What net generation students really want

Lizah Ismail (Marywood University Library, Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Publication date: 16 February 2010



Many academic libraries are trying a variety of innovative services to meet net generation users “on their own turf” and “on their own terms”. This paper aims to address the need for academic libraries to determine the wants and preferences of their institution's own net generation students before launching any new service that could be costly and ineffective, and to discuss a method for doing so.


An online survey of undergraduates was conducted at Marywood University to investigate if the net generation profile – being technologically savvy and desiring the quick and easy – applies to help‐seeking preferences at the library. Students were asked to rate their preference for a variety of research assistance options such as e‐mail, IM, Facebook and librarian assistance outside the library.


Results of the study run counter to expectations, and show that certain research assistance options, namely assistance via chat, Facebook, and course management software, are not a favorite among 18‐22 year‐olds at Marywood.

Research limitations/implications

Because of a low response rate of about 10 percent, the library recognizes that it is not possible to generalize these results to all undergraduates at Marywood. However, findings do show an interesting trend that goes against the net generation profile. Another survey is planned in conjunction with focus groups.


The Marywood Library has discovered, through a survey, that one size does not necessarily fit all when catering to the net generation. Time, effort, and expense could be saved if academic libraries conducted a similar study to determine the preferences of their net generation students.



Ismail, L. (2010), "What net generation students really want", Reference Services Review, Vol. 38 No. 1, pp. 10-27. https://doi.org/10.1108/00907321011020699

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