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Information Studies - Using the Library

"The library is a major resource and service agency for both students and faculty" (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 221).

In a typical university library only 16 percent of the students use "the varied library materials for independent study" (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 221). Half of the students using an academic library are employing it only as a study hall, using only their own textbooks (Lyle, 1963).

Only 33 percent of the authors reviewed in the literature on study skills provide any information on how to use the library (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 222).

Why students have difficulty with library assignments (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 222):

[Okay, I have to admit. This kind of information makes me mad. If your faculty are not providing you the information mentioned above -- adequate training in the library, information on how to narrow a topic so it is manageable, decent preparation and information so you can do an assignment effectively -- you need to COMPLAIN. If they don't respond, speak to their department chair or the dean. Don't let it slide. You are PAYING for their work. -Colby]

A study by Sellen and Jirouch (1984) found that "college juniors and seniors performed much the same as freshmen and sophomores in their general use of the library sources" (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 223).

A study by Hofman (1981) found that most instructors are not familiar with the library and its resources. Classes are often given assignments requiring resources which are not in the library.

"Assignments that don't provide students with information about how to use the library effectively can lead to student frustration and poor performance" (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 224).

Just assigning students to use the library is setting them up for failure. Students learn how to locate and use resources appropriately only when faculty and librarians work together (Barnes, 1988; Carlson & Miller, 1984; Gwin, 1978; Lyle, 1963; Morris, 1980).

"Studies conducted at Bath University of Technology (1971), and by Hernon (1982), McBride and Stenstrom (1980-1981), Stenstrom & McBride (1979), Van Styvendael (1977), and Wood and Bower (1969) indicate that footnotes, personal recommendations from scholars, personal bibliographic files, serendipitous discovery, browsing, and similar methods that involve no formal use of indexes or abstracts account for the great majority of citations obtained by scholars" " (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 225). The primary source of references for faculty was found to be footnotes in journals and books [ie., cycling]. Fewer than 20 percent "made even minimal use of abstracts… or bibliographies to identify sources" " (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 225). This indicates that faculty also are in extensive need of library instruction.

Studies have shown that community college libraries do not recognize or support the special needs of their developmental students (Breivik, 1977a; Shaughnessy, 1975; Truett, 1983; Lolly & Watkins, 1979). A review of the research in this area by Risko, Alvarez, and Fairbanks (1991) led them to say that "the students who need library skills the most appear to be receiving the least amount of instruction" (p. 226).

Lolly and Watkins (1979) found that community colleges require developmental courses but do not support those courses with any instruction in using the library.

"Truett (1983) found that although more than 90 percent of the colleges surveyed offered a developmental education program for their students, fewer than 28 percent of the colleges had library services to support these programs… The type of instruction most prevalent in the surveyed community colleges was the traditional orientation lecture tour. Truett described this instruction as the least effective method of helping students use the library because it included no course-related instruction" " (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 226).

The library instruction which was best received and understood was related to and integrated with students' coursework in classes they were taking (Carlson & Miller, 1984; Breivik, 1977b, 1987; Wagner, 1973; Josey, 1971).

"In one investigation, course-related library instruction conducted with developmental students resulted in academic gains as measured by reading comprehension tests and student-written term papers" " (Risko, Alvarez, & Fairbanks 1991, 226; see Breivik, 1977a).

NEXT: Finding Information Online


Barnes, J.W.. Practical and effective point-of-use library guides from the Oscar A. Silverman undergraduate library (ED 297 744), 1968.

Bath University of Technology. Information requirements of research in the social studies. Bath, England: Bath University of Technology, 1971.

Breivik, P.S. Open admissions and the academic library. Chicago IL: American Library Association, 1977a.

Breivik, P.S. Resources: The fourth R. Community College Frontiers, 5 (1977b): 46-50.

Breivik, PS. "The role of libraries in the search for educational excellence." School Library Media Quarterly 16 (1987): 45-46.

Carlson, D., & Miller, R.H. "Librarian and teaching faculty: Partners in bibliographic instruction." College & Research Libraries, 45 (1984): 483-491.

Gwinn, N.E. "The Faculty-library Connection." Change, 10 (1978): 19-21.

Hernon, P. "Use of microformated government publications." Microfilm Review, 11 (1982): 241-242.

Josey, E.G. "The role of the academic library in serving disadvantaged students." Library Trends, 20 (1971): 432-444.

Lolly, J., and R. Watkins. "Welcome to the Library." Journal of Developmental and Remedial Education, 3 (1979): 25-26.

Lyle, G.R. The president, the professor and the college library. New York: H.W. Wilson, 1963.

McBride, R.B., and P. Stenstrom. "Psychology Journal Usage." Behavioral and Social Sciences Librarian, 2 (1980-1981): 1-12.

Morris, J.M. "A philosophical defense of a credit course." In C. Oberman-Soroka (Ed.), Proceedings from the Southeastern Conference on Approaches to Bibliographic Instruction. Charleston, SC: College of Charleston Library Associates, 1980.

Risko, Victoria J., Marino C. Alvarez, and Marilyn M. Fairbanks. In Rona F. Flippo & David C. Caverly, eds. Teaching Reading and Study Strategies At the College Level. Newark, Delaware: International Reading Association, 1991.

Shaughnessy, T.W. (1975). Library services to educationally disadvantaged students. College & Research Libraries, 36, 443-448.

Stenstrom, P, & McBride, R.B. (1979). Serial use of social science faculty: A survey. College & Research Libraries, 40, 429.

Truett, C. (1983). Services to developmental education students in the community college: Does the library have a role? College & Research Libraries, 44, 20-28.

Van Styvendael, J.H. (1977). University scientists as seekers of information: Sources of reference to periodical literature. Journal of Librarianship, 9, 271-272.

Wagner, W.C. (1973). On integrating libraries and classrooms. Learning Today 6, 48-62.

Wood, D.N., & Bower, C.A. (1969). The use of social science periodical literature. Journal of Documentation, 25, 115-117.

Wood, N.V (1986). College reading and study skills. Orlando, FL: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

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