As an academic librarian, news about studies such as the recently reported ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project always pique my curiosity. When I read brief summaries about this kind of report, I want to know more details. For example: where did the observations take place? At what time of the semester were the observations done? How was the data analyzed? For more traditional surveys, I usually want to know more about the context of the questions and the larger issues – what measures of quality apply? After visiting the website, I eagerly await the publication of the book about the project (College Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know) and the insights it provides.
Contacting Academic Librarians
There are several reasons why you might want to find an academic librarian near you, physically or virtually. An academic librarian with expertise in your subject area can help you:
- find the full text of an article you have only bits and pieces of
- see who is writing about a particular subject
- find news coverage of an event from historic times to today
- find content that isn’t given away for free – resources libraries pay for so that you may use them
- find a brief overview or in-depth scholarship about a subject
- look at historic manuscripts, maps, writings, and images or footage, or find audio
- identify legislation, hearings, or other government publications about a subject
- plot and visualize data
- find background information about a company or institution before your job interview
- produce a well-researched business plan, and identify useful market research resources
- follow a chain of research – conversations building on past research, and expanding it into the future.
Librarians at Syracuse University are available to meet with you and help you find resources to support your scholarly, creative, professional, and course-related assignments. We provide one on one consultations, as well as meet with small groups or classes. Here’s a list of subject librarians who can help: http://library.syr.edu/research/askus/subject-specialists.php
Online tutorials like the Productive Researcher and email/IM help options are available too. In addition to providing online search assistance, we increasingly offer collections online, giving you access to journal articles, ebooks, music and more, available on and off-campus.
The Perks of a Library
For those who are on campus, the library offers laptops, work stations, multimedia stations, study space, collections – an environment for study and collaboration, and, in Bird Library, a place to get a cup of coffee.
We offer the same services to faculty, students, staff – to anyone facing new terrain and to those who are unfamiliar with how our library system works. If you are teaching a class and wonder which databases are available for class projects, or need an update on new resources – or if you are embarking on a new research project – please do get in touch. Many librarians have created helpful guides for classes or general fields of study. Librarians may also be involved in data use and management. We welcome hearing about your scholarly and teaching needs, and your collection suggestions.
An Environment of Learning
On a more philosophical note, finding articles and searching for information is one part of learning about the world of learning, and part of the experience of coming to a college or university. We learn from and with others during our four (or more years) of connectedness with an institution. We learn about the research process from instructors, peers, and the recorded and preserved work of others, much of which is available in libraries. We are all part of a larger environment that promotes learning, now and in the future – and we work together on this.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this entry, I usually have questions about studies (who wrote/created the study, why and when) – but I am also eager to see solutions. What is the impact of this study? What can we apply in our own settings? How can we enhance our work together? What conversations need to occur in order to ensure that students are prepared for coursework and for lifelong learning? What additional research can support our work? I welcome continuing dialog on this topic.
Natasha Cooper is a subject specialist and bibliographer at the Syracuse University Library. To contact Natasha with suggestions or questions, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.