When I started the fall semester, I had the music students take a short survey on their research and writing habits. I did this for two reasons: 1. I wanted to see how they approached research and resources and 2. I wanted to see what their preferences were as far as online vs. in-person. I was not surprised at all by the survey results.
70% of the students said they prefer online resources, 22% prefer a mixture of online and in-person and only 8% said they prefer just in-person. So essentially, almost 92% wanted access to online resources! Of course, when they listed which resources they use, Google search was at the top at a whopping 80%. Here are the other resources that students preferred (multiple choices allowed):
Internet/ online 15%
E.C. Public Library 8%
Google Scholar 5%
Class notes 3%
As you can see, the majority of the answers were internet related and less than half could be considered scholarly. A 2008 study of undergraduate writing skills at ECSU shows that most of our students have difficulty writing at an academic level. There are two general education English classes that are required of freshman and sophomore students and only 1/3 of the students in those classes pass them. It isn’t just ECSU students that are struggling. A quick search in Google Scholar for academic literacy issues brings up a myriad of articles and books on the subject.
So how do we address the students’ preferences while still ensuring a certain level of competency and resource credibility? Online research guides. Many libraries use Libguides by Springshare and ECSU is no exception. They are versatile, user-friendly and offer the ability to customize to match a school’s webpage. Right now I am using the Music Library Libguide as my library webpage and a general guide to music resources.
However, I have noticed that the guide is not getting used as much as I would like, so I created a Music Libguide usability survey with a set of exercises for a work-study student to get some input for a re-design. Unfortunately, the student used the guide to find a link to the library online databases and quickly left the guide and never returned. In the real world, that would be considered successful because the student used the guide to find what they were looking for, but it didn’t give me the feedback I needed to improve the guide. She did mention that her first instinct was to use the search box for the guide, which got her to the database link, as opposed to showing resources on the composer I asked her to look for in the survey. This tells me that I need to break down the guide into more sections. I am also in the process of compiling a list of Libguide best practices, which I will post about soon.