Academic journal article Notes

User Education

Academic journal article Notes

User Education

Article excerpt

A late-twentieth-century reference interview in the music library of my local institution of higher learning:

Erstwhile Researcher: (obviously frustrated) I need information for this paper I have to do on Schubert's Trout Quintet.

Reference Librarian: Okay, what have you done so far?

ER: Well, I looked in the computer and I found some good stuff, but it's not enough. My teacher told me I have to have three books and three articles.

RL: Did you check the online catalog or use one of the periodical indexes?

ER: I'm not sure ... I did do a Hotbot search on the Web....

RL: (to herself) Oh boy ... one more time ... (to the Erstwhile Researcher) You need to use the online catalog to find books...

Many public-service librarians have had this conversation of late in one form or another. The interchange illustrates an ever-increasing need for strong programs in user education and information literacy in our schools and libraries. In most cases, the problem is not finding information--we are inundated with it both in print and electronically--rather, it is teaching our users how to discover, evaluate, and use appropriate information.

Whether we call it user education, library-use instruction, or bibliographic instruction, the goal is the same: to teach our users to be effective, efficient, and independent researchers. Librarians have, of course, been teaching their clientele how to use the library for a very long time. Yet, as a formal discipline, with its own body of literature and designated practitioners, bibliographic instruction is a relatively recent phenomenon, dating from the early 1960s. The emphasis has been placed primarily, although not exclusively, on instruction within the academic community. A collective act of self-defense by public-service librarians, the development of bibliographic instruction roughly parallels the "information explosion" of the second half of this century. This flood of information, in large part created by advances in technology, affects every aspect of our work as librarians. As Evan Farber notes,

In examining library use instruction over the past thirty years, it is easy enough to point to those factors that have changed; all, or certainly almost all, of the changes relate to computer technology. [1]

Thirty-five years ago, our intrepid Reference Librarian would have shown our Erstwhile Researcher the card catalog, Music Index, and possibly the area where the Schubert biographies were shelved. Today the list of possible resources is quite a bit longer: the online catalog, the card catalog (still used in many libraries; Erstwhile Researcher: "What's a card catalog?"), three or four printed and electronic periodical indexes, and, yes, the Internet (that Hotbot search really did turn up some useful information).

What contributions have music librarians made to the practice of bibliographic instruction? In October 1986, a conference on music bibliography was held at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The conference report, published in 1993, contains no fewer than seven papers devoted to library-instruction topics. In one of those papers, Beth Christensen outlines the projects and presentations undertaken by association members in the years 1978-86. [2] She notes that while bibliographic instruction as a formal discipline within librarianship began in the early 1960s, it was not until the formation of the Midwest Chapter Bibliographic Instruction Committee in 1978 that music librarians began to concentrate their efforts in this area. Instructing the user in the ways of the music library had long been a concern; now that concern had a focus.

Christensen's article details other significant landmarks, among them the Directory of Bibliographic Instruction Programs in the Midwest; [3] the daylong preconference on public services and bibliographic instruction that preceded the 1982 MLA national meeting; the creation of the MLA Bibliographic Instruction Subcommittee in 1983; and the publication in Notes of "Bibliographic Competencies for Music Students at an Undergraduate Level. …

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