Our previous post included observations about how using data from the Summon service can improve information literacy. This is a telling point. As we conclude our series of posts on this topic, we ask, are we really ready to move beyond our current systems that make searching difficult for students, and embrace web-scale discovery because of the improvement it brings? At their universities at least, our presenters thought so.
Margaret Mellinger of the University of Oregon shared the results of a survey of librarians that she conducted, using two ListServ groups. “There were some real extremes in the responses about how librarians perceive Summon. But those extremes don’t represent the way most people felt. For the most part, responding librarians expressed a more nuanced view of the tool. They were discerning when they would teach Summon, and when they would not teach it.” We’ve explored those situations and reasons throughout this post series.
Alison Sharman of the University of Huddersfield reflected – and then deflected – some of the angst that librarians are feeling. “Do you still need the librarian, do you still need library instruction, because you’ve got this really easy tool? Well, I think the answer to that is a definite yes.”
As Alison explained, “Usually students are not quite finding relevant articles, they’re not using the right keywords, or they’re having problems getting the full text. We replicate the search with them using the facets, using the phrase-mark searching, and after five or ten minutes, they go away happy, it’s almost like they’ve had their eyes opened. That shows me that there is still quite a training need and we need to show students how to refine their own searches.”
Matt Borg of Sheffield Hallam University shared a quote from Jason Vaughn: Connecting users with the information they seek is one of the central pillars of our profession. “Summon allows us to do this,” declared Matt. “It’s easy-to-navigate design allows our students to readily locate and use appropriate content at an academic level.” But according to Matt, librarians need to keep their own knowledge from getting in their students’ way.
He revealed that during the Summon beta test, academic librarians had reported odd and unexpected results from their searches. “It became apparent that my colleagues and I had been applying hyper-stylized searches, throwing in all of the Boolean that we could muster. Once I started testing Summon the way I thought our first-year undergraduates might use it, connections between search terms and results were much more obvious. So now, we try and take the approach that we are not our patrons. If we get that right, we have a great time teaching.”
With that thought, Matt ended his webinar presentation and it also seems a fitting note for concluding our series of posts. It’s clear that librarians are needed more than ever, and the Summon service allows them to assume a role as facilitators of learning, as students assimilate more fundamental and meaningful information literacy skills. Knowing the value librarians bring to the research process, it’s even more important to find ways to bring librarians into the discovery experience so they can help provide expertise and guidance to users directly when and where they need it.
Thanks to all of our presenters for sharing and participating with us. If you’re interested in hearing from the presenters themselves, all webinars in the series are available for on demand viewing.