Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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How can I help?

Posted by lpearle on 6 November 2013

School librarians talk a lot about scaffolding skills, ensuring that students have support as they learn and grow as researchers.  Many colleges and universities are creating specific first year programs so that all students have the opportunity to have a successful research experience at that educational level.

So the question arises: how can I help?  and what help is too much, too little or just the right amount?

My work on the LIRT Transitions to College Committee and what I’ve read on the ILL-I and other K-20 e-lists has shown that there is something of a disconnect between academic and school librarians not only in terminology (OPAC or catalog? in-text or parenthetical citations? etc.) but also in what skills students learn.  We’re all agreed that we shouldn’t stress the name of the database provider (Academic Search, not EBSCO, for example). We need to find more ways to crosstalk and crosswalk skills, terminology and methodology though.

Several years ago the history department at my school convinced everyone to go with Noodletools rather than having the librarians teach the minutiae of bibliography creation, using the argument that the goal should be more about the research and analysis and less about the actual process.  I tend to agree with that.  I firmly believe that we librarians should be embedded in the course, providing the skills/process piece so that the subject specialists can do their thing.  Working in a partnership with teaching faculty gives the students a better experience and leaves them well-prepared for college.  Using Noodletools or EasyBib is a great feeder into something like RefWorks or Zotero, tools our students will be using at their next institution.

The other day I learned that a liberal arts college, a very respected name, does not use a citation maker, instead preferring to teach students the painstaking process of how to create a bibliography and cite sources properly.  That raised not just an eyebrow but also a red flag: were we being too helpful?  was this what other schools were doing?  or was this one college an outlier?  And if using a citation maker is “too much”, what else should we be rethinking?

My next project?  Look at the top 10-ish schools for my students (“top” meaning “those colleges/universities at which the greatest number of our students matriculate”).  Research their first year experience in terms of library work: what projects do they get? what tools do they use? how does the librarian interact with the students and professors?  And then, having gathered all that data, try to answer the question “how can I help?”

What’s your answer to that question?

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2 Responses to “How can I help?”

  1. Robyn Case said

    “The other day I learned that a liberal arts college, a very respected name, does not use a citation maker, instead preferring to teach students the painstaking process of how to create a bibliography and cite sources properly.”

    Just because the school doesn’t have an established association with a citation tool doesn’t mean the students aren’t still going to use one. Does the school expect they can prohibit students from using tools like EasyBib, RefWorks or Zotero? My high school students in many cases discovered EasyBib on their own, before they learned our library offered them the upgraded School Edition. We live in a world where students will find intelligent ways to make their work easier when it doesn’t need to be so painstaking. I’m not against universities offering students guidance in learning to create bibliographies manually, but it strikes me as naive of universities to think that their students will choose to willingly do it that way when other options are easily available to them.

    I can’t get on board with the idea that high schools are being “too helpful” by introducing their students to using tools that can make their life simpler. Do you think I’m way off base?

    I just discovered your blog and look forward to the results of your research about your students’ top 10 schools library experiences! Big project!

    • lpearle said

      I agree – I can’t believe that the students (particularly those who come from high schools that do teach/use citation makers) aren’t using them. However, according to my friend, there is time in class given over to teaching how to do bibliographic citations. And this is in a master’s program! The argument is that the various tools available “get it wrong” and that students need to learn how to do it right. I’d love to know more about the “wrong” because there are many colleges and universities that do use these tools, and either they don’t care about absolute correctness, they don’t know what’s wrong, or the wrong:right ratio obviates any quibbles.

      Stay tuned!!

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