Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This is me, raining on your parade.

Is it news to report that when you increase awareness of a thing that it increases use of a thing?

I guess if I were working for Philip Morris and I made efforts to increase awareness of Chesterfield cigarettes, I would also want to see an increase in the sales of Chesterfields. So I guess I shouldn't complain that this paper (Garbage In, Garbage Out: The Effect of Library Instruction on the Quality of Students’ Term Papers) proves that promoting the use of library services links to an increased use of library services.

Here's a section of the abstract:
Bibliographies of the students’ term papers were then examined to determine if the numbers and types of sources cited differed between the two groups.
Library instruction was determined to be effective, in that students receiving library instruction were significantly more likely to cite journal articles and other scholarly resources than those students not receiving the library instruction.

I think that sounds pretty good. Except for this part:

However, the idea that using more library resources would automatically improve a student’s grade on either the term paper or in the course as whole was not borne out. Term paper and course grades were virtually identical for each group.

The fact that grades were not affected indicates that librarians and faculty could work together more in the future to determine the value of students’ work and what sources constitute “good research”.

I'm not trying to be a pain-in-the-ass, but if I were a teacher, I think I'd want my students to turn in papers with more common sources (Internet) and fewer unique sources (databases). Frankly, I wouldn't want to do the extra work of checking more sources. Having kids use most of the same sources just confirms my abilities as a teacher in having my message be understood clearly: I say "apple" in class and you give me back "apples" (same sources) on the paper. If you give me too many "bananas" (unique sources) in you paper, then I have to think about whether my lessons are clear because you're becoming a "free thinker." And I don't have the time to cultivate too many free thinkers.

This isn't a Hollywood movie where I can tutor some budding genius after class and nurture his chess-math-dance skills; I have my own kid who just got a tongue stud and wants and Avenged Sevenfold tattoo, and if I don't catch him when he gets home, he's going out to get a huge A7X nailed into his neck. And how the hell is he ever getting a good job then?

So, really, I don't have time to track down these journal articles you're citing. Anyway, you're all gonna get about an 85 on your papers anyway. So just use Google. It's good enough.

I don't know how you can convince teachers to promote use of the library's resources with these results. And using the library will never be as cool as smoking cigarettes, so we can't expect kids to use the library because we say so. But if we let them smoke in the library? Hmm. Now that might work. Call Philip Morris and get them to fund that study.

At least that's what this paper said to me.

[I make this stuff up. No, I don't have a kid with a tongue stud. And given my age, I wouldn't have an A7X tattoo. I might have a C&T tattoo because when I was a kid, the Captain and Tennille rocked!]