Re-Tooling Academic Libraries for the Digital Age:
Missions, Collections, Staffing

California Academic & Research Libraries
Third Annual Conference


Undergraduates in the Digital Age: What Do Students Need from Libraries, and How is it Changing?

A standing room only audience attended this timely session, moderated by Liz Ginno of CSU Hayward.

Paul Adalian, Interim Assistant Director of the Library, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, presented his talk, entitled, "Undergraduate Needs and Services for Library and Remote Users." He briefly outlined his library's efforts in producing its Golden Retriever program (graphical user interface software which guides users to various library research sources). He observed that the new pace of change provides new opportunities (libraries can now use new technology to teach new technology); and that undergraduates need us to help them and guide them, thus how we interact with them is crucial.

He cited two user studies, one by Joan Durrance (University of Michigan), and the other by Wilbur Stolt and Pat Meyers (University of Oklahoma) which concluded that positive interaction with the library staff was the most important factor in high user satisfaction.

The question was raised, "Will remote users come back (to WWW home pages, printed guides for online systems, gopher instructional 'abouts', electronic reference, etc)?"

Undergraduates need an environment that contains:

  1. our usual commitment to service for both library and remote users,
  2. an accommodation for different learning, communication, and work styles, and
  3. a commitment to life-long online skill development for the workplace and for personal growth and development.

He then outlined several programs that Cal Poly uses to reach undergraduate students:

  1. faculty outreach involves turning faculty members into users who will encourage other users (their students) to use the librarys' systems,
  2. a WWW page "Getting Started on Research",
  3. electronic reference service with a 3-hour turnaround time,
  4. consultation with subject specialists via e-mail, and
  5. Golden Retriever (integrates print and online sources, is designed to be discipline specific, and promotes bibliographic awareness).

Future projects at Cal Poly include the use of Macromedia Director on Netscape version 2.0, the creation of a customized CD for online search instruction (containing canned searches), and library tours by major in print and online. The classroom setting is still the best learning environment, because it can easily accommodate different learning styles. Students can ask questions on the spot, and their confidence levels can be raised. It is important to develop students' critical thinking skills along the way. The challenge is transferring the advantages of the classroom setting to that of the remote setting.

The second speaker, Margaret Phillips, Program Coordinator, Teaching Library, UC Berkeley, described the various programs (drop-in classes, teach-the-trainer courses, library research workshops, Internet workshops, course-integrated instruction, faculty seminars, term paper advisement, written documentation, and Bibliography I classes) offered by her organization.

She emphasized that there is no simple, singular solution to providing effective user education programs. Most campuses are dealing with diverse groups of students with a wide range of learning styles, and different levels of computer expertise. Most students' exposure to librarians at the secondary level is going to be radically different than their college experience. Undergraduates and librarians will have different views of the digital world. She observed that there are three challenges:

  1. the rapidly changing nature of research and librarysystems,
  2. the different levels of computer expertise among students, and
  3. trying to accommodate different learning styles.

We should emphasize search strategies and the conceptual approach to research, rather than cool URLs. However, students don't necessarily want this, they are always seeking customized lists and bibliographies. She noted that there is not always enough time to incorporate active learning group activities. Whenever possible, allow time for hands-on experience. This does make the librarian's job more difficult. She recommends an upper class size limit of twenty for such sessions, with two instructors present.

In her view, undergraduates seem unfazed by constant changes, and librarians worry much too much about these changes. We must not assume that students are using systems to their fullest potential. Students have very little public or school library experience. More of the UCB students are at the low end of computer expertise, consequently, they teach more sessions to this level.

Some ways that UCB attempts to accommodate different learning styles are CAI tutoring, courses via e-mail, video instruction, peer instruction, and overheads (using Microsoft Powerpoint). Some students need Internet context information, others just jump in and start surfing.

The third set of speakers were Barbara Butler and Raye Lynn Thomas from Sonoma State University. They provided an overview of instructional activities that Sonoma State offers to undergraduate students. As with the previous speakers, they emphasized that a library must have a variety of forms of library instruction available for its clientele. They discussed credit courses which were in the planning stages which would have library instruction components in broad discipline areas (business, biological sciences, and the social sciences/humanities).

Their freshmen mentoring program also has a library component, which provides a quick overview of library services available. Librarians were doing many drop-in sessions, which first covered gopher, and now WWW. An attempt is made to scale the instruction to the academic needs of students as observed at the reference desk.

With the assistance of the campus' Information Technology Center, the SSU Library has mastered its own CD which contains tutorials for all campus systems. This CD is free to all students who purchase computers on campus (the CD is available for purchase to others for only $5).

They then summarized their library's efforts in the design and construction of library instruction rooms, equipped with large, full screen display, video capability, and 25 workstations. These rooms will be used for lectures, demonstrations, and hands-on instruction sessions.

Submitted by Les Kong, CSU San Bernardino

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