Teaching Students to Use the Library?

This may seem like a bonehead teaching question/anecdote, but I was teaching my undergrad Intro to Lit Studies course yesterday, and I brought them to our (recently renovated) library for their usual “how to use the library resources” presentation that our librarians very helpfully provide here.

At the beginning of her little talk, when the librarian presenting asked my class how many had used the library catalogue before, a little less than half raised their hands. This was a little surprising to me, because these were supposed to be (entering) English majors. Presumably they’d been asked to do research papers in other classes, English or otherwise. Have they been writing papers using materials entirely from online sources? (my suspicion from listening to their questions about online sources) Or had they never done their own research, and done essentially prefabricated topics? Or had they never bothered to use the web catalogue before, and simply hunted around until they found what they needed? It was hard to tell.

The University of Houston is a commuter school, and the students who work are necessarily zooming on and off campus all day, so I’m not surprised that they may not have time to explore the libraries. But it seemed to me that it would be hard to be an English major in the traditional sense of the term, or to do research of any kind, without having some familiarity with a library. But I could be wrong about this.

So how many of you take the time in your classes to show students how to use their library resources, or to do the kinds of research necessary for research papers or projects? Do you think this kind of training or experience is important for the teaching you do?

DM

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