Research Skills Fine-tuned in Library Class

Jennifer Bernardo

Library 191 was introduced to help students develop their research skills by studying the facts made available in the information age.

The one-unit course is designed to aid students sift through the unlimited information sources made available on the Internet, as well as to teach critical thinking skills necessary for research. Approximately 24 students, including two English instructors, are currently enrolled in the course, according to Shelley Aronoff, instructional and reference librarian. Aronoff is an instructor for the course and the periodic library workshops.

The course is called “Introduction to Information Competency” and is not to be confused as a librarian technician course. This course is designed to prepare students to conduct their research effectively and efficiently. The course is recommended for both faculty and students because of the growing amount of information that is made available by technology.

“The sheer abundance of information will not create a more informed citizenry without a complementary cluster of abilities necessary to use information effectively,” according to the Association of College & Research Libraries in their standards handbook for Information Literacy.

The course enables students retrieve and evaluate the quality of information they need for research. It also presents the different sources of information available to students, from online catalogs to inter-library loans, which are free of charge. It teaches critical thinking skills, and hands-on practice on doing research papers, a neccessary skill for students in the majority of their college careers. Information Literacy is not a necessity only for students but for everyone because it is important to have the ability to access and evaluate information outside of the classroom as well.

“It should be a mandatory class for students who plan to go to a four-year university,” said Gretchen Davidson, English instructor and English Lab technician. “It presents critical thinking because you have to make sure your sources hold water in your research.”

Fellow instructor and technician, Irene McConville, agrees. “The class is very in depth and hands-on,” she said, comparing the course to the Library workshop classes, which are only 50 minutes long. She adds that taking Library 191 should be mandatory because not everyone is exposed to critical thinking classes such as English 104, whereas the majority of people are exposed to the Internet.

Information Literacy teaches students “how to find the answers,” Aronoff said, “and how to ask the questions.”

The library research process has come a long way from the days of looking up subjects and authors through card catalogs. Computers have taken over the outdated mini-filing system, and students today are not as familiar with libraries and the research process as they should be, Aronoff said.

The Library and Learning Resources 1999-2000 annual report states that the number of student visits to the library has nearly doubled compared to three years ago, despite the increase in online use of the Virtual Library (from on and off campus). However, fewer students are receiving the help that they need at the reference desk because of the increased instructional time required to learn the use of online databases.

Students interested in refining their research skills can also attend the Library Workshops that cover research strategies and well as MLA formats. However, the workshops are only 50 minutes long and are not as comprehensive as the Information Literacy course, Aronoff said.