As students make the jump from high school to college, they are often overwhelmed by the increased workload and greater difficulty of the assignments that they are expected to complete. Research tools that they were accustomed to using are no longer sufficient to keep up with college-level education’s more rigorous standards. With all of the other inherent stressors that the college transition brings, learning how to effectively conduct research should not be any harder than it has to be. If you’re familiar with academic libraries – then you know what an integral role they can play in that process. But how can you make sure that you’re doing all you can to make life easier for students and helping them understand just what you have to offer?
A study conducted at the University of Washington in 2008 found that seven out of ten college students interviewed went to Wikipedia for course-related research in spite of explicitly being told not to do so by professors. Although Wikipedia is not considered a reliable, peer-reviewed source for scholarly research, students continue to express frustration with traditional research methods and struggle without first consulting a source that may or may not be accurate.
A 2009 presentation titled ‘Promoting Information Literacy in the Academic Library’ identified ‘efficient information retrieval methods’ and ‘student’s evaluation of online content’ as two of the main issues with information literacy in the information age. How can the academic library provide support and redirect students to more legitimate research tools though? If so much emphasis has been placed on coaxing students away from unreliable sources and still students feel they need to turn to those avenues, clearly more needs to be done and a different approach needs to be taken. This same presentation identifies three key areas that can prove critical in remedying this situation: Approachability, Appeal, and Advocacy.
Lack of approachability is a serious obstacle that so many libraries are struggling with. Students often have misguided impressions of libraries as old-fashioned or difficult to navigate. If they’re new to college especially, they may be hesitant to take the initiative to reach out on a one-on-one basis. They may be intimidated and if they feel they can handle the research from home, why would they try to connect when they’re already overwhelmed?
Appeal goes hand-in-hand with approachability. Even if students are able to shed whatever biases that they may have regarding libraries, they may still need to be convinced that there is something there that they can’t get elsewhere.
Finally, advocacy plays a clear role as libraries can take the first two areas into consideration and take an active role in keeping students apprised of what they offer. Now comes the time to step up and reach out to your students with these two issues in mind.
What is a concrete step that you can take to mitigate all of these concerns? Obtaining a native mobile app for your library! Bringing your library to the students in the palm of their hand ensures that they can approach you without much effort at all. An intuitive, easily accessible solution makes the research process a lot more user-friendly as well. The library’s appeal goes right through the roof when students see that their library is up to date with all of the latest technology and making a concerted effort to engage them. This makes them far more likely to interact with your resources and content. Advocacy takes care of itself – as within your app, you have the ability to connect your students with all of your social media and messaging. Of course, there is an implicit message as well – the library is committed to reaching students and helping them through their academic challenges. Contact Boopsie for more information about how your library can improve information literacy. Register for one of our academic library webinars here.