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The online information environment has changed dramatically since the earliest online systems emerged in the early 1960s. Growth has occurred both in the number of users of online information as well as in the number of online information resources and providers. The rate of growth in each of these areas increased exponentially with the availability of the public Internet and the World Wide Web. These foundational technological developments created an environment in which almost anyone can “publish” or function as an information provider and have virtually instantaneous access to massive volumes of information.
Museums and libraries have long been sources of recreation, learning and information for personal, family, educational and workplace purposes. However, the Internet, Web and other technologies have become an increasingly used source of information that some believe will largely replace their physical counterparts. On the other hand, some have speculated that the Internet and related technologies will actually enhance and increase museum and library use. Prior to now, there has been no solid evidence to support either assertion, particularly considering the wide range in types of museums and libraries.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has funded a number of studies involving online and Internet use. This session will present results of some of these studies. Over 10,000 national telephone interviews have been conducted on the topics of Internet, library and museum use. In addition, we have data on student and faculty use of journal collections at some U.S. and Australian universities. Three of the presenters will focus on how adult users address important situations in which they make decisions and solve problems. An important issue is how one classifies types of needs; in this presentation, both textual analysis and manual classification of open-ended questions are employed. The final three papers show how the Internet has affected the services provided by public libraries, academic libraries and museums.
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