The Uses and Outcomes of Information Technology in Academic Libraries

IT has been instrumental in today's educational landscape.

Without IT, things could quickly shut down.

Information technology, also called IT, refers to utilizing various digital technologies for storage, processing, data transmission, and information. This broadly encompassing field involves hardware such as computers, servers, storage devices, software, networks, and other digital innovations.

IT is the backbone for multiple functions — from fundamental data handling to intricate business processes like financial management, marketing strategies, and supply chain operations. However, the main focus here will be the academic sector.

Information Technology Benefits in Academia

Information technology has dramatically changed how we live and work. It has also helped individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. Some of IT’s main benefits include:

  • Improved Efficiency. IT has made it possible to automate many routine and time-consuming tasks (e.g., report generation, data entry, and recordkeeping), thereby making time and resources available for more strategic and value-added pursuits.
  • Enhanced Communication. IT has allowed faster communication with others, regardless of location. Video conferencing, email, instant messaging, and other digital communication tools have become essential for business and educational communication and personal interactions.
  • Increased Productivity. IT has enabled greater worker productivity by providing the tools and resources necessary to perform more effectively. Doing so allows access to information, software applications, and collaboration tools that make collaboration more efficient.
  • Improved Decision-Making. IT has established a niche for gathering, analyzing, and presenting data and information in real time, helping people make better-informed decisions. The process has led to more accurate forecasting, improved risk management, and better performance management.
  • More Significant Innovation. IT has provided access to new technologies, tools, and platforms, enabling individuals and organizations to build and collaborate on innovative ideas and solutions.


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IT in the Face of COVID-19

Following the global spread of COVID-19, education and educational institutions have been severely affected. At the start, global lockdown seemed the only way to limit the spread of infection. The first measures occurred in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where authorities had suspended all educational activities to control the education crisis.

Initially, they postponed routine tasks. Yet, despite their previous use, online courses were the best and perhaps only way to replace face-to-face contact. Plus, some educational facilities already had the infrastructure to offer large-scale online courses.

Psychological effects of the pandemic and quarantine measures are evident among all groups of people, including fear of disease and infection and its consequences. For children, especially those with mental problems, the daily school routine is a psychological comfort. Therefore, when schools were closed, staff expected mental health symptoms to increase. The problem was that there was no alternative. A possible solution is for children to play online games, which unfortunately causes extensive time in front of electronic devices.

Here, obesity reared its ugly head, with problems related to inactivity and school closure, along with unhealthy habits among children. Under these circumstances, support is needed with systematic home-based programs supervised by schools so children can exercise regularly.

In a recent article, reporter Scott Carlson noted that students’ ability to find increasingly more research materials online questioned the need for academic libraries to continue.

“University libraries bring to mind undergraduates rooting through dusty stacks or sitting in reading rooms with their noses buried in tomes,” Carlson wrote. “These days, however, more and more students are entering libraries not through turnstiles but through phone lines and fiber-optic cables.”

However, far from witnessing a final blow, developing and adopting digital information technology became essential to keeping academic libraries alive and vital. Meanwhile, despite numerous efforts, COVID-19 continues to present a serious threat to global health. 


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Information Technology for Today’s Higher Ed

Still, quickly implementing preventive measures and public awareness through social media contributed to saving lives. Moreover, contributions to scientific and educational fields came from professionals working at home, who appreciated the opportunity to do so.

Librarians Led the Way in the Pandemic

Carlson noted that academic librarians had effectively led their institutions into the era of social distancing partly “because libraries had already spent decades figuring out how to offer online services and get information to people who rarely came into the building.”

A Greater Emphasis on Technology Ensued

It used to be that library card catalogs and print matter like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other written (sometimes handwritten) knowledge sources were the instruments of the pre-internet era.

Citing the research and opinions of library directors and scholars, Carlson espoused that the library of the future — the one that emerged from the pandemic — will likely place higher value on its digital information technology and related resources and services. It will also convince library staff to be more active in engaging users.

According to Carlson:

“Libraries need far more aggressive outreach programs for patrons and more careful curation of digital collections and e-resources, just to keep the library’s expertise and resources in front of students and researchers.”


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Digital Information Technology Can Reduce Chaos

Students visit campus libraries in person about the same amount that they connect to them online. Doing this authenticates the notion that, while more and more of the library’s role is shifting toward electronic resources, the physical space is still of equal value.

A Library Journal study found that the three most common library interactions reported by students were “accessing digital resources (61.2%), using the physical library as a study space (47.8%), and conducting research for an assignment or project (43.8%).”

Over half of survey respondents (52.3 percent) said they access e-books through their campus library. Half reported using textbooks or course reserves, and nearly half used databases.

For print publications, 34 percent of students reported using the library to access books, and 20.9 percent for journals. At 43 percent, electronic journal usage was more than twice as high.

Adopting New Technologies Keeps Libraries Vital

IT has made it easier for people to share information, collaborate, and maintain distant relationships. Online courses, e-learning tools, and educational apps have also made education more accessible and interactive, enabling remote learning and personalized educational experiences.



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