An interesting report that makes one ask, Are librarians really doing the job they need to be doing to meet the needs of today’s college students?
Some of the neat stuff (IMHO) from the report includes the following:
- Welcome to college in the digital age. Students are entering the world of higher education at a time when the entire digital information universe is expanding at an unprecedented rate — six-fold each year.
- This dramatic proliferation of available information coincides with young adults being asked to receive, access, evaluate and deliver more information than most have ever had to process in their lives. It is a challenging task some may never be called upon to do again at quite the same pace and level.
- We administered an online survey in the spring of 2009 to 27,666 students enrolled at six community colleges and public and private colleges and universities across the U.S. Our findings are based on a collective sample of 2,318 responses
- The purpose was to collect data about the key information needs of college students— how often their needs arise and which resources students are likely to consult when conducting research.
- Many students in the sample reported being curious, engaged, and motivated at the beginning of the course-related and everyday life research process. Respondentsʼ need for big-picture context, or background about a topic, was the trigger for beginning course-related (65%) or everyday life research (63%).
- Almost every student in the sample turned to course readings—not Google—first for course-related research assignments. Likewise, Google and Wikipedia were the go-to sites for everyday life research for nearly every respondent.
- Librarians were tremendously underutilized by students. Eight out of 10 of the respondents reported rarely, if ever, turning to librarians for help with course-related research assignments.
- Nine out of 10 students in the sample turned to libraries for certain online scholarly research databases (such as those provided by EBSCO, JSTOR, or ProQuest) for conducting course-related research, valuing the resources for credible content, in-depth information, and the ability to meet instructorsʼ expectations.
- Even though it was librarians who initially informed students about using online scholarly research databases during freshmen training sessions, students in follow-up interviews reported turning to instructors as valued research coaches, as they advanced through the higher levels of their education.
- The reasons why students procrastinate are no longer driven by the same pre- Internet fears of failure and a lack of confidence that once were part of the college scene in the 1980s. Instead, we found that most of the digital natives in the sample (40%) tended to delay work on assignments as they juggled their needs to meet competing course demands from other classes.
- By far, respondents had the most experience with conducting research for argument papers (67%). Respondents also conducted research for a fair number of interpretative reading assignments (i.e., “close readings”) of a passage or a text (53%), or for the analysis of a historical event (39%). Less frequently assigned were case study analyses—only a third of the sample (33%) had conducted research for a case study in the last year.
- students frequently referred to a need for “finding context,” in one form or another, when they discussed conducting research.
- We soon discovered that finding context is key to understanding how students operationalize and prioritize their course-related and everyday life research activities.
- Finding context entails getting information for interpretation and definition of a topic, or an assignment. Students described finding context as laborious, often frustrating, yet essential to most of their research.
- Contexts include the following:
Big picture: Finding out background for defining and selecting a topic.
Language: Figuring out what words and terms associated with a topic may mean.
Situational: Gauging how far to go with research, based on surrounding circumstances.
Information-gathering: Finding, accessing, and securing relevant research resources.
- Google was the go-to resource for almost all of the students in the sample. Nearly all of the students in the sample reported always using Google, both for course-related research and everyday life research, and regardless of whether they were looking for the big picture, language, situational, or information- gathering context.
- In addition to course readings, nearly all of the respondents used scholarly databases in their course-related research in order to satisfy all four of their context needs.
- Few respondents made use of librarians—whether it was during course-related or everyday life research.
- Library guides often recommend a strategy for scholarly information seeking, underscored by the use of credible, authoritative sources. These sources are more likely to bring success by resolving many of the credibility issues facing digital natives.
- 2. The student approach is based on efficiency and utility. The student strategy attempts to satisfy context needs (identifying and developing a topic) by using a combination of instructor-sanctioned sources (i.e., course readings) and with open-access, collaborative public Internet resources (i.e., Google and Wikipedia) that return a lot of results early on.
- Most respondents used very few of the resources and services available to them. For instance, relatively few students in the survey used services that required contact with librarians. Only about 1 in 10 respondents ever used online reference (12%) or on-site, non-credit library training sessions (12%).
- Few students in our sample consulted librarians about research assignments (e.g., developing a research strategy) (20%) or about the campus library system (24%) (e.g., finding out about available resources on campus). Eight in 10 respondents—80%—reported that they did not use librarians for help with a course-related research assignment.
- Over three-fourths of the sample reported that they rarely, if ever, asked a librarian about the workings of the campus library system (76%). In a related question about respondentsʼ perceived helpfulness of library services, less than a third of the respondents (31%) reported that consulting a librarian about an assignment proved helpful in their course-related research.
- Eight in 10 respondents— 80%—reported that they did not use librarians for help with a course-related research
- A majority of respondents also used databases because of their usable interfaces (65%) that made finding content “quick and easy.” In particular, sites with a “one- search” search box were also a reason why a majority of respondents (60%) reported using databases.
- The 24/7 online, last-minute availability of scholarly research databases was also a factor that determined use, though less so. Almost a half of the respondents (43%) reported using databases because it saved them a visit the library.
- By far, respondents—8 in 10—put the greatest value on instructorsʼ availability for answering the questions they submitted by email (82%).
- Setting standards about which resources to use for assignments with written guidelines was also considered helpful by three fourths of the sample (76%).
- The actual writing and editing of papers is another way that students see instructors helping them complete course-related research assignments. A majority of the respondents (71%) considered instructorsʼ review of paper drafts helpful and slightly fewer respondents (61%) found separate deadlines for section by section of papers useful to them.
- todayʼs college students may be more confident when it comes to their course-related research competencies.
- These findings also suggest that some students may have an “illusion of immediacy” since there are so many resources online, leading students to misjudge how much time is truly needed to complete a course-related research assignment. At the same time, though, students in our sample clearly felt pressed for time as they juggle multiple research assignments.
- This finding suggest that students in our sample, given their needs to meet competing course demands, may feel they have less time for research, so therefore, they rely on predictable research strategies that had worked for them before.
- When it came to everyday life research, nearly all of the respondents used Google, Wikipedia, and friends for finding context. Almost all of the students used course readings, library resources, and public Internet sites such as Google and Wikipedia, when conducting course-related research—no matter where they were enrolled, no matter what resources they had at their disposal.
- A significant majority of students in our sample—8 in 10—did not ever consult librarians for course-related research assignments. Instead, instructors played an important role in coaching students through the research process—from figuring out a research strategy to finding acceptable resources to writing up their findings.
- When we have presented our findings, we are often asked what makes todayʼs digital age student different than those who have come before them? todayʼs students have defined their preferences for information sources in a world where credibility, veracity, and intellectual authority are less of a given—or even an expectation from students—with each passing day. “Books, do I use them? Not really, they are antiquated interfaces. You have to look in an index, way in the back, and itʼs not even hypertext linked.”
1-administrators and faculty should systematically examine student workloads across classes on their campuses, in light of an institutionʼs educational goals. We recommend that an analysis of gaps between desired results and existing conditions and their consequences be undertaken and examined more closely on campuses, as needed.
2-recommend that students be given course-related research assignments that encourage the collection, analysis, and synthesis of multiple viewpoints from a variety of sources, so the transfer of information literacy and critical thinking competencies may be more actively called up, practiced, and learned by students.
3-recommend librarians take an active role and initiate the dialogue with faculty to close a divide that may be growing between them and faculty and between them and students—each campus is likely to be different.
4-Librarians should systematically (not just anecdotally) examine the services they provide to students. This may require looking at things through a new lens, if need be.