The purpose of this paper is to examine the question of whether modern digital information technologies damage their users' cognitive capacities in some way, and to speculate on how librarians should adapt their services as a consequence of the controversy surrounding this question.
The paper reviews some recent literature on this subject, combined with an examination of the role played by technology, librarians and government in determining the nature of our society's response to problematic aspects of the use of digital, internet‐based applications in education.
The paper finds that highly differentiated and highly polemical attitudes to this subject mean that librarians have to acknowledge the existence of important challenges to the apparent consensus about the way information technologies should be used in education in Western societies. This has important consequences for the approach to collection building (the balance between digital versus print provision), for library building design, and for the value which should be placed on systematic information literacy teaching. The existence of such an important debate should also embolden information professionals to make their own insights into these issues more widely known.
Some of the findings in this paper are amenable to further development through practitioner‐oriented research; however, the bulk of the content used for this paper is derived from the literature on this topic, so there is no original research data presented to back up the assertions made by the author. It is simply an account of a debate which has to be acknowledged by librarians.
The implications of the issues under discussion in the paper are presented in clear practical terms, and the consequences for library management made explicit.
The clash between two different theories of learning and information provision is debated and the links with issues of government policy are explored. The social connections between education and wealth generation are brought into this debate.
The paper provides a useful, up‐to‐date briefing on recent controversial issues in education, information management and socio‐economic policy making.
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