Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Librarians' role

I was pondering more my question about what librarians will have to offer that regular professors wouldn't. As I thought about it more, I think that at least for the foreseeable future librarians will have a very valuable skill to offer to professors - being more up-to-date on the latest research methods. I taught a class recently, and the professors were very impressed with the latest tools they didn't know about (particularly Google Books & Google Scholar). I think even with all the new technology available (or perhaps because there is so much new technology), students (and professors) need help learning how to do good research.

A while ago I read an article that studied what professors thought about teaching research: "What Faculty Think–Exploring the Barriers to Information Literacy Development". They discovered that many of the professors learned to do research on their own through trial and error, and figure that students should learn to do it that way as well. I've actually talked to professors who have said that it is the students' fault if they don't know how to research properly.

If that was ever true, I think it's even less so now, because it's very easy for students to fall into poor ways of researching that seem to work. So I think it actually takes more education to teach them how to break away from that and do higher quality research. And it seems like it should also be something that builds on itself: they should be taught to do higher levels of research in college than they did in high school, and grad school than undergrad, for example. Of course, professors have to expect higher-level research for that to work. And so part of it is also educating professors on what they can expect from their students.

I find Matt's ideas about encouraging reading intriguing. It would be fun to have a book discussion group in the library. Although the students here have so much reading already and discuss books in class, so I wonder if they'd want to add something else on. I bet a movie discussion group would be more popular. In fact, I was talking to a couple students who thought that our campus should have that - opportunity to view and discuss theological ideas in movies. (Of course, that wouldn't fit with Matt's idea of encouraging reading!)

Another idea - at Lake Forest College, when a professor published a new book, the library would host a forum for the professor to talk about their book and for people to ask questions. They were quite popular - especially with the other professors and members of the community. (Here I imagine students would also be very interested.) We have such great authors here, it would be cool to do something like that.


  • At 3:35 PM, Blogger Matt said…

    Giving people an opportunity to discuss reading or report on reading can be an important part of building a culture of reading. I think this is true b/c it holds us accountable to read, provides a reward for working through a text, and makes reading seem normal and expected.

    Although I understand your comment about a movie group, I think this comment illustrates one of our problems - namely that we simply don't expect people to read, at least not without an assignment. I think this often unconscious expectation effects our actions in many ways and directly contributes to the demise of literacy.

  • At 3:37 PM, Blogger Rebecca said…

    Yeah, I think that is an unfortunate side effect of our school system - and culture. Growing up home-schooled, I read all the time for pleasure. Particularly since my family were all big readers (speaking to the culture of reading).

    After I went to college, where I had to read for assignments, I stopped reading as much. Especially since my friends didn't read. That's actually why I wanted to come back to school - so it would encourage me to read again.

    Is it possible to fight against the culture of non-reading? I suppose if we can create our own sub-culture.


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