“How Do You Get Students Excited About Searching?”

I was talking with a professor the other day and she asked me:

How do you get students excited about searching?

It reminded me of the old quote:

Librarians like to search. Everyone else likes to find.

I really had to think about this one. Maybe it’s that word: excite? I’m a librarian and I don’t think that searching is exciting. Sure it can occasionally be a fun detective hunt. Yes, it’s sometimes serendipitous…but often it’s just tedious–nothing I would generally categorize as exciting.

As an instruction librarian, am I failure in the classroom if I don’t think it’s my job to get students excited about searching? I don’t think so. You need to be cognizant that sometimes it just boils down to the professor’s assignment. Is the assignment exciting? Or is it just busy work? I’m more than happy to collaborate with faculty on assignment ideas, but at the end of the day, it’s the professor’s job to put the assignment together.

When it comes down to my teaching: I’m passionate about connecting people with information. The act (or art?) of searching is only one small part. My job is to get students pointed in the right direction, to de-mystify the research process a little, and to show them that it CAN be done! Let’s face it: the library is often the most itimidating building on campus. I’m here to make the library and the research process a little bit more relatable to students.

I show them the tools that will be most useful, make the connection in how these tools will help them succeed with their assignment, get them thinking about HOW and WHY they’re using this information, and get them using the tools right away. My mix of teaching is practical, personable, participatory, and slightly humorous.

I’m not here to do a song and dance razzle-dazzle routine on searching for information: “Try this ONE perfect search to find EVERYTHING on your topic. Look, it’s so EASY!” Students see right through that. I don’t do the “perfect” search because that’s not what students will encounter. I’m OK playing “stump the librarian” and having the students work with me on the problem. It makes you more authentic and approachable.

I’m a realist: Will they be excited? Chances are, no. But will they think the research process seems a little more doable and will they be willing to seek help? Yes.

What do you think? Is it our job to make searching exciting? I’d love to hear your thoughts or any tips and techniques that you’ve tried.

9 thoughts on ““How Do You Get Students Excited About Searching?”

  1. As a student in the Library and Information Science program, I feel that it’s definitely not our job (as librarians and future librarians) to make searching exciting. However, it IS our job to teach students/patrons how to search in order for them to feel confident in doing a search on their own when the time comes for it. The fact that they will actually be able to take what we taught them and produce results is the exciting bit! We are here to teach them the skills they need to perform a search at a later time and for them to succeed!

  2. Am I excited about the trip to work? Probably not, but it’s essential to getting the job done – if I have to do it I’d prefer that it is as quick and and hassle free as possible – with no circuitous routes or backtracking dead ends.

    That’s our responsibility in the students’ ‘finding’ experience.

  3. Reblogged this on The Cosplaying Librarian and commented:
    I don’t think there is a way to get students “excited” about searching, but you can definitely them excited about *finding*, which makes the search worth it.
    For the teens at my public library searching means going over to the shelves and browsing around for something, then whining to me when they don’t find it. I then proceed to harp on them about using the catalog to search for things, they tell me how lazy they are, and then we do it together, or I simply persuade them to go to the reference desk and ask for help. Lo and behold, they get the help or tools they need to find what they’re looking for or get it requested.
    The result it the big thing. The path there won’t ever be fun, especially for teens. I think we just have to get them excited about finding what they want, and go through the search because they have to.

  4. I have never seen an undergraduate get excited about library research. Excited about their topic, excited that they found what they were looking for, excited that they got a good grade, sure, but never about the research process itself. Let’s face it, library research ins’t the sexiest thing out there. It’s not like scrambling a sheep brain or figuring out what makes people think or smashing atoms. But it’s important, nonetheless. Instead of making library research “exciting” I think we’re much better off stressing how important it is. To good grades. To getting into grad school. To future success. To higher pay.

  5. Pingback: Research can be hard. That’s okay. | libraries, etc.

  6. I’ll take this tact from the corporate and govn’t worlds where I’ve been as well as out in the field at a large construction site:

    I saw my role was to get people motivated, not necessarily excited, to make the effort to do due diligence by searching for key information to solve their business problem at hand. Not waste time re-inventing the wheel.

  7. I’ve definitely seen university students, even first years, get excited about searching and finding – when I show them a new tool or technique that brings what they need within reach, and their eyes light up – nothing like it!

  8. The thing is… I am the one that is always caught up on the searching process. I do love to search and in the process I do love to find (especially when I find something I wasn’t look for but it’s a rare gem I will save it for read it later, but that’s another issue). When I teach how to search, people can see how passionate I do, this often causes the opposite reaction to some of my users. I have found, with great pleasure that the less the people think they know, the more they get “excited” along with me.
    I do have a group of users that think using the databases is the most difficult thing in the world, that they will never find anything because they’re not experts. So I help step by step the process of the searching and that in the way, we also trip (the “so call experts” they think we are) but keep digging here and there until we collect all the rare gems we’re looking for (and some others that we weren’t but showed up). Well, that works for me. I do have to say I am fond of searching, even when I am bored doing something else, when a reference comes up to be solved, my mood switched at that precise moment. Maybe it’s just for the pleasure to do something I think I do well, maybe it’s that I am different to anyone else… I don’t know, but I hope that some of my enthusiasm contagious someone else and grow the need to learn at least in a tiny way. =)

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