Sudden Thoughts and Second Thoughts

At Least This Professor Is Trying To Improve Student Research

The general reaction to this story is that the faculty member is making a big mistake by banning Google and Wikipedia from student research (at least in the freshman year). I admit that such a strategy is likely to turn out to be a losing proposition, but what I find refreshing is a faculty member who at least cares enough about the quality of student research to take a stand on the matter. Too many faculty simply pay too little attention to the need for students to develop effective research skills. So while we may not agree with some of this instructor’s approaches or practices, I think we should give some credit to this person for having the right intentions. That said, based on article I’m wondering if this faculty member has considered collaborating or working with librarians to enlist them in the effort. I guessing the answer is no.

Your Books Are Out And Anything That’s Electronic Is In

While reading this month’s issue of University Business I came across one IT person’s “What Out, What’s In” list for 2008. Under “What’s Out” I find “Library Stacks” and what’s replacing the stacks under the “What’s In” column? Just a few things such as collaboratories, eJournals, Wikipedia and Google. Well, that settles it. Out with all the books. Go use Wikipedia and Google everyone. Sheesh! This list is courtesy of John Bielec, the CIO at Drexel University. That institution has been moving towards a heavily e-based library for years. Looks like the VP for IT is hoping that 2008 is the year that most, if not all, of the books will finally be gone from the library.

I’m Just Passing This On – Come To Your Own Conclusion

Since I’ve been accused previously of being biased when presenting information about librarians and social networks, here’s an advance warning. This is the ONLY data I’ve seen recently related to librarians and social space integration. (A) I’m not surpressing other study data with different conclusions and (B) I’m not adding any comments to it – it means whatever you want it to mean. This comes from a study of student use of the library web site and other information resources produced at the University of Michigan:

A total of 23% of respondents stated that ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’ they would be interested in contacting a librarian via these two social networking sites (MySpace and Facebook). Undergrads had a slightly higher than average percentage of 34%. Nearly half of the total respondents stated they would not be interested, but for various reasons – the biggest reason being that they feel the current methods (in-person, email, IM) are more than sufficient. 14% said no because they felt it was inappropriate or that Facebook is a social tool, not a research tool. Though this latter category does not represent a majority, these responses were the most emphatic

Well, I can’t resist one observation – 23% is better than I would have guessed, and is even potentially encouraging. You can read another summary of this data provided by Gerry. This might also be the first study I’ve seen where the students report using the library’s databases for starting their research as much as they do Google.

Here’s A Crazy Suggestion

Wouldn’t you agree that the librarian community played a significant role in Google’s rise to the top. After all, librarians were among the first to recognize Google’s uniqueness when it first appeared. We used it ourselves. We told our users and friends about it. We provided the word-of-mouth promotion that made Google what it is today. So my modest proposal is simply that we repeat history. Let’s pick another engine and make it even bigger than Google. I suggest we choose Search Wikia as our next great search engine. Why bother? Well, Search Wikia seems to have a nice community feel to it, and the search algorithm, if it works, could be quite effective. And, quite frankly, we need something else to talk about. How do we start the revolution? Tell someone about it today…and they’ll tell two people…and…

3 thoughts on “Sudden Thoughts and Second Thoughts”

  1. Steven, you wrote: “…what I find refreshing is a faculty member who at least cares enough about the quality of student research to take a stand on the matter. Too many faculty simply pay too little attention to the need for students to develop effective research skills.”

    My experience has been different, in that I’ve met many faculty who take a stand, often, in my opinion, the wrong one.

    In my work with faculty over the past few years, I’ve encountered several who “ban” Wikipedia. And many others who ban the Internet. And many who insist sources must be from print journals (which can be a real challenge as e-collections grow and print journals are shipped off-site).

    And I suspect all of these faculty think they are working to improve student research.

    I’ve met their students, who’ve come to the reference desk asking how to find articles but not use the Internet; or how to track down a print copy of an article when there’s a PDF of that same article right there in a library database.

    I think part of the problem is that these faculty have their own way of doing research as experts in their field, and don’t appreciate what it means to be a novice researcher.

  2. Joan, you make a good point. I’ve run into a few faculty who think that print journals and e-journals are entirely different. They don’t seem to understand that it’s a format issue, not a content issue, which I find peculiar. It’s an opportunity to educate the faculty I suppose, but every time it happens I’m surprised.

    I also agree with what you said about the novice researcher.

    I don’t think Google or Wikipedia should be banned, but used as a point of comparison and therefore a teaching tool.

  3. You make some great points. I read recently an article where a teacher decided to do the exact opposite of what the teacher you mentioned is doing. He assigned this students to use wikipedia to write a paper. They also had to justify why the articles they chose to use did or did not have correct information. I thought it was clever.

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