What Students Don’t Know

A new study at Illinois Academic Libraries studied college students’ reasons for not approaching academic librarians for help in finding information. According to the study authors, students’ research habits are worse than librarians have realized. Problems include over-reliance on Google, misunderstanding of search logic, and preference for simple databases over scholarly ones. Whose fault is this? The authors say both librarians and teaching faculty are to blame. Librarians tend to over-estimate the searching skills of students; professors do the same. Teaching faculty also wrongly assume that students have had in-depth library orientations, and fail to require their students to use library resources for assignments. From their perspective, students themselves are unaware of their lack of research skills, so don’t ask for help when needed. And students simply do not see librarians as people to go to for help, but more as people who point them in the direction of the stacks.

Most importantly the authors conclude, “[R]elationships with professors … determine students’ relationships with libraries… In the absence of an established structure ensuring that students build relationships with librarians throughout their college careers, professors play a critical role in brokering students’ relationships with librarians… Because librarians hold little sway with students, they can do only so much to rehabilitate students’ habits. They need professors’ help.”
Article: What Students Don’t Know, Inside Higher Ed, August 22, 2011
Study: Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries, 2011

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