Oh no! We have to see you again?!?!

Oh no! We have to see you again?!?! Those are some of my least favorite words…

I enjoy meeting with and working with the students on my campus. If you ask most of the students on campus who the librarian is, they can identify me. Whether they know my name or just know me as the blonde one in the library, generally they know who I am. While this seems like a good thing, many times it proves to be a challenge.

As the only full-time librarian at my campus, I provide a majority of the information literacy instruction sessions. Students sometimes see me three or four times for instruction sessions during the first month of the semester. By the time they see me with their third class, they’ve had enough and often insist that there is no need for them to sit through another session. At this point I’ve lost them. While I have stressed that each session is different and have attempted to make each session unique, there are some things that must be covered each time, as many students haven’t yet had the opportunity to participate in a session. This introductory information is the same, thus students assume the session is exactly the same and proceed to ignore me for the remainder of the session.

In addition to this, many of these students enter my classroom with great confidence in their research skills, so they are not particularly interested in what I have to share with them.

Like many others before me, I’ve modified my instructional sessions to provide less content and provide more welcoming information. All of this is done in the hopes that students will return to ask for help when they need it. Instead though, I think they finally come see me when they are at the very end of their research rope – or they just don’t bother to see me at all.

Then there are the other students, fewer in number, that really pay attention to what I say in class, participate in the discussion, and then visit with me regularly for assistance.

I thought that the students would be more likely to ask for help if they were more familiar with me – so I attend Student Government Association (SGA) meetings, am a club advisor, and generally can be found all around campus. This has increased students’ awareness of my name – these same students will visit me to ask about campus-related matters – but they still rarely visit me for research assistance. When I find them struggling and help them with something library-related, they are astounded that I can be of such assistance.

Within my library is the writing center. One tutor staffs the center. She is almost completely booked with appointments during entire semester. I often joke that students are not afraid to admit that they have difficulty writing, but they are afraid to admit that they do not know how to do effective research. Perhaps instead it goes back to the students being unaware of their lack of research efficacy. In my dissertation I referred to the Dunning-Kruger effect, which describes the confidence level of individuals – both skilled and unskilled. Those that are unskilled have high levels of confidence in their abilities, yet as they become more skilled are more aware of their deficiencies which leads to lowered confidence levels.

Is this a common experience in the community college? What are some ways that you have increased students’ use of the library and librarian?

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2 thoughts on “Oh no! We have to see you again?!?!

  1. This is, indeed, very common, at least in my experience. My fellow reference librarians and I have been looking for innovative ways to make these information literacy workshops more engaging, but there’s only so much you can do with a 45-minute block of time and a slew of information that you have to cover. One thing I’ve found that seems to help is acknowledging that we’ve just covered an awful lot of information and that it’s okay if they don’t remember all of it because we are there to help them later on with anything they’ve forgotten or didn’t understand. I think sometimes the students feel embarrassed to come to us because they know they are asking us to repeat stuff we’ve already told them. So I say that, and then I include on my LibGuide a tab showing all the ways they can contact us. I know it has helped some, because my reference stats have gone up a bit, but it’s only a start.

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  2. I have also experienced what you are talking about. One thing that I like to do is leave a little bit of lab time for the students. This allows them time to explore and have immediate feedback when they run into problems. I also try to keep an ear out and an eye out and will proactively offer to help students if I see or hear them discussing information or research. I work with an extremely small student population, so this may not work as well in larger settings. I also encourage students who have had positive experiences with library staff to spread the word to their friends.

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