Modern college students are used to information being available at their fingertips. So how do you persuade them that the best way to search isn’t to only use Google, but to also check out all the electronic resources available from the college library? In addition to the expert advice available from reference librarians, library resources at your college likely include a number of online resources and e-journal titles, often hosted in a database like Questia. Get familiar with the electronic resources offered to your students, and help them learn how to incorporate those resources into their own papers and projects.

Why the library?

“The library door is your gateway to information,” Randall VanderMey and his cowriters advised college students in The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching, 5th edition. “Inside, the college library holds a wide range of research resources, from books to periodicals, from reference librarians to electronic databases.” While some college students find studying in the library environment to be very helpful, some would prefer to never step foot in the library. According to a study quoted by librarian Hiroyuki Nagahashi Good in her 2012 paper “University Libraries are Changing to Encourage More Student Use,” more than 90 percent of students begin their research with Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.

In response, some libraries are creating easier-to-use search engines for their own digital collections, as well as offering remote help from reference librarians via chat or e-mail. Students don’t have to physically go to the library to access what the library has to offer. With databases like Questia, the library’s e-journals are also available right from the student’s web browser, wherever they are studying.

How to engage students in library research

With all these resources available, how can you make sure your students are aware of them? While you can certainly incorporate a college library tour into your course, there are other, subtler ways to get them through the library doors.

Require a variety of content for research papers. Telling students they’re not allowed to use the Internet for research can be discouraging for college students who are constantly using the Internet. Instead, you could require them to use a peer-reviewed journal, a primary source, or a book from a traditional publisher. Include a link to the college library’s electronic database as a way to access these resources.

Create course objectives that involve information literacy. According to an article, “Welcome to Information Literacy,” on The Ohio State University library site, “At a basic level we think Information Literacy is a set of abilities to help students understand scholarship, research, and data in all formats, and to evaluate and use these effectively in their own academic work.” Your college librarians may have additional recommendations for ways to integrate information literacy into your courses.

Vary types of assignments to work on a variety of information skills. You can pair traditional research papers with guided research journals, case studies, or annotated bibliographies.

Many college librarians are willing (even eager) to be included in student assignments. They’re not just a resource for college students; they’re a resource for faculty as well!

How do you encourage your students to make use of the college library resources? Tell us in the comments.

Reference: VanderMey, Randall, et. al. 2015. The College Writer: A Guide to Thinking, Writing, and Researching 5th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.