Tenopir Studies the Digital Age

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Carol TenopirFor someone so steeped in the digital age, it’s ironic that School of Information Sciences Professor Carol Tenopir, a member of the inaugural class of Chancellor’s Professors, has a house full of books.

Workdays, however, Tenopir is an internationally recognized scholar on the digital age and the evolving ways people find and process information. She is recognized as a leader in the online information industry.

Since 1983, she has published a monthly column on digital information in "Library Journal." "Online" magazine named her one of the top nine "leaders of the online industry." A study done by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia and published in the Autumn 2006 edition of Library and Information Science Research named Tenopir as the most research-productive library and information science faculty member in the U.S.

"I look at the outcomes of all of this information. The pace of acceleration has been much greater since 1995 and the flourishing of the Web, especially in medicine, engineering, sciences and social sciences," she explained.

She expects improvements in hand-held digital devices to speed up this trend. Today’s enormous flood of information, however, has to be well organized, vetted and filtered before it becomes useful.

"Ultimately, it’s all about human needs," she said. "Information has to be understood to become knowledge. Then it can lead to wisdom."

Change, flexibility, freshness are obvious hallmarks of digital publishing. "My career is always interesting, and it continues to get more interesting. It’s a moving target," she said. "There are new things all the time, and the ways people use information never stops changing."

"Lots of folks want to design better scholarly communications vehicles," she said. "The challenge is to find out the ways scientists and other scholars actually use the information. Then we can figure out how to improve the design of journals and delivery of services."

Tenopir said that in studying the digital age, it’s also interesting to study what hasn’t changed. "Scholars still do about one-third of their reading in print journals," she said. "So paper hasn’t gone away. It’s still often more convenient."

Carol and her husband, Gerald Lundeen, emeritus professor of Library and Information Studies at the University of Hawaii, have a son, Andrew, 23, who recently graduated from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore.

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