Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What students don't know

This has been making the rounds in the higher ed circles. One of my colleagues mentioned that a faculty member contacted her as a result of reading this...if only we could all be so lucky.

What students don't know: study of student research habits

"...have learned over the course of a two-year, five-campus ethnographic study examining how students view and use their campus libraries: students rarely ask librarians for help, even when they need it. The idea of a librarian as an academic expert who is available to talk about assignments and hold their hands through the research process is, in fact, foreign to most students. Those who even have the word “librarian” in their vocabularies often think library staff are only good for pointing to different sections of the stacks."

"At Illinois Wesleyan University, “The majority of students -- of all levels -- exhibited significant difficulties that ranged across nearly every aspect of the search process,” according to researchers there. They tended to overuse Google and misuse scholarly databases. They preferred simple database searches to other methods of discovery, but generally exhibited “a lack of understanding of search logic” that often foiled their attempts to find good sources."


  1. I rarely asked librarians for help during my years in college (96–00). But that's because the staff at the reference desk were almost always student workers; I consulted them a few times my freshman year but they never seemed to do anything but duplicate the catalog searches I'd already tried. So before we decry students' poor library-use skills, let's consider what may be driving them away.

  2. I'll admit - I asked librarians for help exactly one time during my college career. They were vaguely helpful that one time, but I think I was intimidated by "the desk" and didn't want to ask stupid questions. Also, I'm afraid of people.