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Beyond the News

How campus libraries can compete with the web

Less than 40 percent of students in a survey reported doing research at their library
University Business, September 2015

More students now do their research on the web, bypassing resources offered by their campus libraries as digital usurps print in curricula, a recent survey says.

Among the 4,300 students surveyed, less than 40 percent reported doing research at their library. About half used the library’s online databases. Still, 77 percent said they study alone in the library, according to the Cengage Learning and Gale survey that gauged changing student and faculty attitudes.

The finding that 60 percent of instructors don’t include sessions on library use or information literacy shows a need for greater outreach. Jennifer Albers-Smith, academic library marketing director for Gale, says that while libraries don’t necessarily have the means to market themselves to all stakeholders, it must be a priority.

Libraries can take some simple steps to increase engagement, says Ann Campion Riley, president of the Association of College and Research Libraries. “One thing is to brand our database and journal services more clearly.”

Informing all faculty, especially part-timers, of library services will help to organically expand its use, as well.

Outreach should include educating students about what the library offers that Google can’t.

“A student will find a multitude of different resources on the topic, from print to e-books, periodicals, government documents, photos, diaries, artifacts, documentaries and more. And all [are] reliable and curated by a librarian who can also guide you to the most robust, relevant resources with a simple ‘ask,’ ” says Albers-Smith.

The proper use of the library and its staff can help developing students foster skills such as critical thinking and source evaluation that will help them in college and beyond, she adds.

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