|« New Jobs for New Directions||Why Should I Be Interested in New Directions? »|
In November, ProQuest published a study titled "Observing Students in Their Native Habitat." Their press release doesn't specify the exact population, but does contain some provocative results.
Most of this will not come as a surprise in light of other studies (including our own). But since many of the issues raised here are still unresolved, it's worth reading and thinking about. Also, see the end of this post for ProQuest's effort to help us deal with this situation.
"Student researchers have an overwhelming preference for online resources that make the best use of their research time."
"Students prefer the content available in library databases ... However, if discovery and access to library databases is more cumbersome than they expect, they will abandon library resources for the more familiar terrain of Google and Wikipedia."
"... students will opt for Google if they have difficulty navigating the library's e-resources Web page, if they're faced with multiple obscure links or 'how-to guides,' or if they're not aware of the library databases that pertain to their particular need."
"Many students are simply unaware that [off-campus database access is possible] ... if the student attempts to use the database without authenticating, the resource doesn't work as expected, produces only limited results or asks the student to purchase the content. Experiences like these often lead students to return to the open web as a primary research source."
"... students tend to generalize [their professors'] recommendations across all types of research assignments and as a result, use databases that may not be appropriate for the task at hand. ... students were rarely able to distinguish between resources at the database level."
There are also some encouraging results:
"Students respond well to library instruction on electronic resources that are presented to them in a class by a research librarian. Especially important ... is raising awareness that a variety of library databases exist and where to find them."
"... students indicated they did not consider the Google results or information gleaned from Wikipedia to be authoritative."
ProQuest, evidently as impressed with these results as we should be, has introduced a "marketing toolkit" for academic libraries, intended to promote awareness and use of licensed resources. This includes a 16-page marketing guide and customizable outreach materials: flyer, poster, newspaper ad, and a very smart little Flash video to put on the library website. This material is well done, and to their credit, it doesn't promote ProQuest (though the suggested database descriptions do include some very positive statements, for which you can hardly blame them). If you're involved in teaching or marketing of these resources, this is worth a look.