We have work to do

Image CC Flickr by EnoksonCC Flickr by Enokson

I finally got around to reading the report “Truth be told: How college students evaluate and use information in the digital age”. It is a report from a project concerning information literacy in the US. Alison Head and Michael Eisenberg at the Information School, University of Washington have presented findings from almost 8,500 survey respondents from 25 campuses. The results and prospects are quite bleak, from a librarian`s perspective (See my blogpost “Handling the truth?“).

Key findings include that  the most difficult step for students is to get started (choosing a subject and narrowing it down, finding search terms etc.). Also the students use scholary databases less, other library resources less and librarians less in 2010 than in 2009. When they evaluate information, they use a set of self-taught strategies combined with some strategies learned in high-school. They are less critical towards information for personal use than for course work and they more often ask friends and family for help to evaluate sources than librarians. The students use library resources, but not librarian-related services. It is to some comfort that the students who seemed to have a fuller grasp on the research process said that they had learned it from a campus librarian, but still..

Over a third of the students reported difficulties with knowing how to cite and writing about research results. Why don`t they ask?

The students reported that they had no problem thinking of a subject, rather the reverse. They didn`t know how to choose. They were unsure about the subject meeting the professor`s criteria. They were insecure about what could be counted as “sufficient” in the information search process and they were keen on finding “the answer”.

Clearly, we have work to do. The authors of the report have some suggestions as to what to do: 1. Integrate research rubrics into assignment guidelines and that librarians should develop these rubrics in cooperation with faculty staff 2. Re-think the library courses and emphasise the research process rather than just finding sources 3. Hold students more accoutable for the research they conduct, for example by making them choose their own subjects and requiring annotated bibliographies.

“Today`s students have systems for finding and using information the academy often disregards, or in some cases, even prohibits (e.g. Wikipedia)” (p. 40), the authors conclude.  My response to this is: Prohibiting Wikipedia? Let`s not be that daft.

Handling the truth?

Librarian costume(Picture licence: CC Librarian Avenger)

I still haven`t had the time to read the full report “Truth Be Told: How College Students Evaluate and Use Information in the Digital Age”, but I will. According to Michael Stephens who wrote a summary for the Library Journal, the results from the project are enough to wet any librarian`s eye.. and not in a good way..

[Quote Stephens]:

On the research process: “Students relied on librarians infrequently, if ever, whether they were conducting research for coursework or for personal use. Moreover, students…[used] librarians less often than…in the 2009 survey….” (p. 8)

On evaluating resources: “Few students in the sample asked librarians (11%) or writing center staff (7%) for help…and even fewer turned to librarians for help evaluating information for personal use (5%).” (p. 13)

On information-seeking for personal needs: “70% of this year’s….students frequently turned to social networks, such as Facebook…in their daily lives.” (p. 40) [end quote]

Houston, we have a problem

Why don`t student trust librarians when it comes to academic writing? Are we invisible in the institution? Do the students know enough about our services and competensies? How can we gain their trust?

I believe there are more than one solution. Firstly, we must be bolder and dare go into unknown territory. We must learn how to teach and rethink the way we present ourselves through courses and services. There is no such thing as a cataloguer anymore. Everyone must deal with students and staff and contribute to the development of new services. Kill information literacy as a term and focus on skills. Secondly, we must be where the students are. If they want to use Facebook for information searching, then make our presence there be of value. If they want to use their mobile phones to use the library`s resourses, than we better make good library websites for mobile devices.

Give them what they want!, is my message.

Let`s face it: using the library will never be cool. Then it better be worth it. So let`s make it so.

Evidence-based librarianship

I`m currently reading a book about evidence-based librarianship and I suddenly thought: Librarians promote evidence-based practice and work hard to make students realize the how important it is for them to search for and use results from research in their studies and worklife. So, why is it so hard for librarians to work evidence-based themselves?? Why do we keep on going in the same track as always even when we know that it`s not working, even when it`s been proven through scientific methods and results? Are we that traditional? Can we not face change? These and many other questions will be part of my master thesis, I think. I`ll probably be posting more about evidence-based librarianship, too, once I get over my own epiphany:-)