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Students trust the recommendations of their instructors and their classmates (over library recommendations) in selecting online resources to support their studies.
Students tend not to ask librarians for research help.
April 13 saw 495 librarians across North America converging online to attend a Library Journal/ProQuest webinar, “What Students Have Taught Us: Insights into the User Journey.”
Based on student feedback, analytics and usability studies, the one-hour webinar delivered exclusive insights into not just who uses academic library resources, but how that usage evolves as students progress in their academic careers.
Among the findings:
- Google is not the be-all and end-all. Students do use Google as a jumping-off point but turn to reliable library databases on the recommendation of their teachers for the in-depth, citable content their assignments demand.
- Scholarly journals and historic newspapers were among the most-used online resources.
- Barriers to student use of the library include log-ins and paywalls, library websites that overwhelm, and lack of knowledge that scholarly databases are even available.
Four categories of researchers
Student researchers can’t be lumped into a single category, the study found. Instead, student study habits evolve as they grow academically.
- Students new to the higher education landscape are characterized as “Gen-Req’ers” –seeking content to satisfy general requirement coursework. Time is of the essence for these newbies, who want to spend less time searching for information and more time writing.
- The “Domain Learner” has a stronger handle on his field of study and tailors his research needs accordingly, identifying key journals and other sources that will enhance his assignment outcomes.
- The “Apprentice” is working toward her capstone project: a thesis, dissertation or other graduate-level assignment. For her, comprehensive content that keeps up with the current developments in her field take priority. She also feels the pressure to discover something new to report.
- Finally, the “Seasoned Scholar” can take the form of a professor or professional who is entirely invested in his or her discipline. They establish collaborative relationships with leaders in their field of study, but ironically may be intimidated by the ever-changing technology that informs today’s online research.
Librarians’ questions … answered
The webinar welcomed questions from attendees, and more than 30 people stepped forward. Among the Q&A …
Q: Are students reluctant to ask [a librarian] questions, or fearful? Can we do something to remove that fear?
A: One student told us they wished that the library felt more like the Apple Store - where a knowledgeable person approaches, rather than having to approach the reference desk. The other insight is that if librarians visit a classroom and are introduced by the instructor and give helpful tips, then students feel they have someone approachable that can help them.
Q: Do you find that students are aware of ILL options?
A: I was pleasantly surprised that when we interviewed students they did mention that they were aware of ILL. There does seem to be something of a hesitation to actually use it when they are trying to be time-efficient for an assignment. It's more likely to be used by apprentices and seasoned scholars looking for content that is more rare and unique.
Get a more detailed picture
Learn more about what drives students to the library – and what holds them back.
Watch the recorded webinar, “What Students Have Taught Us” and share with your colleagues.