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I have attended many, many sessions at ACRL so far but want to talk a bit about a couple that I thought were particularly of interest at ZSR. The first I attended Thursday and it was calledThe Almost Experts: Capstone Students and the Research Process. It was a study done at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire. What she found was, despite many faculty member’s perceptions, these students were not really close to experts. She created a survey to see what capstone experiences were like at her university. She found the expected Senior Theses, but also other things – poster, presentation, exhibitions, etc. Capstones are a High Impact Practices (AAC&U 2008) and so are being adopted increasingly by institutions (including WFU). A 2012 survey showed just over 50% of students had capstone experiences. In her survey she found several things that I suspect would hold true across the capstone experiences at WFU, but I intend to find out!

  • 77% write a paper, 18% write a paper and produce another product.
  • 89% had info lit instruction in college.
  • 68% had librarian come to the capstone course.
  • Choosing a topic and finding useful information were the top two challenges for students.
  • Students feel they are searching for a needle in a haystack and worry they aren’t finding the most important stuff – the classic studies, the foundational research in their area.
  • Students said they would use a libguide tailored to the capstone course.
  • 35% would like help on the literature review and 57% need help with citation management.

A second really interesting paper that I heard presented today was about the information seeking behavior of first generation college students. The study was done at Miami of Ohio University and they held a focus group with 17 first generation students. Their description of their instutuion was eerily similar to WFU (except they are about 3 times the size) – predominately undergraduate, mostly white upper middle class, and about 2008 began a targeted recruitment of first generation students. What she learned from the focus group is that these students struggle on several levels in part because the ‘helicopter parents’ that help the traditional students just are not available to them because their parents don’t have any experiences to help them navigate the college environment. They found that these students feel very much that other students have ‘a leg up’ on them or know ‘tricks of the trade’ that are lacking for them. They also struggle with the very decentralized nature of campuses where they have to navigate multiple offices, organizations and buildings to get what they need. They also struggle with jargon and terminology ( at WFU these would be things like Registrar, Sakai, WIN) that are foreign to them. They often will ask a first question but then will not ask a follow-up. So while they might ask ‘where can I get the class readings’ – if the answer is Blackboard or Sakai, they will not necessarily then ask what that is or how to get to it. They feel passed on from place to place and they often stop asking. Lots to think about in how we work with these students!

I also spent a good deal of time at the ACRL with vendors as I tend to do. I had a user group lunch with the EBL team where they were very forthcoming about the future of the EBL-Ebrary merger and plans for the future. In short – we can expect a new interface in about 18 months, they will start negotiating with publishers as one unit as soon as all paperwork is signed in May, the current licensing terms for books will continue into the new interface and there will most likely be a wider set of licenses we can get once the merger is complete. They are also starting to talk to publishers about new textbook models so I hooked them up with Mary Beth and we may participate in a pilot they are putting together. I also attended a focus group with ProQuest about how they can better support interdisciplinary research and attended some booth presentations about their new assessment tool, Intota. Intota will ultimately be a cloud-based ILS, but this assessment piece will go live this fall. It is similar in some ways to the services provided by Sustainable Collections Services but is more than simply a tool for data-based deselection – it goes much deeper than that but also will be much more expensive, too, I’m guessing.

All in all it’s been a good conference – a couple more sessions to attend today and then homeward bound. I have been very impressed with Indianapolis as a conference city despite the poor weather we have had. See you all on Monday!