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What Net Generation Students Really Want From the Library: Determining Help-Seeking Preferences of Undergraduates

October 18, 2009

What Net Generation Students Really Want From the Library: Determining Help-Seeking Preferences of Undergraduates
Lizah Ismail, Assistant Professor/Coordinator of Public Services, Marywood University

Lizah began by showing a ideo from YouTube called “Digital World: Kids Today”, which made the message that the ‘Net generation’ are social networkers, builders of a digital culture, multi-taskers.

Many librarians are trying to take up the challenge, and meeting students ‘on their own turf’ – in dorms (Nims, 1998). Marywood librarians tried that, but it was not really successful, as students preferred to do homework in library, not in dorm.

She read studies that showed that (some) students preferred ‘face-to-face interactions’ (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005; Johnson, 2004), and had only a moderate preference for technology.

Myths debunked in CIBER 2008 study
1) all young people are interested in social networking
2) young people are more competent with computers
3) it is important to be where users are in a social network environment

Important point: Before doing outreach, know your users. “User studies.. are a necessary component of any student-centered academic library” – Foster & Gibbons (2007)

Char Booth (2009) – on ACRL page also talks about importance of user studies

Marywood University Library history of ‘Reference Services’ to millennials:
-Began chat reference 2006-2007 – not many takers, but may have been due to short staffing
-Ask Here Roadshow – Spring 2008 – in residence halls – wireless laptop in residence halls, but not many takers; they did in other buildings too, but results were not very encouraging
-Library Forum in Moodle (Fall 2008 – present) – Moodle is their CMS, embedded into 2 courses, Ismail follows course syllabus and posts links and tips; more moderate success

Completed a survey in 2009, and question remains of ‘where to go from here?’ Methodology of survey:
They used Survey Monkey for easy online access; they had an instutitional annual pro account, good for analysis and downloadable formats for data.

Collaborated with their MIS dept as they wanted to contact only undergrads. So MIS created a listserv of current undgrads, and survey was sent to listserv via email. They posted it 4 times in 3 weeks (IRB approved)

Asked the following demographic info:
1) full-time/part-time?
2) incoming, returning, transfer?
3) age group: 18-22, 23-29, 30-39, 40 & over
4) if they had attended a library instruction session or not

Help-seeking behavior and preferences (used Likert scales)
1) library website visit frequency
2) how often had they asked a librarian for help
3) where did they prefer to get research help
4) resarch help preference
5) confident without librarian help?

Survey
-low response – 245 ~10%, 88% of respondents were Net Generation
-limitations: not generalizable
-possible trend, basis for further studies

Most students were confident without librarian help (3.44 mean)

When they looked at 18-22 age group, new and returning students, they found even more discouraging results. Of other locations besides library, most preferred student center. Most surpising, however, was that most preferred email for help rather than chat/im/texting or CMS or Facebook/MySpace. Appear to prefer to use social networking tools for socializing.

Further studies:
Aim: to obtain statistically significant results. Possibly use focus groups, another survey, collaborations with student activities/IT.

Char Booth 2009 study found that older respondents were more receptive to library technologies than younger ones!

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