Interesting Idea for the Library

Starting out at CSUEB, I didn’t have a lot of experience with doing my own research.  Sure, I knew how to search the internet and the library’s catalog… but other than that, I was lost.  (Databases?  What are those?  You mean they’re free?!?)  I quickly realized that a lot of my classmates were the same way.

I was in the Program for Accelerated College Education (PACE).  Many of my cohorts were returning students that had been out of school for 10 or more years.  They didn’t have any recent experience with research, and most hadn’t set foot in a library in recent history.  Some even said they hated the library because they never knew where to go.  For them, research papers were scary.  I often thought that if they could attend a class on ways to research, they’d feel more confident and less stressed out throughout their college careers.  So, as I learned new skills, I passed them on to my classmates.  We all emailed back and forth, and called each other.  We talked as we ran to our next class, or during break time.

I had forgotten about this until I read an article today for my Information Retrieval class (Libr202).  The article is called “Teaching a Heuristic Approach to Information Retrieval” by Connie Jo Ury, Caroline V. Johnson, and Joyce A. Meldren.  This article talks about Northwest Missouri State University’s library, and how it helped students learn to research.

What I found interesting about this article is that the library didn’t teach the students how to research, it taught them to learn to research.  (did that make any sense?)  What I mean by that, is that the librarians didn’t just perform a search for the students, they taught the students how to search.  They showed the students that using different words in their searches can make all the difference in what they find.  They used bulletin boards to answer questions, but students still preferred a “live” person when they needed help.

This isn’t to say that it was easy to get started with this project.  It started out as only a study group that had assignments, including a scavenger hunt, a quiz on library policies and collections, and a physical tour of the facilities.  Some teachers made it a requirement for their class (computer science), others fought it tooth and nail (English part II). 

The thing that stood out was that it was super important to get the teachers involved in this project.  Sometimes it took negotiation, sometimes it only took a presentation at a faculty meeting, and sometimes they just jumped on board.  Either way, the students report feeling more comfortable with performing research and even just visiting the library.

I think this is something that our library should look into.  It’ll create a better tie with local schools, and continue to strengthen our claim as a place of learning.  Although I haven’t done much research into this topic, I don’t think it would take much as far as funding is concerned – we already have most of what we need.  All it would take is time and manpower.  What do you think?

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2 Comments

  1. I think that it’s hard to synch some things with the Board of Education… That said, often of the most rewarding things are the things that require some effort. Best Wishes!

  2. I don’t think we would (necessarily) have to link with the Board if we got the teachers to make it part of their curriculum. Teachers do have some leeway in how they teach a subject, as long as they cover specific topics.

    I mean, we know that 6th graders will do a unit on Egypt, why not help them learn to do some kind of research on it? And what about High School? Isn’t that supposed to be prepping them for college? Part of college is doing research, if we give them a leg up, they’ll be ahead of some of their peers.


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