This article from Inside Higher Ed discusses an Illinois librarians’ study about how college students perceive and interact with their library signcampus libraries. The study suggests students do not understand how librarians can help them; in addition, they routinely have major difficulties researching for college-level assignments. For instance, they rely on Google too much and don’t understand how to use search engines effectively.

This lack of understanding not surprisingly results in resource-hunting “anxiety and confusion,” yet again, the students are unlikely to ask librarians for help. In fact, according to the study, students believe “librarians . . . do work unrelated to helping students.”

This perception is the opposite of reality: yes, librarians are curators of research materials, but they’re also there to help students with research.

It’s a terrible shame that so many students under-appreciate and under-use the library, all the while suffering through inefficient ways to research. In truth, the library is a wealth of information, as are librarians; together, they can be major players in your collegiate success.

Thus, I propose one of the most important things you can do as a new college student is take time to educate yourself about the library and its resources. Sign up for an on-ground tour. Also, check out your campus’s library website and any resources it has: many such librarian-created resources offer excellent assistance to students searching for good research materials. And keep in mind that a librarian is an ideal resource when you do have research-related questions (for instance, when you get stuck while searching databases or the web).

Below are a few good library-produced webpages: check them out to learn more.

These first four pages are from the Colorado State University Libraries:
“Library Staff”: a brief summary of what librarians do.
Library Tutorials. Start with “Five Steps to Better Research.”
“Seeking Information” Tutorial (covers search engines vs. library databases – a frequent point of confusion).
“Writing Guide: Conducting Library Research.”
From the Internet Public Library, “A+ Research & Writing for high school and college students”– check out the “Info Search” link at right.

The article, “What Students Don’t Know” by Steve Kolowich, reports on the ERIAL project (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries). Papers from this series of studies will be published by the American Library Association this fall.

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