"In real life, Sheila Webber is a senior lecturer in information studies at Sheffield University. In Second Life, she is Sheila Yoshikawa, blue-haired babe and cultivator of a Japanese garden - Webber's avatar in the online virtual world populated by millions. 'I see her as a digital extension of me. I do some teaching, some professional networking and some shopping. I have a huge wardrobe and I'm much thinner.'"
Wendy interviews Sheila about Dr Ian Rowlands report on the 'Google generation'. The report, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, found users "power-browsing" or skimming material, using "horizontal" (shallow) research. Most spent only a few minutes looking at academic journal articles and few returned to them. "It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense," said the report authors. Dr Rowlands is one of the key-note speakers at the SINTO Members' Day on June 12th.
"Students of all ages need to learn to make independent assessments of the quality of material by looking at the authors' experience, funders, use of sources, and where published. 'They have to be taught these skills explicitly,' says Sheila Webber. 'Some academics recognise its importance but don't see it as their job to teach it. University librarians do see it as their responsibility - but there aren't enough of them to do it. Academics must join in.'"
Elsewhere in the supplement Martin Lewis, director of library services at the University of Sheffield is interviewed about how technology has changed his role. "Users can carry out more routine transactions themselves while we provide more time offering learning support to students. As teachers of information literacy, we can give students critical appraisal skills so they can use the internet."