Real-Time Libraries


The Association for College and Research Libraries blog has an overview of a recent conference discussion at Princeton University of “real-time libraries” that may be of interest to readers of this blog, if only for the very different set of concerns this discussion brings to online reference.  The focus on the social networking made possible by the “real-time web” makes sense, given librarians’ crucial role in conveying information to students and faculty regarding online reference.   Scholars interested in genuine dialogue with librarians will need to become familiar with those concerns.  An overview of Stephen Francouer’s presentation on digital reference in academic libraries can be found at


4 Responses to “Real-Time Libraries”

  1. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Thanks, Anna, this information adds another, good dimension to our focus.



  2. Dave Mazella Says:

    I wonder to what extent the real-time dimension of searching, whereby one can literally pull up a dictionary or a parallel full-text database while reading some other digital source, has affected library/resource usage? And whether it makes just sitting and reading a single, unnetworked source (i.e., a book) all the way through, seem kind of, uh, boring? There’s an assumption here that research has become a matter of multi-tasking. I wonder to what extent this helps or hurts the research process? DM


  3. Eleanor Shevlin Says:

    Dave’s questions about whether real-time, multi-tasking searching has helped or hurt the research process draws attention, in my mind, to the fact that research is itself composed of multiple steps and stages. For students who limit the process to multi–tasking searches, the “process” no doubt suffers. Reflection is an important step and typically occurs at intervals throughout a project, and multi-tasking itself does not seem to foster such reflection. Many of my students still very much appreciate readiing single sources (books or articles)… but some in this camp seem to shy away from electronic tools.

    There has always been a danger of extending the finding and gathering stages of sources so that these stages cut into the writing part of a project. Multi-tasking and the ability to search tangents with ease seems to enhance the risk of over-researching.


  4. Anna Battigelli Says:

    Eleanor and Dave, you both make excellent points. Multi-tasking seems to intensify attention deficits, and research requires sustained attention. While I like the idea of instant (electronic) access to resources such as the ODNB and the OED, it’s important not to lose the concept of the reference room as a place to go to get started with research, after which, one moves on to subsequent stages of the research/writing process.

    I would be interested in hearing from librarians about how the reference room is being re-conceptualized.


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