Rants, Student stuff

Starting a revolution

Last week I met with my “book group”. I’m using that term loosely to describe the amazing group of people I met during my time on book award committees; we miss talking about books with each other so we started a group that meets the last Sunday of the month (traditional Alex Award book talk time) and discuss a book recommended by one of us. And, since it’s only one book, we usually veer off into other topics. All are librarians, so you can imagine some of the topics.

At one point, Kellie, an academic librarian, challenged me to start a revolution (apparently she’s too busy/tired/whatever) and since I actually agree with her rant, here goes: we’re tired of professors/teachers who don’t understand that the library that our grandparents, parents and we used has radically morphed over the past 25 years and types of resources have expanded. They need to:

  • know what ebooks are (literally, digital versions of print books)
  • understand that telling students not to use digital resources means one thing to them (don’t Google) and another thing to students (don’t use anything online)
  • remember that primary sources are not scholarly sources (in point of fact, most are not scholarly!)
  • stop vastly underestimating what students know or have been exposed to at lower years (middle school, high school, even a lower grade) to bring them up to the skills level they want for the research they have in mind

Oddly, this seems to also be true of teachers and professors who were in high school post-1995. I say “oddly” because these are supposed digital natives who grew up with the internet and should understand some of these differences. Perhaps it’s because their teachers and professors were of an older generation and didn’t understand, so they stressed print resources, and those teachers also were given more instruction and time as younger students to learn basic skills (classes were not focused on passing state standardized tests at the expense of those skills).

Anyway, here’s our plea to you: help us help them understand these things. When a student comes in looking for primary sources on, say, Joan of Arc, reach out to the teacher to remind them that many primary sources will actually be secondary (translations) or not by the subject (Joan didn’t have an Instagram, nor did she keep a diary). To be honest, I’d love to see our freshman history students use only secondary and tertiary sources around Joan rather than a biography about her and learn to synthesize and draw their own conclusions about her life.

Aux armes, mes amis!

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