Monday, January 23, 2006

Library surprise

This year I am doing something I have not done before, I am teaching the students how to plan their academic papers. It's not a big deal, I have a very small, exclusive group of last year students, and I am working very closely with them - also to develop some new teaching strategies. They have been my guinea pigs for two years, and a teacher couldn't have a nicer group to experiment with.

Today we are going to look at how they can find their own literature. They have to find up to 600 pages of independent literature, and I have not given them a suggested reading list for that. This is for their final paper, and after three years they should be able to use the library and different online sources. At least: so I have always thought. The last-minute calls from desperate students going: "Torill, I need to find some literature, what should I pick?" indicates it's not that easy. And the recent news about bad research articles doesn't make it easier...

But be that as it is: Today I am going to do two things. First, we will lookat how BibSys (Norwegian library system) works, and how different parameters brings very different hits, and then we will physically WALK to the library. This is the blessing of a small campus, a small group of students and a nice library: I'll go over, and we will look at the actual books in the shelves, and I'll talk to the students about what to look for while searching through shelves.

In a physical library you have the chance of being surprised in ways you don't have online. While the responses to a search can be pretty surprising, the actual books on shelves can catch your eye according to very different rules. Walking past shelves is a very different experience from fetching information from a data base, and the physical arrangement of a library can lead your attention astray - or perhaps where you should really be going?

I think I am going to enjoy today's class!

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