stuff I learned about libraries, etc.

October 17, 2008

Those Darn Kids…questions about entitlement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — sarahvangundy @ 9:34 pm

After the LiSUG conference, there was some discussion about how much we do for our students in libraries. Would it be better to do document delivery service for all ILL requests for articles owned by the library? How much should we expect students to do themselves as far as finding information goes? Is the ability to find articles in print journals from citations even going to be relevant in 10 years? In 5 years? Then, at a Blackboard training session for faculty members, there was some discussion about how students abilities and expectations have changed and, “THINGS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE.”

There is, of course, all kinds of literature about the “millenials.” Anyone who has any current interaction with college students can see that “they” are different than “we” were in college some very clear ways, but I wonder if they are really any more different, than I was different from a generation 15 years before me?

As you must surely be aware, I am a such a tremendous geek of a librarian that I am even married to a librarian; we talk shop at the dinner table. Poor Chloe has had to listen to more debate about Google’s ubiquity than a decent mother would even allow in her home. Last night, over cheese, we were talking about the frequent observations and tongue clucking we hear about undergraduates’ sense of entitlement, their expectation that information and services be handed to them, and their unwillingness to work. Garth, who has had the benefit of a classical education, and knows things I don’t even pretend to care about, observed (in slight paraphrase), “One of the few benefits of a classical education is that you have to read people like [Garth? If you are reading, would you fill in the name in the comments? That is how much I don’t pretend to care], who were writing in Latin about those lazy ungrateful kids that many years ago.”

Lamenting the state of today’s youth is clearly not a phenomenon born alongside MySpace. I think I was a member of the MTV generation. Hmm…

So…how can we make user-centric, service oriented libraries, without stunting the information literacy of students? Anyone?

The ACRL blog has this article on the topic:



  1. Ah yes… that would be Hesiod, and he was writing in Greek, though people wrote about it in Latin too… and Sumerian… and Hebrew… and probably any other language we can dig up…

    Comment by Garth — October 21, 2008 @ 4:23 pm

  2. One of my hobbyhorses (we all need them, don’t we) is the way that today’s students seem to have a detailed grasp of their rights/entitlements, but not a clue about their responsibilities. This is evident in the library, where they have a right to access books, CDs, databases etc, but refuse to recognise their own responsibilities. They will kick up a stink if a book they want is overdue, but refuse to recognise why they should bring their own books back on time.

    Talking to colleagues in other departments leads me to believe that academics and others also experience this. I wonder whether it is because the students now have to pay such a lot for their tuition fees, and so want their money’s worth? The phrase “I pay your wages” has been heard from time to time, to which I always want to reply “well, you’re not paying me enough!”.

    I always want to be user-focussed, provide a good service and so on, but I think part of that is teaching students to use the services for themselves. It is providing a better service if we teach students how to use the catalogue, for instance, than it would be to look things up for them every time. They may not see it like that, but it is – part of higher education is learning skills. A very important part, at that!

    Comment by Singing Librarian — October 28, 2008 @ 12:00 pm

  3. I agree with much of what you are saying, and obviously “teaching a man to fish” or a student to find their own articles, is a critical part of the role of an academic librarian. Our role is to teach, not just fetch information, but I am not sure that it is a black and white issue, in which students must simply be made to conform to the way we have always done things. In many ways, technology has shifted all of our information boundaries and what we are engaged in is actually a very nuanced process of adjusting to new rules and new roles, in libraries, universities and broader society.

    Part of what I love about reference work is the process of co-discovery with students, no matter where they start out in terms of academic ability or research skills. This doesn’t require me to “do things for them,” but I think it does often require some creative thinking about new ways to explain concepts that may seem perfectly simple to me. Of course, it also requires patience, and some days I have a lot more of that than other days!

    Comment by sarahvangundy — October 28, 2008 @ 1:13 pm

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