rusq: Vol. 53 Issue 4: p. 369
Sources: Studying Students: A Second Look
Christina M. Kulp

Life Sciences Librarian, University of Oklahoma Libraries, Norman, Oklahoma

This group of studies, conducted at the University of Rochester between 2011 and 2013, is meant to follow up on and build upon an earlier research project from 2004 and 2005. The original study was published as Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester. Both studies utilized ethnographic research methods common in anthropology, focusing on in-depth interactions with small groups, rather than large statistical surveys, to gain a more precise understanding of user behavior.

Each volume is divided into eleven sections with brief overviews of previous research, method, and findings. In A Second Look, each chapter has its own bibliography, as well as a copy of the survey instrument utilized. In general, this second volume’s research projects focus on different behaviors from those covered in the first book. However, a few studies are repeated; both volumes examine what faculty look for in a good paper and how undergraduates research and write their papers. In addition, both volumes include a photo survey to investigate student life and technology usage.

The rest of the projects in A Second Look take a different angle, focusing on a greater understanding of how the students use the library as space and how students integrate the library into the bigger picture of college life. One study researched similarities and differences among faculty, students, and librarians in the ways that they search for information important to them. Another study examined how students learn about the human connection to research. Several projects investigated how individuals and groups utilize the library in their academic work and build a sense of a scholarly community. One clear trend that emerged is that the “typical” user or study group does not exist. Students mix and match library spaces to specific project goals, in addition to personality preferences, and thus value a diverse set of options.

An oft-repeated idea sets the tone for this volume: the idea that the opinions of “experts,” such as librarians and architects, are no longer authoritative or relevant because users’ behaviors change continually. This study will benefit any institution looking for creative ways to measure its users’ needs, challenge stereotypes about students, and build a more participatory design process into future renovations of physical space and library services



Article Categories:
  • Library Reference and User Services
    • Sources

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