Using Other Sources

Q. Today's been tough.  Kids are coming in with left-to-the-last-minute homework assignments for which they normally turn to Wikipedia.  We're getting them to print resources and our online databases, but do you have suggestions for teaching research skills? 

A. Two of ALA's divisions, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) have developed several statements and standards supporting information literacy.  Between them, AASL and ACRL reach students of all ages, from the primary grades through graduate study.

The ALA Library has developed a pathfinder to these resources from AASL and ACRL, along with other references, including some sample content for a class on research skills.

There are, as you might guess, a number of actions to take regularly to promote the value of your library's resources.

  • Explain benefits as you provide reference service: It takes a little more time, but having an "elevator speech" ready about the benefits of a print resource or online database to use a reference encounter as a teachable moment, noting such advantages as authority of information presented, reputation of the publisher, and ability to scan or quickly access related information (as in a dictionary).
  • Promote your electronic resources: If your library offers remote access to key databases, this is also an opportunity to explain how to access the deeper information that is available in such sources.
  • Present mini-courses on research skills.  These can be targeted to specific information needs, or seasonal interests, of your adult populations.  For students, collaborate with your local school librarians to present course targeted to specific types of assignments that may take students beyond the school library.  Don't forget the adult continuing education students may need these same skills!
  • Use your webpage to highlight a resource and its benefits.

Note: please do use the comments to share your research strategies success stories!

January 19, 2012 addition: Related news stories

"Librarians Turn Wikipedia Blackout into a Teachable Moment."

"Easthampton High School Librarian Finds Opportunity in Internet Protest."



I didn’t miss Wikipedia and in my humble opinion, it could have stayed dark for a week and as a librarian, I would have been okay with it.

hat’s too bad. Wikipedia helps me understand more about a topic in just one or two paragraphs than what a student could typically articulate. That helps me select search terms, databases most likely to be useful, and so on.

Agreed - that is too bad. I love teaching the students how to properly use Wikipedia to start their research and how to find the expert sources within each article. I think it is an amazing tool!

There are always other possibilities