This paper explores some sustainability issues as they relate to library services for a growing cohort of online university students. The students in question come from a range of educational backgrounds, countries and cultures. Addressing their needs has become increasingly important as the amount of information available continues to grow, the nature of information access changes, and the number of students taking up online study also grows. Lifelong learning has long been recognised as necessary to adapt to changing roles in the information rich society and the resulting need to upgrade education and work skills. The IFLA statement on libraries and sustainable development highlights the importance of improving educational and social skills in an information rich society. One of the results of development is the explosion of information; with that comes the need to be able to filter the good information from the bad. This author is convinced that the increasing amount and easy availability of information mean that the development of information literacy skills is more critical than ever. As Gorman1 argues, the key to bridging the literacy divide (thus being a contributor to sustainable development) is information literacy; the ability to understand, filter, evaluate and use information. Using the example of Open Universities Australia (OUA) students, the paper focuses on the emerging role of Distance Liaison Librarian at Swinburne University of Technology. Library services to support distance learning and information literacy needs are scrutinised in terms of the particular requirements of the growing numbers who are choosing to study online. A review of the literature to identify issues of sustainability in relation to library services to online students, particularly addressing the development of information literacy skills is followed by an exploration of the characteristics, needs and challenges of these students. Enabling and supporting these students to develop high order information literacy skills in an online environment raises questions about possible implications for academic library services should the trend to study online increase.
International Library Conference, Persetuan Pustakawan Malaysia Kumpulan Sarawak Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, 12-14 July 2007, pp. 54-68
Copyright © 2007 Susan Roberts.