Understanding Undergraduates' Use of Information Sources and Social Networking Media: Implications for Librarians in the Networked Community

Eun-Young Yoo (NC-Central) and Kyung-Sun Kim (Wisconsin-Madison)



Problem Statement
In recent years, along with the advancement of information technology such as the Internet, there has been a proliferation of information sources and channels (OCLC, 2004). In colleges and universities, for example, an abundance of information has been made available outside the traditional libraries where most of academic search tasks used to be carried out. Recent research shows that the younger generation is the frequent user of the Internet (Jones & Madden, 2002). Some researchers and educators are concerned that students tend to be overly relying on information from the Internet sources, and that the students often fail to properly evaluate the information they obtained from the Internet (Grimes & Boening, 2001; Herring, 2001).


Despite growing popularity of the social networking Websites (SNW) among young Internet users, little attention has been paid to understanding the impact of SNW on library education and service. As existing research suggests the importance of people as an information source (Hertzum & Pejtersen, 2000), SNW has potential to be a key channel for information services. Recent studies on college students’ Facebook usage suggest leveraging Facebook for marketing library services (Charnigo and Barnett-Ellis, 2007; Brain, 2006).



Research questions
1.      What are the popular information sources used by undergraduate students?
2.      What are the characteristics of the popular sources, perceived by  undergraduates?
3.      What are the popular communication media used by undergraduates?
4.      What can librarians do to promote useful information sources and services for undergraduate students?
5.      How can LIS educators help librarians better serve undergraduates?



Research findings from two related projects will be presented: (1) project on undergraduate students’ use of information sources (n=500); (2) project on undergraduates’ use of information sources as well as social networking media (n=250). The projects aimed to identify service areas needing to improve by understanding undergraduates’ information behavior.


For both projects, survey method was used to collect data. Project 1 used Web-based questionnaires while Project 2 used paper-and-pencil ones. Data were collected in two different academic institutions at different times.


This study can help academic librarians better understand their users’ information behavior and find ways of their services and resources integrated into the rapidly changing ‘information lives’ of their users. It can also be used as a resource for possible partnership between LIS educators and academic librarians to reach out, communicate and educate the users in new social trends.




  • Brian, M. (2006). Do you facebook? College & Research Libraries News, 67 (5), 306-307.
  • Charnigo, L. & Barnett-Ellis (2007). Checking out Facebook.com: the impact of a digital trend on
    academic libraries. Information Technology and Libraries, 26 (1), 23-34.
  • Grimes, D. J., & Boening, C. H. (2001). Worries with the web: A look at student use of web resources. College & Research Libraries, 62(1), 11-23.
  • Hertzum, M., & Pejtersen, A. M. (2000). The information-seeking practices of engineers: Searching for documents as well as for people. Information Processing & Management, 36(5), 761-778.
  • Jones, S., & Madden, M. (2002). Pew Internet & American life project. The internet goes to college: How students are living in the future with today's technology. Retrieved Nov 22, 2005, from http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_College_Report.pdf OCLC. (2004). 2004 information format trends content, not containers.   Retrieved July 18, 2005,
    2005, from http://www.oclc.org/reports/2004format.htm