Teaching online information systems: perspectives on the British experience.
Johnson, Ian M.
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The original aim of this paper was to review the development of education and training for online searching in Britain during the last ten years. The literature is fairly comprehensive in its coverage of the evolution of online searching, and of new developments such as OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogues), CD-ROM systems, expert systems, and image storage systems. It would have been possible to write a book on these topics but that task has already been completed by the authors of no less than three books which have appeared in Britain.1,2,3 The different approaches which have been taken to aspects of education and training, including the development of simulations and the place of online searching in the curriculum have also been thoroughly considered. After completing an initial review of this extensive literature, it became apparent that it would probably be most useful to draw attention to a number of issues which do not appear to have been widely discussed. Certain aspects of the British experience could be of particular significance for future development in those countries where online searching is not yet as widely practiced. These relate particularly to the impact of assistance and encouragement for experimental research; the impact of end-users' appreciation of the potential of online information services; and the implications of teaching online systems (and other forms of library automation) for curriculum development, student recruitment, funding, and the position of the Schools of Librarianship within their parent institution. These issues are not fully discussed in the existing literature, but have a long-term significance far greater than the solution of the technical problems associated with online searching. The paper therefore attempts to highlight some of those issues, drawing upon the literature and the author's observations of developments in Britain in the last ten years.