plan your work a key educational goal?”, we become ever more trapped in a loop of never being able to satisfy every need.
And you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
It comes down to money of course. If every information resource was free, then we’d have everyone electronically available and accessible. It’s not free, there’s huge costs and if you listen to the darker voices of commerce then we’ll be forced to pay even more often for information than we do already. I don’t quite believe this will happen, with twitter breaking news stories now far in advance of the traditional media. But I digress.
Should we be educating students more about the how the real world works or is higher education a period when their degree learning needs are paramount and developing their real world skill base far less important? If this isn’t the case, then librarians and other educators need to take this on board – especially next time someone tells them it’ll be a few days before they can have that article…