ERIAL Project

There was an succint write-up about the ERIAL Project (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) in Inside Higher Ed recently.  Although I’m sure many of you have already heard about this project — an attempt to use ethnographic research techniques to look at how students use (or don’t use) libraries for their academic research needs — it’s worth taking a look at this summary of some of ERIAL’s findings.

Among the study’s findings:

  • Google reigns supreme among resources most commonly used (JSTOR ranks 2nd), but…
  • Students often do not know how to search effectively using Google.
  • Students do not view librarians as potential research partners
  • Faculty have an important role to play in “brokering” interactions between students and librarians.
  • Faculty also tend to view the library primarily as a purchasing agent, while librarians view the library as partners in the teaching & research processes.
  • Both librarians and faculty overestimate the research skills that students possess, assuming that these “digital natives” will have already developed sophisticated searching techniques by the time they arrive at college

What should we as librarians (and library/technology staff) be doing to overcome these problems?

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