Office Hours: Can We Handle the Truth? 3

My new column explores some recent studies about students, faculty and librarians.

Ultimately, the authors of the report make a series of recommendations, including a few that librarians must heed.

“We believe library instruction could benefit from some serious rethinking and re-examination. We recommend modifying sessions (in-class and reference encounters) so they emphasize…framing a successful research process…over research-finding of sources.” (p. 39)

Librarians’ focus on sources over teaching the research process itself has probably contributed to these disheartening survey results. But they also make me wonder how most college students see librarians. Are they invisible within their libraries and academic departments? Ineffective in bibliographic instruction sessions? (Just typing “bibliographic instruction sessions” makes my eyes glaze over.)

These findings complement those reported by ITHAKA earlier in 2010 (, which state that university researchers are relying less and less on the services of libraries and librarians and more on specific online resources. What role will academic librarians play in the lives of students as well as these faculty who view the library as less and less of a partner?

University librarian Jeffrey G. Trzeciak at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., believes “librarians have lost their audience” already…. [T]hey will likely never come back….”

His gloomy words should be a rallying cry for all university and college librarians and to LIS education as well.

3 thoughts on “Office Hours: Can We Handle the Truth?

  • Justin Hoenke

    “On information-seeking for personal needs: “70% of this year’s….students frequently turned to social networks, such as Facebook…in their daily lives.” (p. 40)”

    I couldn’t comment on the article over at LJ, but I just wanted to chime in and say that I see this a lot in my teen library. My teens are constantly on the computer looking for their own answers. Having noticed this, my role as their teen librarian has changed. I’m not really there to answer their questions but instead be a trusted friend and a welcoming face.

  • Cynthia Williamson

    Many academic librarians have realized that their audience is not students but faculty. It’s pretty tough to teach either the research process or how to search particular databases when students just want to google…. if their website filled bibliographies are acceptable to their instructors then no librarian will get through to them no matter how well they teach. Librarians’ voices are beginning to be heard at the Teaching and Learning tables in many institutions. Most faculty do not have educational backgrounds, they need help designing the research portions of their assignments and understanding how to assess their students’ research. Faculty outreach and liaison are the areas that must take up most of the time of college and university librarians. PD and orientation sessions, departmental meetings, one on one meetings, shared office hours, etc.
    I’m not saying we should ignore students in the classroom, just that it is not the first step in the work of academic librarians. Teaching students about the research process can only be successful if the instructor has the right expectations.
    The other key role for academic librarians is collecting and organizing faculty research. As more and more institutions start opening up their professors’ research and more faculty choose not to lock up their research with proprietary publishers – the library role in digitizing and organizing the storage institutional research becomes more and more important.

  • Michael Post author

    I like your ideas about the organization of faculty research but I still would put more emphasis on the role librarians can play with students. I’m reminded of a presentation I saw at EDUCAUSE LI where the librarian was embedded in a freshman seminar course Twitter channel, interacting with students as well as the prof.

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