Library Resources and Services in 21st Century Online Education

Library Resources and Services in 21st Century Online Education

Heath Martin (University of Kentucky Libraries, USA) and Peter Hesseldenz (University of Kentucky Libraries, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-077-4.ch003
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This chapter analyzes the roles of academic libraries in computer-mediated instruction through examination of past and current practices, existing opportunities and challenges, and emerging trends. By examining key concepts, activities, and scholarship related to library resources and services-- information and communication technology, access to resources, scholarly publishing, information literacy, and models of collaboration - the authors demonstrate the importance of those resources and services to online education and the need to work with other stakeholders to meet the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
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Computer-mediated learning has become commonplace in higher education, with most colleges and universities offering online classes for both on- and off-campus students (Gurney & Wilkes, 2008). Though academic libraries have long worked with distance education students, many adjustments have had to be made to successfully serve students in an online environment. However, academic librarians have found that, in most cases, the needs of online students and in-person students are merging. All students now make extensive use of electronic materials; in most cases, they expect and prefer them. Many students, both on campus and off, prefer to contact a reference librarian virtually rather than going to the physical library. And, while in-class library instruction sessions are still widely used, many librarians are making innovative use of online technology to deliver information literacy concepts to students. Therefore, while academic libraries continue to purchase many books and still work in buildings made of brick and mortar, many have adopted the practice of treating all students as potential online students. This chapter discusses the roles academic libraries play in educating online students, paying particular attention to library resources and library services.

As far as library resources are concerned, librarians have the same basic concerns for online users as they do for face-to-face users. Librarians provide students with resources they need in order to complete their academic pursuits, whether they be complex data sets or readings for a beginning English class. Librarians try to have materials in place when the patrons need them in a form that is easily accessible. If that is not possible, libraries have mechanisms to quickly acquire the materials. When the users are distant or online, the library acts as digital gateway to resources, with proxy connections designed to be as minimally disruptive as possible. Once on a library’s website, clear, easy-to-follow descriptions can provide seamless access to materials such as e-books, e-journals, and online databases, as well as freely available scholarly material. When these practices are followed, online students can easily find library resources and put them to use.

Today’s students have grown up digitally, which has allowed them to become, for the most part, savvy computer users. Often, students mistake technical proficiency for mastery of the research process, arriving at college thinking they are expert web searchers. In general, however, they are unaware of the untapped world of scholarly material available through the library’s databases. A great challenge for academic librarians is to make students aware of the multitude of material available beyond Google and other search engines, and then to teach them how to use those materials effectively. For distance learners, sometimes far from the actual library, there is a temptation to continue with a comfortable routine of using Google or other search engines to perform research (Brophy and Bawden, 2005). Librarians work hard to anticipate this, and to make online students aware of the importance of appropriate materials and the methods for using them.

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