Research Consultations Facilitate the Excitement of Discovery

Thanks to the Value of Academic Libraries initiative, evidence is beginning to confirm what librarians have long suspected: library usage correlates with student success. Initial results of a recent study at Illinois Institute of Technology show that “any library usage was always accompanied by a slightly higher achievement in GPA for the user,” and another study at the University of Wyoming showed that library instruction correlated with higher GPAs in graduating seniors. And, as we’ve noted before, at DePaul we think library use can “cultivate curiosity, flexibility, engagement, and a willingness to seek expertise when needed—all habits of mind which contribute to student engagement and success”.

One of the increasingly popular ways librarians work with DePaul researchers is online via our “Ask a Librarian” instant message chat service. Our logs show that last year, DePaul librarians and peer research tutors responded to nearly 10,000 requests for chat based research assistance. This service has become an indispensable teaching tool–chat allows us to work one-on-one with students as they navigate scholarly resources, and facilitates point-of-need research and information literacy instruction.  About one third of these online chat interactions with researchers last ten minutes or more, enabling us to go beyond providing answers to actually teach students how to think about where to find the information, data or research they need.

This success in providing extensive online library research support, coupled with the recent launch of our online scheduling system for research consultation appointments has enabled us to better support the information literacy needs of students in the online sections of classes which would typically meet with a librarian.  Librarians embedded in online sections of WRD 104 and SNL’s Foundations and Research Seminar classes complete an interactive online tutorial, turn in a librarian-graded assignment that walks students through finding articles, and participate in an online research consultation with a librarian.

As a result of our increased engagement with these online students, the total number of research consultations (or in-depth research assistance by appointment) has increased by forty percent–librarians provided a total of 544 sessions by appointment in FY15. Of course, walk-up research assistance remains popular–librarians and peer research tutors responded to about 11,000 requests for research assistance at our Research Help desks.

Formal assessment of the impact of embedded librarian support for these online classes is currently underway, but anecdotal comments from students indicates that they not only find the research consultation helpful, but are also able to use what they learned in other classes.

In fact, one student reported that the librarian’s support in his online class helped him to develop “a comfort level in navigating through the libraries. Because of your guidance, I experienced the assignment with a “Christmas Day” excitement of discovering many unexplored presents bearing my name, just waiting to be opened rather than a burden of chores that needed to be completed.”

We may not be able to deliver Christmas every day, but we do our best to turn chores into opportunities for scholarly exploration. Please remind your students that meeting with a librarian by appointment (or stopping by in person or online) can go a long way to supporting their future success.

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