Everything you Always Wanted to Know about the Library Visit (But Were Afraid to Ask)

As you probably know, all 252 sections should include a session in the library devoted to research skills. Ideally, this visit should take place in about 4-6 weeks, when you’ve gotten beyond the midpoint of the term and are thinking about research-based final projects. You may not know, however, how to set yourself and your students up for success in this venture.

Full disclosure: in my misspent youth, I occasionally circled the “library visit” day on the syllabus lazily, in pencil, and eagerly anticipated the break from lesson planning and leading discussion. And then I felt irritated when the library session consisted of a generic overview of keyword searching, big article databases, and how to find books within the library. Don’t be like me. Or the former me, at least.

Much better to view the session as a collaboration, one in which you, a highly trained scholar/pedagogue, pairs with a highly trained practitioner of library science to help students figure out what it means to do research in your field and at their level. Left to their own devices, librarians can only guide students with the broadest of brushstrokes, since they don’t know what you know about the crucial journals, book series, and databases in the field you’re opening up to students. I’m working with the indefatigable Jennifer Newman, the Library’s liaison to English, on some ways to deepen the connection between English faculty, the Library, and librarians and will post more on this in the coming months. For the meantime, a few informal suggestions on how to best structure your upcoming visit:

  • contact Jennifer right away if you haven’t with some dates: both sides need some time to prepare for the visit.
  • share materials regarding the final assignment: whatever prompts or other ancillary materials you plan to give students to guide the research project will help librarians help you. Will students need to find primary texts? Historiography? Theoretical works?
  • provide relevant information about the field your course engages: What are the key journals? Book series? Reference works?
  • if your project departs from the traditional research paper–and 252 instructors are encouraged to experiment in novels ways of teaching research–what kinds of materials will be most useful for your assignment? Might students use multimodal means of presenting their work? Will they search image repositories or audio archives or video excerpts?
  • Share with students the revamped LibGuide for ENGL 252, which contains a wealth of resources for all stages of the research process. Link to it on your Bb site or course site.

Feel free to reach out to me or to Jennifer with any questions or ideas.

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