Catalyst Fund 2018: Kennesaw State University

Submitting Organization: Kennesaw State University

Idea Title: Who Needs a Reference Librarian?

Idea Statement of Purpose: Study the information seeking behaviors of college students at R1-R3 universities using personal digital assistants apps / smart speakers supported by Apple/Siri, Amazon/Alexa, Google Assistant, and Samsung/Bixby.

Describe the problem, need, issue or challenge that will be addressed and how addressing it will benefit the LYRASIS community. Include, if relevant, references to any studies or reports that can further elucidate the issue, models from other fields, or existing work in related areas.

Many colleges and universities have conducted LibQual surveys of student/faculty use of libraries. Many of these studies indicate that students turn first and sometimes “only” to the internet and “Google” a question rather than interact with reference librarians and use vetted library databases. These information seeking behaviors have been studied and reported in the literature.

It is reported in the business news that Apple will have 700 million installs of Siri beginning in the 2nd quarter of 2018. Amazon, Google, Apple, and Samsung are pouring millions of dollars into Artificial Intelligence to make their app/smart speaker THE platform that users turn to for answers. Each new update of these services shows vast improvements. A case in point is Google Translate. Overnight Translate quality improved. Object identification (facial ID, object ID, biometrics) and interaction with other apps are the next wave of improvements. AI is making immense in roads in medical, legal, transportation, and education to name just some areas. Adobe just announced it is working to integrate AI into Adobe Cloud.

By addressing these information seeking behaviors and how these apps/smart devices have changed the information seeking behaviors of students will benefit the LYRASIS community by altering Library Education in our graduate programs, help inform professional development of library faculty, help librarians deal with disruptive technology, bring librarians to the IT table as Higher Education begins to address ChatBOTS that will directly have an effect on course design, course management systems, and use of BIG DATA as it relates to student use of libraries and librarians.

Are you interested in working with LYRASIS to further define the scope of work to test your idea?


If relevant, list other organizations, besides LYRASIS, that you recommend as potential partners in implementing the idea.


We encourage constructive comments that would help define solutions to the issues raised by the ideas and/or provide context for how these ideas impact your organization.


  1. Emily Reiher says:

    It is important that LAMs and LIS programs continue to assess information seeking behavior as technology evolves. This study could be incredibly useful for a variety of different type of institutions, even if the primary focus is on university students.

  2. Sharla Lair says:

    This sounds very interesting. I’m curious why this would only be for R1-3 institutions. I would think this is an issue that expands all library types and sizes. I can see a second round of such a study. It could involve K-12 schools since information gathering habits start young. Library schools could get involved in round 1 or 2, as they can incorporate this kind of study into their curricula. Thanks for proposing this!

    • Dave says:

      Students at R1-R3 institutions carry with them in various settings about three devices (Smart phone(s), smart watches, and laptops/tablets. They are in and out of these devices every day and all day. In the K-12 environment there is much greater control over both students, there time, and classroom curriculum. I agree, this is and should be the first of many possible studies. Part of the outcome could help the graduate programs in Library Science inform and change their curriculum.