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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Summer 2002

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Conference Reports

STS College Librarians Discussion Group
ALA Annual Conference, June 16, 2002

Victoria Mitchell
Head, Science Library
University of Oregon
vmitch@darkwing.uoregon.edu

"Getting Beyond Google: How Science Students Find Information and What We Can Do to Help" was the topic of a discussion of the effect of the Internet on the way undergraduate sciences students find information. As Generation Y enters the higher education system, how can we steer them to the best science resources? Facilitators were Carol A. Drum, Head of Marston Science Library at the University of Florida, and Jennifer Laherty, Instruction and Reference Librarian at California State University, Hayward. Carol Drum began the discussion, describing how undergraduates and even some faculty have difficulty distinguishing between information "on the web" and information delivered via the web. Some have trouble distinguishing the library catalog from periodical databases. She described library instruction efforts at the University of Florida where librarians reach first year students through a core English class, and a core biology class provides access to science students. Their "RefeXpress" chat room, with five "seats" using NetAgent software, is becoming popular. She shared with the group two great "cheat sheets" that they provide: the {"Web Search Engines Cheat Sheet"} and the "Library Database Searchers' Cheat Sheet".

Jennifer Laherty (a "Generation Xer" herself) said she thinks not in terms of generation labels, but of how people learn. She is a member of the STS Science Information Literacy Task Force. She finds that students don't understand publishers' collections vs. comprehensive bibliographic databases; what is and is not included (e.g., using ScienceDirect as a front-end search database, instead of BIOSIS, Web of Science, etc.). Instruction at Cal State Hayward includes a required, for-credit, {information literacy course} for freshmen. Other approaches include: make a photocopy of every class assignment that students bring to the reference desk; for large lecture classes, at least give them a handout on resources for science research. Jennifer has a sample handout for biology majors at {http://www.library.csuhayward.edu/staff/laherty/bio1302.htm}.

The ensuing discussion included the merits of multiple vs. single access points, e.g. "one box" searching. The {ARL Scholars Portals Project} was mentioned by a librarian from Iowa State, a participant in the project. It was posited that students now are not interested in contextual information, i.e., the kind that they can find in books. Methods for addressing this were offered, including: take them to dictionaries and encyclopedias to find alternate vocabulary; teach them to use the LCSH "red books." There were suggestions for how to get the cooperation of the teaching faculty: face time with faculty; sending them "did you know?" e-mails (e.g., "Did you know 86% of freshman don't know to search the catalog for books?"); go to their functions; spend time in their departments (one librarian takes a wireless laptop to science departments, where she has "office hours.") Electronic tutorials were discussed, with the consensus that these were useful, but in addition to, not in place of, in-person instruction.

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