But I didn’t know I was plagiarizing…

I’ve recently been assigned the task of developing an open-to-all workshop on avoiding plagiarism. It got me thinking about when I first heard of the concept of plagiarism. I don’t remember it being discussed much, if at all, in high school, but citing sources must have been mentioned at some point, because I asked for the MLA Handbook for my birthday that year (you readers can relate, right?). At any rate, the subject came up more often as I got farther along in college, along with firm warnings of the dire consequences of plagiarism (failing courses, getting kicked out of school, being branded a “cheater” for life, etc.).

Since plagiarism detection software such as Turn-It-In have become more common, I figured kids in high school these days would at least be familiar with the idea that plagiarizing is wrong. Until, that is, a recent library instruction session for an English Comp class. I made up a brief quiz for the students, in which they had to find and list the citation of an article in a literature database that they would consider using for a paper. I was completely floored by the number of students that asked me “What is a citation?” and “Why do you need these?”

I don’t think my plagiarism workshop assignment could have come at a better time. It’s clear that many students are not being instructed about plagiarism and the necessity for citing sources in high school, and perhaps even in the beginning stages of their college careers. There seems to be a very important need to talk about plagiarism, its consequences, and how to avoid it. This is especially true when even university leaders are facing accusations of plagiarism. Despite SIU’s president’s plagiarism being deemed “inadvertent,” this can’t be setting a very good example for students.

The March 2007 issue of C&RL News had a good article about the role of librarians in teaching students about plagiarism. I’d love to hear of encounters the rest of you have had with plagiarism-ignorance, and how you inform students of the importance of citing their sources.

And I Heard Librarians Didn’t Have Time to Read At Work

When I accepted my first professional library position in late July, I was ecstatic. Less than two months had expired since I walked across the stage at Louisiana State University and was officially granted an MLIS. Like the other first-year bloggers, I was thrilled to land a job in the library setting of my choice (academic), doing something rewarding (library instruction). I started my first job knowing full well that the field of academic librarianship fosters continual learning and professional development. After all, how can we teach our students information literacy skills if we are lacking them ourselves? What I didn’t realize, however, is that this development would start my very first day of work. I am not embarrassed to admit that after my first day, I went straight home and watched several hours of television, just to clear my mind.

Soon, the pile of “to read” articles on my desk grew bigger and I spent quite a bit of time those first few weeks organizing my file cabinets into categories: Active Learning Techniques; Information Literacy Standards; and Reference Guidelines are just a few of the topics I began gathering information on. By now, most of the articles in that original pile have been read, highlighted, and filed away, but I never have a shortage of things to read.

Surprisingly, instead of feeling overwhelmed by the huge number of articles, books, and web sites available for my perusal, I feel grateful. It’s comforting to know that others started out just like me, as a new librarian with a lot to learn. I feel unbelievably lucky to have discovered a wealth of information that veteran and novice librarians alike are willing to share with one another. I have found fantastic ideas and lesson plans for making the most out of a one-shot LI session, and humorous suggestions for keeping Freshmen alert at 8:00 in the morning. I hope that someday I, too, will be able to contribute something beneficial that will be of use to my colleagues. I’m very happy (and appreciative) that I will have the chance to share my experiences with all of you on this blog. I look forward to reading your comments and seeking your sage advice. But to be honest, I’m mostly just happy I can finally see the top of my desk again!