Giving Graduate Students What They Want to Know Not What We Want Them to Know

Full session title: Giving Graduate Students What They Want to Know Not What We Want Them to Know: A New Approach to Information Literacy Sessions Design

By Dominic Hakim Silvio (Dalhousie University)


Another session on using focus groups and surveys to help libraries design their instructional programs. This one is aimed at finding out what grad students want from the library.

On the agenda today is an intro to the project, objectives, statement of problem, research instrument and findings. Taking as our beginning spot the ACRL IL standards, we need to use user studies for the backbone of our instruction, as a way of deepening our sessions and making them more relevant. The motivation was to evaluate the instruction to grad students to get their requirements for how the library can help them, to see what the obstacles are. The objectives were to show the results and to emphasize the successes of a user-centred approach, to reinforce the importance of the library, to get a feeling for the student’s perspective and to encourage a dialogue among profs and librarians.

The problem is that most IL is based on what librarians and faculty think are important, not necessarily meeting the needs of students. An assessment of user needs had not been done before. Note the dichotomy between searchers and finders. Grad students want to find the best stuff. The methodology was to do surveys and to do a focus group discussion on first year grad students and faculty.

The survey questions included: How often do you use OPAC; How often have you consulted a reference librarian. Some results: Opac 91%; Reference librarian: 75% sometimes, although it was obvious that they did not know what we do; Subject librarian: 50% never, 50% sometimes or seldom, interesting results mostly indicating that they do not know that subject librarians exist or what they do. Databases & online journals: 50% often, 12% never, indicated a strong preference for using google & finding things that way. ILL/Doc Delivery: 22% never, mostly don’t know what service can do for them.

The Focus group questions: How do you get library instruction, what services do you need, how do you feel about library instruction, is an in class session worth attending?

What’s next? Orientation for faculty & grad students and an advanced library research session. The basic session will include databases, reference & subject librarians and what the do, document delivery/ILL. The advanced session will have keyword brainstorming, systematic research process, subject specific resources & databases and refworks.

What are student’s reactions? Increased awareness of searching vs. finding, that grad students need to find the best; increased awareness of research process, increased confidence, better citation and more use of academic resources in papers.

Posted by John Dupuis.


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