In a previous post, we noted that a portion of college students opt not to use the college library and its resources as the starting point for their research projects. But under what circumstances do students choose to use resources available to them?

To better understand their reasoning, we recently asked thousands of college students: “What do you like about using library resources to do your research?” Below, we’ve summarized the top reasons that they choose to use library resources for assignments.

Seven reasons college students choose to use their library’s resources for research and other assignments

1. They can access a vast array of resources at (or through) the library.
As we read students’ responses, one thing became immediately and eminently clear: students know that, if they head to the library, they’ll be able to find and use a wide range of books, journals, databases, and other resources that will support and be of benefit to their academic efforts. As one student said it: “almost anything I am looking for can be found or referenced there.”

Some students sung the praises of print materials (“you can actually hold a book in your hand”), while others stated their preference for online resources (“I enjoy finding articles in databases”). Still others, like this student, expressed their appreciation for the library as a whole: “I enjoy using library resources to conduct research in a course. I have the opportunity to read books, articles, and/or journals about a topic I’m uncertain about. Information available to me through the library’s resources helps me to achieve academic success.”

2. They can trust the quality of the library’s resources.
Hundreds of the surveyed college students mentioned that they opt for library resources because of those resources’ accuracy and reliability—factors that are critical to their successful completion of the research projects they’re assigned in their various courses. They know that the library’s materials are trustworthy and of academic quality: “I find more information that I can cite as a reference. I can rely on the information instead of hoping that the posting individual is true with facts and not opinion.” One student enthusiastically said: “I can find unbiased work from many sources!” Overall, many students would echo this individual’s statement: “I like using the library because I know it is a trusted source and it has a lot of great tools to help me succeed in my course.”

Of course, students do use the Internet as they work on their assignments (as one student put it: “I don’t usually use library resources. I use web resources”); however, when it comes to academic work, many others still opt to use their library’s research resources over what they’d find on the web:

  • “They’ve been vetted for quality as opposed to so many Internet sources.”
  • “They are very reliable, unlike the Internet, which can contain a plethora of false information.”
  • “I can use search engines that have more credible information that what most of the open web puts out so it makes my research papers strong and gives some good points of view from leading experts.”
  • “I feel like they have more accurate information and sources. Using things such as Wikipedia and online sources sometimes can be challenging.”
  • “I get information straight from the source, instead of sifting through hundreds (if not thousands) of websites online.”

3. It’s easy and convenient for students to find what they need at the library.
One student succinctly summarized a common sentiment: “Everything is in one place. And it’s free!” Per students, it’s “faster to find quality college-level references” at the college library, and they like that they “don’t have to travel from place to place to find information.”

Whatever their schedule, or wherever they are, students can find and access what they need: “I like the fact that I can check out movies and books online for research and pick them up at the school at my convenience.”

And it’s not simply the information itself that students find valuable; one student said: “I like hard copy books, but I also use the PC’s and that makes things super fast and easy when I am not home on my own PC.”

Libraries’ online resources add another layer of convenience and utility. “A lot of the resources can be accessed online, so I don’t even have to find it on the shelves at school.” They also appreciate what instructors make available through the library. “I am able to find information easily since information for classes are already placed in the online library.”

These online resources make it simpler for students to find the accurate, reliable information they need. As one said, “If I am using the school’s online library, then I can quickly locate relevant entries about what I am researching. It makes the process much simpler”; another wrote: “I like being able to narrow my sources by using Boolean logic. I also like that all of the sources are informative and scholarly.”

4. They want (and need) the assistance of librarians and library staff.
Students like knowing that there’s a “real person” at the library who can answer their questions and direct them to the materials that are appropriate to their projects. Many comments fell along the lines of the following:

  • “I like being able to relax, knowing there are librarians available to assist me in finding reliable sources.”
  • “I like to converse with the librarian about what she or he knows on the subject.”
  • “The people there are so friendly and helpful.”
  • “I can ask somebody a series of questions, unlike [I could with] a textbook or a computer search.”
  • “A live person can help you find what you need, instead of spending forever trying to look for something.”
  • “If I need information that I can’t seem to understand, I can go and ask for assistance, and they can lead me to proper material/resources.”

5. The library offers an environment conducive to study and research.
Students praised the “atmosphere” of the library environment itself, noting its “relative quiet” and “soothing and calming environment.” One student stated: “The library can be a good place to get inspired and start the research process.” As another student wrote: “A library offers a wealth of resources, space to study, and a world of books to discover and borrow. For FREE. They are also places that encourage scholarship and offer a quiet, peaceful place of study, which is tough to find.” And, as yet another: “The library is a safe haven. If I use library resources I will go to the library to get away from life and place all my attention on my study.”

6. Library resources help students use and cite materials accurately.
Students know that, when they head to the library or log in to its online resources, they can readily find and keep track of the types of materials their instructors want and require them to use for their assignments. When searching for articles, they like that they are “able to use options to find studies and reports,” and that “you can select ‘peer reviewed,’ so you don’t waste time on non-pertinent resources.” Students also noted that, when using the library’s online resources, “you can email or save searched items”—a great help to students who want to keep track of the information they’ve found!

Importantly, those resources also help students use and cite their material both quickly and accurately. A student said: “I like the fact that the information for citing a page is easy access. It’s right there to copy and paste. Also, I know the instructor will accept the source.”

7. The library offers computers and Internet service, which make it possible for them to complete their assignments.
Many of the students who answered our survey head to the library to use the computers; they know that “if I need a computer they are available.” “Using the wifi” is another reason students head in to the library: one student appreciates “being able to get online, being that I don’t have that much access to the internet at home.”

Why do students visit your college library? How do you encourage them to use library resources on their projects? Share your thoughts in the comments.