Monday, June 27, 2005

Bibliographic Instruction: Two Models Converging in a Common Goal

Bibliographic Instruction: Two Models Converging in a Common Goal. This article is by Stephen J. Shaw. It appeared in the Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, v.4 no.2-3 (Fall 2003).

From the site:

This essay will explore research in the undergraduate curriculum by examining the divergent ways research is understood. The debate centers around the ways that the typical student perceives the role of the library in her education at the university. To limit the discussion to the relation between the student and the librarian misses the larger issue at stake. What needs does the average undergraduate have after completion of the B.A., if they have no plans to continue education further? Are research skills necessary only for the graduate student, or is there some truth to the humanistic notion of 'knowledge for knowledge's sake?"

There are three key sections to this essay; the first examines the perceived role of the academic library, in an overview fashion, from both the undergraduate and the casual reader of library literature. The second examines what I am calling the 'BI' (Bibliographic Instruction) model of research; what is usually taught in the one-shot 50 minute sessions about how to hunt down citations and navigate the OPAC and relevant databases. The last examines the 'humanistic' tradition which posits research as a democratizing tool needed for an effective citizenry.

It is argued that the BI model is a tool necessary to have in our cognitive toolbox and the humanistic model is the mindset necessary to see the value in the tool. As an imperfect analogy, consider the frustrated high school freshman forced to learn algebra. "Why do I have to learn this," he cries, "I'll never have to use the quadratic equation after I leave here!" The role of the successful teacher is to show him why he will need the overall mathematical philosophy learned, even if the specific formula will never again surface. So it is with research--although the average student will never have to track citations down with ISI Web of Science, the skillset she learns will be tested and used even without her knowing it.

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