My thoughts on reference materials (inclusive of encyclopedias)
With so much online version of reference materials (eBooks) and encyclopedias (World Book, Britannica online etc) available for subscription coupled with free resources from many established universities, it is really a matter of time before reference collection will eventually shrink in size or disappear altogether. At this time and age when so much information is available online, libraries should allow loan of reference collection less they become dated. There is already a clear reluctance among mybstudents to use the reference collection. In my school library, we are definitely relooking at ways to intersperse students’ reference collection to encourage use and to free up precious library space for new functions such as the creation of learning commons. Would certainly not want to see the reference collection likened to museum pieces!
My thoughts on Wikipedia
I do not think it is advisable to overtly discourage the use of Wikipedia. We should instead guide students to use it with care by equipping them with skills to critically analyze wiki information by doing proper cross-referencing. I personally feel we can use the Wikipedia as an example to guide our students on the topic of website evaluation. Many of my students are already using the Wikipedia as their first source of reference. (Would be good to do a survey on this).They are not going to stop unless we can convince them that information in Wikipedia may not be authoritative and that anyone can edit or post information on it very easily. By planning a web evaluation lesson requiring the students to cross-reference their findings with other authoritative and reliable sources may be the way to convince them. I think this is best done when they are younger (perhaps in Y6-Y7) as part of their info literacy lesson before the bad habit is perpetuated.
My thoughts on Dictionaries, Atlases, Biographies….
Dictionaries, atlases, biographies and directories I feel will go the way of the dinosaurs in a matter of time. With so many online equivalent versions of the above (wikitionary, dictionary.com, atlapedia etc)which can serve the needs of students much faster and more conveniently, at a few clicks on their smartphones and iPads, the print copies I reckon will not be too popular. Many of my students in S’pore are already using smartphones and iPads with data plans which allow for internet access. I’ve seen too many of my colleagues young children (under 5) using iPhones and iPads as their electronic toys. Spells the demise of DS and play stations! These baby digital natives are our future students! Scary thoughts indeed. Besides the ease of access, interesting interface and interactivity, online versions may be more up to date especially with information wrt facts, figures and statistical data of people, economy etc. In view of competitions from free online versions, publishers of dictionaries, encyclopedias and atlases may even have to rethink their business model.