On information seeking report

The Project Information Literacy released their research report titled “Lessons Learned: How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Age” in 2009.  The PDF report can be found at http://projectinfolit.org/pdfs/PIL_Fall2009_Year1Report_12_2009.pdf.

What makes this report interesting is that the group also try to dig deeper on how students developed their strategy in their information needs both for their course-related works and everyday life. In general, the students use course readings, library resources, and things like Google and Wikipedia when conducting course-related research. They tend to use Google, Wikipedia, and friends when it came to everyday life research.

One of the findings is that students tend use the course readings first for their course-related research.  This seems a no brainer to me. After all, the faculty is their “first contact” in the courses they take.

The report also suggests the differences between the guides that librarians provided and the strategy employed by the students. “All in all, the librarian approach is one based by thoroughness, while the student approach is based on efficiency.” (page 20.)  This seems to line up nicely with what Roy Tennant wrote many years ago that  “only librarians like to search; everyone else like to find.” (Digital Libraries – Avoiding Unintended Consequences,  http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA156524.html)

As a side note, I’m curious about the time and effort on researches being done in learning students information seeking behavior. Public Services librarians seem to understand this already based on their interaction with the students. Interestingly enough, most of library collection decisions are based on faculty research needs. So, I wonder how the familiarity of the resources affects the faculty’s decision in constructing their course readings and whether it might also affect the student behavior in their information seeking.

All in all, this is their ultimate conclusion:

This is our ultimate conclusion: Todayʼs students are not naïve about sources, systems, and services. They have developed sophisticated information problem-solving strategies that help them to meet their school and everyday needs, as they arise.

The report came up with several recommendations and one of them gave me a pause:

We have come to believe that many students see instructors—not librarians—as coaches on how to consult research. This situation seems to occur whether the faculty may qualify as expert researchers in the area of student research methods, or not. Librarians and faculty should see the librarian-student disconnect as a timely opportunity, especially when it comes to transferring information competencies to students.
We recommend librarians take an active role and initiate the dialogue with faculty to close a divide that may be growing between them and faculty and between them and students—each campus is likely to be different. There are, of course, many ways to initiate this conversation that some libraries may already have in use, such as librarian-faculty roundtables, faculty visits, faculty liaison programs, and customized pathfinders to curriculum, to name but a few. And there is always room for creating new ways to facilitate conversation between faculty and librarians, too. No matter what the means of communication may be, however, librarians need to actively identify opportunities for training faculty as conduits for reaching students with sound and current information-seeking strategies, as it applies to their organizational settings.
Personally, I have no objection with the recommendation above. After all, that’s why we (the librarians) are here for. However, the recommendation above basically takes for granted that narrowing or closing the librarian-student disconnect would actually improve the outcome of the students research. Or, in other words, nowhere in the report indicated that this disconnect bring “harms” to the students outcome. It would be nice to see some kind of assessments on this.