by Andrew Asher, Lynda Duke and David Green (Originally Posted May 17th, 2010)
About the Authors
- Andrew Asher is the Lead Research Anthropologist for the ERIAL project. Asher holds a PhD in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Illinois and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Poland, Germany, and the United States.
- Lynda Duke is Associate Professor, Academic Outreach Librarian in The Ames Library, Illinois Wesleyan University. Duke is the Lead Research Librarian for the ERIAL Project IWU Team.
- Dave Green is Associate University Librarian for Collections and Information Services in the Ronald Williams Library at Northeastern Illinois University. Green is the Project Manager for the ERIAL Project.
Introduction Librarians and teaching faculty often think they know how students conduct their research and many have specific ideas on how students ought to conduct their research. However, with the increased ability to access information online and the corresponding changes in libraries, the question of what actually happens between the time a student receives a class assignment and when he or she turns in the final product to a professor is especially compelling, and one that is not as straightforward as it first appears.
Two years ago, five Illinois institutions (Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU), DePaul University, Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU), University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS)), began working together to investigate this issue. The Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries (ERIAL) Project was organized around the following research question:
What do students actually do when they are assigned a research project for a class assignment and what are the expectations of students, faculty and librarians of each other with regard to these assignments?
The primary goal of this study is to trigger reforms in library services to better meet students’ needs. Traditionally, academic libraries have designed library services and facilities based on information gleaned from user surveys, usage data, focus groups, and librarians’ informal observations. While such tools are valuable, this project employed more user-centered methods to form holistic portraits of student behavior and needs, directly resulting in changes to library services and resources. Read more