A new report commissioned by the Joint Information Systems Committee and the British Library counters the common assumption that the "Google generation" - young people brought up in the internet age - is the most adept at using the web.
The report, by the CIBER research team at University College London, says that, although young people show an ease and familiarity with computers, they rely on the most basic search tools and do not have the critical and analytical skills to assess the information they find on the web.
The report, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, shows that research-behaviour traits commonly associated with younger users - impatience in search and navigation, zero tolerance for delay in satisfying their information needs - are now the norm for all age groups, from younger pupils and undergraduates through to professors.
The study calls for libraries to respond urgently to the changing needs of researchers and other users, and to understand the new means of searching and navigating information. Learning what researchers want and need is crucial if libraries are not to become obsolete, the report warns.
The findings also send a stark message to government - that young people are dangerously lacking information skills. Well-funded information literacy programmes are needed, the report continues, if the UK is to remain a leading knowledge economy with a strongly skilled next generation of researchers.