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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

First Year student use of U Libraries

Today is the last day of class for Fall semester. Students are busy--slightly frantic even finishing up final papers, research projects, and studying for finals. Our staplers are getting a work out.

I have been thinking about our first year students finishing up their first semester. Project Information Literacy (PIL) recently released a new exploratory study called, "How Freshmen Conduct Course Research Once They Enter College. Through interviews and a survey of high school students and first year students PIL looked at the challenges new first year students face in their first semester in terms of the complexities of academic research and academic libraries.

We are also in the process of bringing up a new discovery layer for spring. I wonder what all these students will think when the come back for spring to a new website and one BIG search box. We are working on revising our guides and workshop, Intro to Library Research to support students use of our new tool. Our Library Data project has done a good job giving us some tangible ideas on improving student success in our workshops and online tutorials (e.g. authentic work like our Library Research Worksheet) and we are working on maximizing these learning opportunities within the relatively small amount of time we have with students.

I look forward to seeing how the discovery layer helps simplify (?) the search experience and considering how we work towards the higher level issues like critical inquiry, reading and making sense of academic literature, finding related sources, and so on.

Maybe we need to gather some data on those staplers.

Here are a few more selected findings:

  • Many freshmen, who assumed everything they needed to know was just a Google search away, soon discovered they were unprepared to deal with the enormous amount of information they were expected to find and process for college research assignments. This transition from completing high school assignments to doing college-level research is one of the most formidable challenges that incoming freshmen face.
  • To a lesser extent, they struggle with reading and comprehending scholarly materials once they are able to find them and have trouble figuring out faculty expectations for course research assignments.
  • Once freshmen began to conduct research in college for assignments, they soon
    discovered that their college library was far larger and more complex than their high
    school library had been
  • Most freshmen said their research competencies from high school were inadequate for college work. As they wrapped up their first term, freshmen said they realized they
    needed to upgrade their research toolkit.
  • In the short time they had been on campus, a majority of first-term freshmen said they
    had already developed some adaptive strategies for shoring up their high school research skills. Most often, this meant they were becoming accustomed to reading academic journal articles. Some had discovered the usefulness of abstracts to save time and help them make selections.

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