We’re now in the mid-semester break at the university where I work, so I thought I’d look back on the training sessions that I delivered during the first half of the semester. There were only four subjects which I ran training for, and the last one was the only “traditional” session which I organised. By traditional, I mean showing the students how to use the databases and our discovery tool to find resources to help them with their assignment. The other three classes had a different focus.
The first training session I conducted was in a lecture for approximately 350 first year biology students. This was the largest session that I ran. At the request of the lecturer, the focus was on showing the students how to use Google Scholar and Wikipedia as starting points for their research, and then how to link from these to library resources. The second session looked at Trove, and how it could be used by third year students in human geography to find historical documents to help them with their assignment. I ran another session for human geography students (second year this time) showing them how to use freely-available government sources, such as the UN and World Bank, for their assignment. The final session was for some first year human geography students, and this session was a basic introduction to the library and the resources that are available.
The focus for the training sessions has shifted towards adding access points to the library in spaces that the students are using, rather than forcing them to start at the library. For example, the library resources template on Wikipedia allows libraries to link to their catalogue or discovery tool from a Wikipedia page. It’s about going to where the students are and showing them how to get back to the library. If students are comfortable using resources such as Google Scholar and Wikipedia, why not allow the students to use these as discovery tools, then link back to the library for scholarly content?
There may be concerns around the “dumbing down” of search strategies by using this approach, but students are already doing their research by starting with these sources. Several studies have investigated the use of Wikipedia by college and university students (Head and Eisenberg 2010, Lim 2009, Colón-Aguirre and Fleming-May 2012), and also ways of making it easy for students to access library resources if they start with Wikipedia (Arnett and Forrestal 2012). By providing a way for them to find their way to the library, we can show them how to go beyond these freely-available sources and locate reliable, scholarly material. I think I’ll be delivering less of the “traditional” training sessions in the future.