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To Make the Grade, Make Your Librarian Your New Best Friend

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Papers, presentations, class projects, assignments, and course work are all part of a completing a good college education. And with the much of the world’s resources literally at their fingertips – online – there are plenty of resources available to everyone.

Scholarly sites that can lead students to helpful papers and research include Google Scholar, and the Librarians’ Internet Index. Sometimes, however, access to articles on these and other “open web” resources are not enough. Students need to go into the far larger “deep web” – home to the bulk of scholarly research – which requires passwords or payment for access.

Savvy students know that their best bet starts with a reliable resource of their own: their university librarian. Why? Because librarians know how to connect them with trusted resources online and elsewhere – saving hours of research time and, perhaps even more important, helping assure the information they seek is well-founded and accurate.

At American Public University System, for example, a dozen highly specialized librarians are available 18 hours a day, seven days a week, to assist students. These extended hours are possible, in part, because its librarians are located across four time zones, in seven different states.

“Just as online learners don’t study in a traditional classroom, they also don’t need a physical library for research,” says Fred Stielow, APUS Dean of Libraries, “nor should they rely on one.” Stielow has created a library system that spans the US – with worldwide resources – and specialists ranging from business experts to historians to international relations.

“With the right ‘pathfinder’ librarians, students can find whatever resource they need, wherever in the world it was published or discussed,” says Stielow. “Getting to that resource is the key. The right librarian makes all the difference in making the journey a rewarding learning experience.”

APUS librarian Aida Marissa Smith starts a conversation with each student when she’s contacted. “I want to make the student comfortable,” says Smith. “I also want to make sure the question they’re asking makes sense for the task they’re trying to accomplish. If it doesn’t, I’ll address that issue before going forward.”

Here is an example of how a student inquiry might be handled:

I’m glad you sent your question our way. It sounds like you’re working on a research project for the COLL100 class. You’ll want to look in two places for the information you need: the Online Book Catalog, and the EBSCO database (Education Complete). I’ve put the basic steps below to get you started with both databases. Take a look…

Online Book Catalog:

  • Click on “Online Book Catalog” under the “Book & E-Book” heading on the library’s top page.
  • Search for books on your topic. Here are a few suggested search terms to try individually: learning environment, study skills and learning psychology. Keep in mind that you may need to browse the books’ Table of Contents to see if it’s applicable to your research.

Education Complete:

  • Click on “EBSCO” under the “Articles & Databases” heading on the library’s top page.
  • Select the database “Education Complete”:

Search for articles on your topic, being sure the select the full-text and peer-reviewed option boxes are checked. Use the same subject searches that you used above. Keep in mind that you will receive many more hits on these searches in a journal article database like this one. Once you look through your results you will need to narrow your search by using additional terms, focusing in on a particular aspect of your topic. Also, be sure to read the abstracts, not just the title of the articles, to see if the article is applicable to your research.

Click here for a screenshot that will help you formulate your initial search.

Librarians sometimes find titles though other resources – such as reprints from journals. Sometimes they discover that citations they receive are incorrect. When that happens they work to find the correct citation. This is another critical factor in why librarians are so valuable to scholarly endeavors.

One fan of librarians is master’s candidate Laura Chase, who is studying emergency and disaster management at American Public University System.

“You have to use the librarians!” says Chase, who is studying for her master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management. “You must have a connection to academic resources. Your librarian is critical to this. You want trusted resources. You want viable, credible resources.”

Dean Stielow looks for continual changes to the learning experience through evolving library resources. “We want to link directly from classroom. We see library resources being more and more tailored going forward,” says Stielow.

“Students will be even more empowered. We are still in the early stages of the web revolution.”

By Online Learning Tips Staff

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