Airport Library in Amsterdam, which, according to its own information, was the world’s first airport library. Then the New York Public Library and Library Way in the middle of Manhattan, one of the most desirable locations worldwide.
After a few days of getting used to the hot and humid weather and the six-hour time difference, I visited the Elmer Holmes Bobst Library of New York University (NYU). NYU is a private university with 40,000 students, and emphasizes on international exchange. Students are required(!) to spend at least one semester abroad.
What I find particularly fascinating is that the library has different teams and two completely different approaches to teaching information literacy to undergraduates and graduate (Masters and PhD) students. Attention to students’ needs is not only important here, it’s lived and breathed.
The library team pointed out for me a few surprising and yet obviously significant issues in terms of undergraduate students:
- Undergraduates don’t know what they don’t know. They aren’t cognizant of their lack of information literacy and therefore don’t know to look for help.
- They find themselves in a situation in which everything is new: They are living alone for the first time, the university is new, they must make new friends. They need support and encouragement rather than an overload of materials and demands, which can be discouraging to them. In terms of curriculum, this means connecting with what they already know (“You already know a great deal, and we can build on this…Picture the catalogue as your shopping cart on Amazon…You’re familiar with a simple search from using Google.…”)
- Don’t try to press too many resources on them, rather, show them something they can put to immediate use.
According to Marybeth McCartin of the Graduate Student Community Team, students recognize the importance of quality sources and well-grounded research only as graduate students. For this reason complex training should begin at the graduate level, when students can shown what all the library has to offer.
On the day of my visit, three courses were scheduled, all of them completely full, and which I was permitted to participate in. What struck me was that every other sentence stressed the practical advantages of information literacy: “Here you get for free what you pay for elsewhere…Control your search, don’t leave it to Google…Too many results are not always good, you can save time if you…Boolean operators make your life easier…Take advantage of it….”
The day was packed full with very nice and open people who offered a wealth of information and experiences. Unfortunately, I can only describe a small part of my day here, but I am sure that the ideas I gathered can be put to good practical use.
Friday, 7. September 2012
Two Teams - one Aim: Information Literacy for Graduates and Undergraduates at the Bobst Library at NYU
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