Library Resources (AND, OR, NOT) Google: C-EBLIP Journal Club, March 20, 2017

By Elizabeth Stregger, Discovery & Access Librarian, University of Saskatchewan

Perruso, C. (2016). Undergraduates’ use of Google vs. library resources: A four-year cohort study. College & Research Libraries, 77(5), 614-630. doi:10.5860/crl.77.5.614

There are so many ways to get to our library content. Students can start their research with the catalogue, discovery layer, research guides, library and archives websites, Google Scholar, and of course, Google. In consultation sessions with librarians and library staff over the past year, I’ve learned a lot about how these tools are perceived and taught in different areas of the University of Saskatchewan Library. I chose this article for the C-EBLIP journal club because it includes the question: does library instruction impact students’ initial choice of search tool?

A whole bunch of “value of libraries / librarianship” questions lurk around this topic, like pesky book reviews retrieved in a low relevancy search. Does library instruction make a difference? Why bother with library discovery systems if students will use Google anyway? Why do students even need libraries if they can write a passable paper using open web resources? One of the journal club members put a stop to these questions with the following zinger: “Is it valuable for kids to go to kindergarten?”

Getting back to the article, we wouldn’t have chosen “Google vs. Library Resources” as the options in the student survey described by the author. Google is a search tool, not a resource. We thought that more appropriate comparisons would include “Google vs. library systems” or “open resources vs. subscribed content.”

The data collection for this longitudinal study began in 2008 when we might have thought differently. So much has changed since then. It is easier to access subscribed resources from Google Scholar or even Google, depending on authentication workarounds. Librarians and archivists put effort into making special collections and other OA resources more discoverable and accessible to all. In a systematic review context, Google searching for grey literature is a recognized expertise. To sum up our conversation: the emphasis is less on what the student is using and more on how they are using it.

These changes in how we think about Google and student searching prompted a discussion of the challenges in conducting longitudinal research in libraries. The survey used in this study was administered a total of eight times over four years. This is a lot of sustained effort for everyone involved. Longitudinal research is subject to significant practical challenges including attrition, which was a factor in this study. It does not have the flexibility to allow for the reframing of survey questions in response to change. These changes become limitations of the research. The discussion section of this paper included many interesting questions and observations.

The discussion section of this paper included many interesting questions and observations. One of the ideas from the discussion section that we found intriguing was the maturation effect. A lot happens in the years that students spend at university. Library instruction and faculty requirements (the two variables in this study) may have a cumulative effect on how students approach research, but there are many other influences in student life. We discussed several of the other influences that might have an impact, such as interactions with peer mentors or student library workers.

In the end, that is what I will take away from our discussion. A student’s experience is made up of lots of interactions with the library, our people, and our systems. We have less control over the variables than we think. And I’ll hang onto that zinger about kindergarten as I continue learning, experimenting, and making things better.

The 8Rs Redux: How National Trends Can Inform Local Responses

by Vicki Williamson
Dean, University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Last December, I blogged about the value of big picture library trend reports in the smaller context of your local library. In this blog, I continue that same theme.

Over a decade ago, ground-breaking research into the Canadian library workforce was published. The original study of the Canadian library workforce (The Future of Human Resources in Canadian Libraries, 2006, is also known as the “8Rs Study”) was widely disseminated; marked the first time that human resources issues were so thoroughly and widely examined across Canada; and, was always intended to be used as a baseline from which future research would be compared. Follow-up research for the research libraries sector across Canada is now a reality with the recently completed (and soon to be released) report from the 8Rs Redux CARL Libraries Human Resource Study, 2015.

The 8Rs Redux, for libraries that are members of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL), has delivered a quantitative mapping (within a 10-year timeframe) of the many ways in which CARL libraries and their staffing requirements have changed, as well as how they have responded to changes in their operating environment. I am very pleased to have been a co-investigator with the 8Rs Redux Study, led by Kathleen DeLong, Principal Investigator, and Marianne Sorensen, Co-Investigator, as it provides a strong body of evidence to inform future workforce planning locally and nationally.

The 8Rs Redux Study tells us many things, but overall it shows that: “Retirements, alongside the hiring of younger librarians and the restructuring of some roles and the attrition of others, has resulted in a noteworthy turnover of CARL library staff and a slightly larger and younger librarian workforce, many of whom are learning more new tasks in challenging and interesting roles that increasingly encompass specialised skills and that engender comparatively high levels of job satisfaction.”

The soon to be released final report will provide many other insights into the current make-up of the CARL workforce around the themes of staff characteristics; organizational context of change; recruitment; retirement; professional and paraprofessional population and role change; librarian competency and competency change; education and training; and, quality of work life and job satisfaction. The 2015 study shows that 8Rs have grown to be 9Rs, with role change joining the 2005 identified workforce themes of recruitment, retirement, retention, remuneration, repatriation, rejuvenation, re-accreditation, and restructuring.

But to get to that local library-specific context, what does this national longitudinal data have to do with workforce planning at the local level? Well for a start, it provides the opportunities to review whether our local cohort characteristics reflect those at the national level. If they do, then what does that mean in terms of workforce planning, recruitment, and training and development? If not, then what local factors impact our library, and why are those national trends not obvious in our environment?

A welcome addition to the 8Rs Redux Report (2015) is the inclusion of a strategic human resources planning implication section for each of the major report categories. This section should be helpful to deans/directors, human resource managers, and others involved with library human resources planning. For example, the section within the retirement theme poses questions about succession planning that may need action both the local and national levels.

Overall, the final report from the 8Rs Redux CARL Libraries Human Resources Study (2015) contains a wealth of evidence-based data and information to help inform the ongoing development of the CARL workforce.

Are Students Succeeding with a Library Credit Course? C-EBLIP Journal Club, October 6, 2014

by Rachel Sarjeant-Jenkins
Client Services, University Library, University of Saskatchewan

I recently had the opportunity to lead our C-EBLIP Journal Club in a discussion of Jean Marie Cook’s article “A library credit course and student success rates: A longitudinal study” in College & Research Libraries 75, no. 3 (2014) (available at This article had been sitting on my desk for a few months waiting for that magical moment when I found the time to read it thoroughly. Then came my turn to host journal club. What a perfect opportunity to finally delve into Cook’s article! And it couldn`t have come at a better time in light of our library’s focus on developing a programmatic approach to library instruction and the broader teaching and learning environment in which academic libraries currently find themselves.

Following some ‘proper’ journal club discussion about the article’s methodology and findings, Cook’s article proved a wonderful catalyst for a conversation about library instruction at our institution. Initially we were simply envious of Cook’s situation, where a library-focused course is one of the areas within her institution’s priorities. But then the questions started.

• Is there value in having a stand-alone library course or is it better to have instruction firmly embedded or integrated into academic program courses? (Of course, this question did not mean we ever stopped desiring that institutional commitment to information literacy — who would!?)
• How do you assess student learning? And, more importantly, how do you gauge the actual ongoing use of that learning by students?

We also talked about library value. The impetus for Cook’s work was institutional interest in ROI; the result was her quantitative research project.
• How, we asked, can qualitative data be used to support (and enhance) quantitative data when demonstrating library value to the parent institution?
So many questions, and only a lunchtime to discuss.

Not surprisingly, our hour just wasn’t enough. What that hour did do, however, was get us thinking. We talked about the known information literacy courses on campus and learned about pockets of embedded instruction by our librarians that we were completely unaware of. We had a lively debate about quantitative and qualitative research and the benefits of each. And of course we talked about assessment, not only that we need to do more of it and do it more consistently, but also the importance of knowing what we are trying to assess and therefore when we want to assess it.

Our journal club hour got me excited and primed for the next steps in developing our library’s programmatic approach to instruction. Cook’s article, and the energetic conversation it inspired, was an excellent beginning.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.