This ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project is a series of studies conducted at Illinois Wesleyan, DePaul University, and Northeastern Illinois University, and the University of Illinois’ Chicago and Springfield campuses. It won't surprise most of us that ERIAL found that college students don't know how to do good research. What did surprise many of the participating professionals was just how bad students were--and just what they thought of libraries and librarians.
I'll share a few key quotes to whet your appetite for the full article:
"This study has changed, profoundly, how I see my role at the university and my understanding of who our students are,” says Lynda Duke, an academic outreach librarian at Illinois Wesleyan. “It’s been life-changing, truly.”
“Students showed an almost complete lack of interest in seeking assistance from librarians during the search process.” Of all the students they observed -- many of whom struggled to find good sources, to the point of despair -- not one asked a librarian for help.
...students seek help from sources they know and trust, and they do not know librarians. Many do not even know what the librarians are there for. "I don't think I would see them and say, 'Well, this is my research, how can I do this and that?' " one senior psychology major told the researchers. "I don't see them that way. I see them more like, 'Where's the bathroom?' " Other students imagined librarians to have more research-oriented knowledge of the library but still thought of them as glorified ushers.No wonder people keep asking why you need a master's degree to be a librarian...
This is serious evidence for why our profession needs a complete brand makeover. Since that's unlikely to happen, what each of you can do is to concentrate on your own organization. Meet with faculty and teach them what you really do. Promote yourselves as expert researchers who are better than Google and who can find the right info quickly and efficiently. Buy products with this design from Cafe Press and show it off, live it, preach it.
You can learn more about this age group in the book Dancing With Digital Natives, which I'm going to review in Marketing Library Services newsletter.
Don't wait for students to come to you with questions. Instead, proactively tell them that you're an expert and you're there to teach them how to find information. It's a skill they'll need for the rest of their lives.