What if we lost them as students?

Jan 28 2010 Published by under librarians

I've only been a college student and grad student at one institution and I have to confess, the library treats students as second class citizens. Particularly technical services. When I mentioned in a sociology class that I am a librarian, a whole bunch of grad students piled on with complaints about interlibrary loan. One guy got only the second page of an article the first time he requested an article, then a completely illegible copy the second time, and then finally a whole copy the third time - after numerous e-mails and about 6 weeks. He kept asking because he didn't want to let them off the hook. I've had similar issues - after they send ARIST to off site storage and for other things.  We were talking before class, so when the professor came in, he said how happy he was with the library and how the liaison for the department consulted with them on what to buy and so on.  Sometimes the negative experience was with a student staffer and not even a librarian.

On the other hand, as a professional librarian, I have the pleasure to serve  (at least) 2 engineers who got their PhDs from Virginia Tech. They showed up as power library users, asking the right questions, and giving immediate feedback when something doesn't work as expected.  I've thanked librarians from Virginia Tech several times for these wonderful co-workers! I've also met scientists who immediately tell me how wonderful their liaison librarian is.

As a librarian in a special library, I work with professionals who had horrible experiences as grad students or undergrads and ones who had wonderful experiences. So winning back the first group is particularly difficult: they have no idea what we can do and they sometimes expect to be given crap for asking. if you're reading this, you probably turn out scientists and engineers in the second group, thank you1

As for the rest?  Arrrrgh!

2 responses so far

  • Oddly enough, some of the poor service I received as an undergrad (eventually) led me to librarianship. I didn't have to fight over fines or poor ILL photocopies, but I was often frustrated when seeking help with term papers in science classes. The librarians I was consulting seemed to have a very limited knowledge of the geosciences literature I was trying to search.
    When I started thinking about becoming a librarian, I thought that perhaps there was a niche that I could fill.
    If my thoughts hadn't turned to librarianship as a profession, I may have persisted in the idea that there was little the library could offer me as a scientist.

  • Tsu Dho Nimh says:

    Do the science departments bother to teach their students HOW to ask for and find things? Do they let them know that ILL may be a marvel, but it's not going to get them that reference in time for the paper that is due next day?
    Does the library offer any sessions on research skills?
    The librarians I was consulting seemed to have a very limited knowledge of the geosciences literature I was trying to search. Yes, and they probably would have had equally limited knowledge of the microbiology literature I would have been searching. It's up to your profs to let you know where the info about your specialty is buried in the lit (or at least that the lit exists), and it's up to the librarians to help you get access to it.