Post-Grant Reports


Three Decades of Information Seeking: What Has Changed and What Has Not?

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Curriculum and Instruction | Higher Education | Information Literacy | Library and Information Science


The pursuit of information in libraries has altered enormously over my career, moving from a card catalog and print index exploration to a digital web-scale “discovery and delivery” experience. As a teaching and systems librarian, my challenge has been to absorb and apply new technologies quickly in order to facilitate the research process for the Linfield community, leaving me little space to reflect on how these tools have played out over time. This sabbatical afforded me an opportunity to take a more holistic, higher level view of the evolution of library technologies, the impacts on student research, and by extension, the history of approaches to library instruction during my tenure here.

As a starting point, I identified and reviewed over a hundred articles and books in the library field – those written contemporaneously, as “retrospectives,” or prognostications - on topics coinciding with my professional activities and slices of the thinking over the decades. A working timeline of technological trends pegged by year (1980 - 2018) helped me track what was developing at each stage of my investigation. Artifacts from my office and website archives (e.g., via the Wayback Machine) aided my memory of working in the times as I reflected on the literature and developed questions to explore further.

Insights gained from this sabbatical have already helped me to improve teaching and to communicate with colleagues, both via discussions and in writing. The study has also provided me with a valuable vantage point from which to understand current and future developments in the library field. What has not changed? Even as advances in technology make it easier to acquire resources, students still struggle in similar ways with academic research assignments.


This research was conducted as part of a sabbatical leave in 2018.

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