Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tools For Students and Professors

[Special weekly post from Rachel Jorgensen, Digital & Information Literacy Librarian, University of the District of Columbia]

I think the largest obstacle for students in using appropriate resources is their ignorance -- many students have no idea that the UDC library buys and provides access to a large number of resources. One of the reasons for this is the lack of process modeling within the classroom -- many  students are told to use books, articles, etc., but they are not told where these materials are located, nor how to access them. It is never safe to assume that students know how to use the library or its resources.

A large portion of my day is spent teaching students how to find and access these things. While it is rewarding to help students in this way, it is also a waste of time -- both for me and the student. I say this because finding and retrieving are the simplest tasks when using the library and I'd much rather spend my time helping students gain more complex skills, such as assessment and critiquing.

This problem of identifying and retrieving could be alleviated to a great extent within the classroom. Namely, students should be explicitly told to use UDC library materials. However, this requires professors and other teaching staff to have a clear understanding of what the library offers and how it is organized. Too often I
encounter students who are completely confused because they've been told by their professor to find scholarly articles in Aladin. The students quickly find out that this is impossible, because Aladin is a library catalog, not an article database. (If you regularly teach classes and you don't know how these two
things differ please contact me -- I'd be happy to give you an orientation of library resources!)

One of the things that I can do to help students and instructors alike is to create research guides, such as the ones found on the LRD's research guide website. I think these are an efficient and effective means by which to help students (and instructors) identify and access appropriate materials. If you would like a research guide made you can submit a request using the Information Literacy Request Form. (The link to this form can also be found on the library's website.)

Over the past year many other changes have been made to the LRD website -- the intent of this was to make accessing library materials easier. Above is an illustration of the library's website and the main access points for the catalog, article databases and electronic materials. Become acquainted with these resources -- gain an understanding of how they differ -- and then tell your students about them!

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