What Students Say About The Library And Research

Here’s a worthwhile podcast (also can be viewed as streaming video) from the library at Arizona State University. They recorded a program featuring five of their students answering a variety of questions about using the library, their research behavior, and their use of technology.The program, “Academic Libraries in Transition: Here’s What Students Have to Say” took place on February 17, 2006, and it runs for 60 minutes. Here are a few highlights that made me perk up and take notice:

  • No surprise that they tend to start their research with Internet search engines, but the students also praised having access to JSTOR, full-text online databases, and interlibrary loan.
  • Students commented that they do most of their research off site and come to the library only if they need to, but some commented on the value of the library as a study space or for computing.
  • A grad student on the panel who is a TA said he doesn’t allow his students to use Wikipedia as a research resource. Interesting.
  • When asked “How do you choose information resources?” a comment that really resonated with me was from the student who said she is mostly influenced by faculty and what they use for their research and what they recommend for research assignments. I think that speaks strongly to the need for librarians to work closely with faculty to make sure they are aware of the library’s resources, and to ensure they are enabled to recommend them to students – and even demonstrate them in class. What faculty have to say about library research resources will have far more influence on impressionable students than hours and hours of library instruction from librarians.
  • When asked what is the best way to learn about new resources from the library the students mentioned such traditional methods as e-mail and word-of-mouth (e.g., hear about it in class, hear it at the learning center, etc.), and checking the library home page for news. Not surprisingly, not one student said anything about needing or recommending a library blog for news and information about the library. When asked if they used news aggregators only one out of five knew what it was.
  • Despite all the talk in the LISblogoverse about how bad OPACs are, not one student complained about library catalogs or asked for them to be made simpler – when asked what the library needed to improve or make easier to use.
  • If it seems there is one overarching change that academic libraries need to focus on, if we can learn from what these students are telling us, it’s that we need to make library resources accessible in ways and in formats that accommodate the way the students are accessing information – and in those virtual spaces where they go for their information. Where we seem to be behindthe curve is in allowing students to access resources with handheld devices. The students articulated how they want information they can get on cellphones and MP3 players. We are not there yet, and to get there we’ll need the support of our electronic publishing partners, but this appears to be a technological goal that demands our attention.

    One thought on “What Students Say About The Library And Research”

    1. Many thanks to you for analyzing this important podcast (and to ASU Libraries for presenting it). There certainly is much to learn from those five students, and how nice to imagine that librarians w/o the time to organize such a panel might download this and give it a listen.
      The grad student (soon to graduate in History) who condemned Wikipedia as entirely “made up” gave me quite a shock. Another young panelist seconded him on that. Not to diminish the John Seigenthaler scandal, mind you, but it struck me as a surprisingly stuffy attitude to hear from a Milennial.
      (The same series of podcasts includes some much kinder words for the world’s most ambitious encyclopeda from Adrian Sannier, the school’s Technology Officer. Good listening, too, that.)

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