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?
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.
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?