The Ames Library Receives Grant To Study How Students Study

October 21, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The Ames Library at Illinois Wesleyan University is one of the recipients of a grant from the Illinois State Library, which has awarded $177,000 to be shared by five Illinois universities to study the research methods of non-traditional and underserved students.

“Librarians think we know how students conduct their research, or we know how we wish they would conduct their research,” said Lynda Duke, academic outreach librarian and associate professor for The Ames Library, and lead researcher on the project for Illinois Wesleyan. “The reality is we do not have data that allows us to say that we truly understand their research process.” The study will assist the library in tailoring resources to better fit the needs of students, according to Duke. “As a result of this study, we hope to adjust our current services, or offer new options. Changes might range from adjusting the physical layout in different areas of the library, making modifications to our Web site or offering a new resource or service.”

The grant comes from the Library Services and Technology Act under the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office, and was awarded to help answer the question, What do students, especially those in the underserved and non-traditional group identified by each library, actually do when they are assigned a research project for one of their class assignments and what are the expectations of students, faculty and librarians of each other with regard to this assignment? Illinois Wesleyan librarians will focus their research on international, African-American, Latino-American, Asian-American and Native American students, as well as library and teaching faculty. The library will employ methods such as mapping diaries, interviews, photo surveys and observation to gain understanding of how research assignments are approached by students.   University Librarian Karen Schmidt notes, “This approach to understanding student use of library programs and spaces represents an emerging field of study for academic libraries.  We are honored that Illinois Wesleyan was selected to be involved in this exciting venture.”

Four other universities in Illinois will focus on different populations. Northeastern Illinois University will study Hispanic populations. DePaul University will look at first-generation college students, first-generation Americans and students who work more than 20 hours a week off-campus. The University of Illinois Chicago will also study first-generation college students, and the University of Illinois Springfield will study students who commute to campus. Duke said a visiting anthropologist will be hired to help conduct the research, which is projected to take almost a year. Duke hopes the results will be of benefit to institutions across the state. “We will be designing and implementing ethnographic methodology that we will make available to other libraries interested in conducting similar research,” she said.   

Contact: Rachel Hatch, (309) 556-3960