How did you use the library for research? (Or what’s up with the kids?)



blue haired with a knife, originally uploaded by kendrak.

It’s that time of the semester here at MPOW, where we get the students coming in with their end of term research topics. (Instruction ends Friday.)

Here’s a fairly typical interaction:

Me: Hello, can I help you with something?
Student: I need peer-reviewed resources about the new Santa Carla BRT plan.
Me: They just passed that in November, it’s unlikely anything’s been formally published. You should check the agency’s website. Or you can find articles about a more established system in TRIS.
Student: They don’t have anything on my topic? (annoyed)
Me: Let me poke around, when is this due?
Student: Tomorrow.
Me: Yeah… I probably can’t help you with that then. I would use TRIS and Google Scholar and write based upon what’s available.
Student: *grumbles*

These transactions always make me laugh a little because I was a last minute kid like the student, but there was one big difference – I made do with what was available rather than complaining about what wasn’t.

This picture was taken of me back in my 3rd year of undergrad. I wasn’t what you would call the most disciplined student. I would get cracking on my Germanic translating assignments quite early, but I would always put my history papers off to the last minute. Why? Because I always got away with it. Now, there were many times when I went to the library, went looking for resources, and found that most of what I wanted was either checked out or in storage, which meant I wouldn’t get it in time to meet my deadline. As a result, I wrote some weird papers that really tested my skills of historical analysis, but the topics were unique for the class.

The reason I share this story is that I’m trying to figure out the best way to teach our students this lesson. Some seem to get that they can’t write a paper without the resources they need and maybe they should have started earlier or pick a topic that has actually been written about. (It’s sad, but when a couple of students came in a month ago to start work on a paper due May 6, I was pleasantly shocked. Not everybody is the procrastinator I was.) I think this is a useful lesson to learn, but I’m not really sure it’s the library’s job to teach it, or is it? What do you do?

One thought on “How did you use the library for research? (Or what’s up with the kids?)

  1. Yep, I was that student as well often waiting until the last minute and using whatever I could get my hands on to finish the project or paper… That said, I think there might be a few things at play with your students:
    1. Pareto principle http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle a.k.a. 80/20 rule, then only need 20% of the resources to get 80% of the result – I know this might not apply to graduate level or world class research that needs to be as comprehensive as possible, but for an undergrad class it just might be enough
    2. “Millennials” a.k.a. Generation Y http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generation_Y I’ve heard this from several sources have a feeling of entitlement, maybe they expect to have all the resources they need all the time on-demand…
    3. History is a good teacher, if they have navigated our education system to date by waiting until the last minute to execute projects and assignments and have had relative success, why fix what they perceive isn’t broken?

    Just .02

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